Main passage: Ephesians 3:14-21
Secondary passage: Lamentations 3:22-23
Over the last few days, I watched as a woman on Facebook, long divorced from a relative, lost her new husband of five months during a series of lifesaving surgeries. Evidently he had a serious illness they knew could take his life, but weren't expecting it so soon. He was admitted into UPMC hospitals in Pittsburgh for surgery, the same hospital my first husband said goodbye to me for the last time. I can picture the nurses and doctors, the hallways, and the rooms. I have the route and the songs that played on Christian radio etched into my brain as I drove back and forth by myself, glazed over from lack of sleep and stress. I can still hear the monitors and see the wires and tubes stretched from his body. The smell of death built up in the room, the jaundiced look haunting his face, are all unforgettable. It was the last time I could lay beside him so we could hug each other. Deja vu for me was so strong as I followed her experiences, even five years after we laid my husband in the ground. My heart went out to her as tears hit my keyboard. I could only imagine what it was like being a newlywed and losing your love so soon. It was hard enough after being married almost 30 years.
When Don, my first husband, was first diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer, the predominant question people who knew us asked, "Why?" We asked that question ourselves over the four years he suffered with cancer. I learned a few things through that process and continue to learn more now: God has a plan bigger than our hopes, dreams, and sorrows. He also loves all of us so much He will carry through what He plans -- for our good and to bring Him glory.
Faith in the Midst of Pain
In our limited view, it might seem like God is mad at us for something we unknowing did or that He hates us. Nothing could be further from the truth. He love us with an enormous love we can barely comprehend (Ephesians 3:14-21). He doesn't hate us nor is He punishing us for some unknown infraction. Punishment from God is always a corrective measure to help us become better people. Instead, He reaches out to us, offering us His love.
Original sin brought sickness and death into this world (Genesis 3). Blame Adam, Eve, and a Serpent named Satan.They could have been comfy in the Garden of Eden, but instead they wanted to be like God. When they ate the forbidden fruit, sickness, decay, and death entered Their perfect world, changing everything forever. We probably would have fallen for the same trick. As a result, we all get sick at some time in our lives. We also will all die some day. Some go sooner than others. The question we probably should ask is, "Why not?"
Healing is more than making someone disease or injury free. When we pray for someone to be healed, we always hope their health will be restored. Of course, we don't want our loved ones to suffer nor for them to leave us behind. Jesus allowed Lazarus to die, but raised him from the dead to reveal the power of God and His deity (John 11:1-44). He never delivered His cousin, John the Baptist, from execution. Instead, He assured John that He is who He said He is and His purposes on Earth were being fulfilled (Luke 7:18-33, Matthew 14:1-12). The only apostle allowed to live to an old age was His disciple John. Although Peter was freed from jail by an angel (Acts 12:1-19), avoiding certain death for a time and a purpose. He was executed much later. God is compassionate. When someone knows Jesus as Savior dies, they are instantly healed. They receive their new heavenly body that never gets sick, and have the awesome privilege of standing in the presence of God for eternity. Why would we want to deny them this opportunity to go home early? Why do we insist, "They are here with us, watching over us"? Because we know we will miss them so much it hurts to let go.
Hope in the Midst of Loss
Those of us left behind need God, so we need to cling to Him more. We will either grow closer to God or we will turn our backs on Him in times of despair. Job, as godly as he was, suffered terrible loss in a very short amount of time.He had a horrible illness himself. His wife told him to curse God and die, but instead, he kept asking God, "Why?" God gave him his answer. He later learned that he only about knew of God, but now he knows the living God (Job 42:10-17). It is far different to know about someone than to really know someone on a personal level. When we keep asking, "Why?" He will answer us in His time.
In our loss, we are given hope for what lies ahead. As I sat stunned, watching my husband's lifeless body covered from head to toe in a sheet, being rolled away on a gurney to an ambulance which drove away silently, I wondered, "What now?" I'm sure the woman I mentioned earlier asked the same question. So do others who lose a loved one. As we ask this question, God answers, "Trust Me. I love you." Moving on is like walking through a dark room barely remembering knowing way through it. This experience keeps us praying and watching for God's guiding hand, trusting His daily provision, growing closer in our relationship with Him. As we ask, "Why?" He shows us, "Why not?" The one who died is fine. The ones who are not fine are those of us left behind. We are the ones who must continue on in our dark, sin-filled world, but we have hope knowing God is with us every step of the way.
Joy for the Future
After pain and loss runs it's course, joy is restored. Eventually, we get our bearings. Sometimes, we are given a new person to love and love us back, sometimes not. We learn how to move on in life, remembering the blessing of the one He took home. God blesses His children with joy in the newness of what He brings us each day. It's not the same as before. Of course, life never is. God's faithfulness to us bring new mercies every day (Lamentations 3:22-23). Let us remain faithful to Him, as He is faithful to us.
May God bless you.