We’ve experienced some losses this year. Beginning in the summer with my husband’s job, moving through early fall to our dog and finally, my father-in-law’s passing. I’m sure everyone who reads this has experienced a loss of some kind in their lifetime and can relate. Loss is part of living, right? Anytime someone is born into the world, their eventual passing is also born. I don’t mean to be morbid, especially at Christmas time, but it’s a fact. Loss has many faces. Certainly we lose loved ones in death but there are other losses that have just as much impact. A long time friendship; family relationships; possessions, provision, pets, a home.
During our losses this year we’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by good people who shared our pain. God was kind in removing Bruce’s previous job, providing a better one within weeks which we are celebrating today. Our dog’s passing was sudden, unexpected and tragic. He suffered needlessly and we felt terrible guilt and responsibility for it. Tragically we had to make the decision to end his suffering and spent the rest of the weekend in tears. Bruce was especially bereft, Tuck had been his buddy for 6 years, he was lost
With my father-in-law we were prepared. We saw him in June and saying goodbye was one of the hardest things we’ve ever done. We knew deep down, we wouldn’t see him alive again. He passed away 2 days after Tuck and tears continued to flow. As we traveled to Oregon to attend his memorial and be with my mother-in-law, we knew the reality of his death would meet us when we saw her. Sure enough, it hit as she opened the door to greet us. Her grief was tangible, fresh. He was the love of her life for 64 years and facing the future without him–unthinkable. Our own grief was shelved while we shared hers, gladly so.
In 2001 very dear friends of ours suffered a loss so catastrophic it took our breath away. Their only 2 children were taken from them in a devastating car accident. Not only did they suffer injury, pain and the loss of their girls, but they were robbed of pieces of their future. No son-in-laws, no grandchildren…no one to leave their belongings to. In the early days of their loss God supernaturally dropped grief on the people surrounding them, we learned what it meant to “carry each other’s burdens and fulfill the law of Christ”. As time went by and their bodies healed their grief returned. 14 years later they still grieve but God has worked in miraculous ways. They share their story in prisons, schools and churches alongside the woman who caused the accident. It’s powerful.
Recently, a good friend of mine suffered the loss of her long time church family. For nearly 35 years she served, attended, worshipped, prayed, grew, and loved the people of her church. Engagements and weddings were attended and celebrated. Babies born and raised together. Holidays, birthdays, graduations, next generation weddings, parents’ deaths and divorces were shared among her close knit group of sister-friends. Over half her adult life was lived among them and I can say with assurity the loss is devastating (that word again). She is facing it with grace, learning what it means to depend on God’s love and comfort through this time, but it will forever change her.
About 18 yrs ago I suffered a loss, somewhat outside the box of typical losses. After many years trying to navigate a contentious relationship with my extended family we felt led to draw a line in the sand. It required some activity on the part of my family and there has been no movement. Consequently, we’ve not had relationship with them all these years. Significant events in our children’s lives have been missed. We’ve been robbed of the joys and blessings of sharing our lives with them. It hurts. I grieve. No matter what happens in the future we can never retrieve these lost years. The stand was taken knowing the cost but it didn’t diminish the pain. My expectation at this time is that I will not see them again this side of eternity.
All of this brings the thought of Jesus’ losses and they stagger me. Did you know that it takes every part of creation just to describe the throne room of God? Jesus left it all-willingly. He came as a helpless baby to inhabit a human body with it’s limitations and imperfections. All the riches of heaven were his! He was with his father from the beginning of time experiencing the grandeur of creation, the evolution of history and the splendor of heaven. He lived a human life with it’s broken trappings. He suffered abandonment, loss of reputation (Mary’s bastard child), discrimination, persecution, hardship, betrayal and finally a criminal’s death and the abandonment of his heavenly father, maybe his earthly one also. He cried out for escape but ultimately he surrendered to his father’s will. I don’t know if I’d suffer that kind of agony for my children–but he did it for his father.
We know the end of the story, he rises victorious, ascends to heaven and is waiting even now for the command to return and judge the world. But the people at that time had no idea he would rise again. Even his disciples, who he prepared, were astounded. Their loss appeared permanent, leaving them heartbroken and abandoned. We have the full accounting today but at that time, they were ignorant. Which leads me to this…
How many times do we ask, “why?” and no answer follows. We grasp for any explanation, hoping it makes the loss less painful or helps us to the other side of it more quickly. As Christians God promises to work good in our life in every situation, it’s a given there will be silver linings along the way of grief. But the ignorance of loss…is inexplicable. As one person shared with me, “It’s as if Einstein tried to explain the Theory of Relativity to a 2 yr old”. Our minds are incapable of grasping God’s mind when it comes to the ignorant pieces of loss.
As believers we grieve with hope. Our trust is in the one who hung the stars in the sky. He makes the waves roll in, causes the sun to shine, the moon to rise and the rain to fall. He will right all wrongs, dry all tears and hold us in his arms. Never again will we mourn when we see his face. We know a savior who has walked in our shoes, feels what we feel, knows our grief and suffering personally. It’s not abstract or too small for him. As time goes on pieces of these truths become tangible, making his love for us real and we trust a little more. Even in our pain, he is good. His mercies are always new, giving meaning to the suffering we experience. We have used bandages to lend to others who are experiencing the same losses. Nothing is wasted.
As you move through this Christmas season I pray that the God of all comfort will reach into your spirit, heart and mind, to bring about a miraculous sense of his person. That little baby, though humbly born, inhabits a heaven too great for our imagination. All of creation is merely an elaborate picture of the heavenly reality.
Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year to all.