Three years ago today, my family’s life changed. Our beloved mother, mother-in-law, and grandma passed away unexpectedly.
None of us escapes death, either our own or a loved one’s. As Christians, we grieve with hope. We feel the agonizing pain and empty place in our hearts, but we also know there is hope. We pray to be reunited with them one day in heaven.
We also face the temptation to question God when faced with death, especially unexpected or tragic circumstances. In January the world mourned when a helicopter crashed in California, taking the lives of Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant, Payton Chester, Sarah Chester, Alyssa Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, John Altobelli, Christina Mauser, and Ara Zobayan. Where were you, Lord?
In February, a local community mourned the loss of a young mother. Cancer took her from her three young children nearly two years after a bike accident took their father. It doesn’t make sense. Why would God allow this? Where were you, Lord?
I’m sure you have a unique circumstance to which you can attach this question. It doesn’t feel fair when death steps into the life of a good person. A Christian person. A young child.
John 11:1-44 brought me some comfort after the unexpected passing of my mother-in-law. The apostle John recounts the death and resurrection of Lazarus, a close friend of Jesus. After Lazarus died, Jesus returned to the village where Martha and Mary mourned. Mary approached Jesus and (I imagine) fell apart: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:32)
Mary asked Jesus the same question I am tempted to ask in difficult times.
Mary knew Jesus could’ve healed his ailment. She believed in his power to heal the sick. But, Mary didn’t know Jesus claimed victory over death as well.
Jesus didn’t admonish her for asking this question. Instead, he felt her pain. He grieved with her. He wept. (John 11:35) The powerful thing, for me anyway, about this short Scripture is that Jesus cried and grieved knowing he was about to bring Lazarus back to life.
As Christians, we know God has the power to do anything. We believe He can intervene in any situation. I believed He could raise Lorrie back to life – and even prayed it as I sat on my knees trying to understand the news I’d just received. If He’d been there, then . . . so perhaps we find ourselves asking, “Where were you, Lord?”
I believe with all my being the answer to that question is: “I was with ______, my beloved child.” He was with Lorrie when she took her last breath. He was with those nine beautiful people on the helicopter that fateful day. He was with the young mom as she left this world for her heavenly home.
Does that make it any easier? No. No, it doesn’t. Grief, as Jesus models, is very real and normal. Knowing God was present with them doesn’t take away the pain. But, for me, it gives hope in my grief. Hope that I will one day be reunited with my loved ones who shared my faith. Hope that maybe in those final moments before death, God is present and real to those who didn’t share the Christian faith. Hope that in those final moments, they realized He was there all along and gave their life to Him.
A final reminder: God didn’t create a world with death and disease. Death and disease are a product of sin, ushered in through The Fall. The enemy wants us to believe God reigns over death. God reigns over life. The enemy doesn’t get to claim victory. Jesus claimed the victory when he defeated death on the Cross. Hold tight to these truths,
even especially when the circumstance doesn’t make sense.