Saturday, July 26, 2008

Lord, if...

"Lord, if you had been here . . . "

It's still hard to put into words what transpired this week for the Greg Laurie family, including of course, his daughter-in-law Brittany Laurie. This weekend's Harvest Devotion comes at an especially somber time.

This from John Collins, who is Administrative Pastor at Harvest Christian Fellowship:

"Lord, if you had been here . . . "

These are the words of Mary and Martha at the death of their brother Lazarus in John 11.

There, at that moment in time, when death was cruel and vile and heartless, they stood before what seemed an unbreakable valley of darkness. They wrestled with grief, and the grief was unbearable and unbeatable because grief can never be beaten, only experienced.

And so when Jesus came to them, they said it, "Lord, if . . . "

They both said it, at different times, but to His face. We get the sense that they most likely had said it among themselves, too.

"Lord, if . . . if you had only done this or that . . . "

It is the perfectly human response of a heart that is broken because hopes have been dashed and their world shattered. Someone they loved has been taken away. Life as they knew it was now different. They stood on the cliff of that dark valley and peered into the blackness and thought, "Lord, if . . . "

This morning, as I write this, my pastor and his wife stand on that cliff. They are suffering the loss of their eldest son, who was taken from this earth quickly and tragically Thursday. They are battling the unmerciful giant called grief and, like Mary and Martha and every human soul who has waged that battle, they are losing.

It is painful to watch for the end is not near, and with every merciless blow they cry out, "Lord, if . . . "

I have been in that ring before, but only as a young man of 16. My father had died of cancer. The last night of his life, I left the hospital with the words, "I'll be back to watch the World Series game with you tomorrow."

There was no tomorrow. I had missed those precious last hours with him. And I grieved, "Lord, if I had only stayed with him . . . "

"Lord, if . . . " is the cry of every forsaken moment, every unsaid word, every failure to perfectly love the ones we love and now can only remember.

"Lord, if . . . " is how we ask God, "Why?", when we know He won't answer, when we are unsatisfied and frustrated by "seeing through a glass darkly."

"Lord, if . . . " echoes in the darkness and, like all echoes, it returns with no answer. The price of life and love is death and separation. As C.S. Lewis once said, "That's part of the deal."

So where is Jesus? We ask, "Lord, if I must drink this cup of grief, where are you?" To that, we have an answer in Psalms 139:8–12:

"If I go up to heaven, you are there;
if I go down to the place of the dead, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
even there your hand will guide me,
and your strength will support me.
I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night—
but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
Darkness and light are both alike to you." (NLT)

For Mary and Martha, the darkness and grief for Lazarus was temporary. Jesus allowed it so that His power over death could be made known at the resurrection of Lazarus.

Jesus was there, orchestrating His plan. Out of the darkness of that tomb came a foreshadowing of his own resurrection, which would give light and hope to all the world now that death was defeated.

Where was Jesus? He was there in the darkness of that tomb. And before raising Lazarus, He was with Mary and Martha, weeping with them!

Where is Jesus? He is forever in the midst of our darkness, in the black caverns of our life. He sees the grieving widow. He sees the grieving father and mother. He sees our pastor and his wife and He visits them in their grief. He knows the pain of the journey.

Isaiah said, "He is a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3 NKJV). It is comforting to know that our sorrows are His sorrows and that He knows the aching sense of loss and grief. God never promised to remove our grief, only to give it purpose.

Mary and Martha were united with Jesus in sadness, the grief of loss. And Jesus entered into that grief.

How sweet and comforting to know our God is with us in our moments of desperation. He is the King who bears the full, blunt force of our "Lord, ifs . . . " and then sits next to us with a loving arm around our shoulder and weeps.

It is in these moments with Jesus that we come to know that the darkness only hides His face. One day, when the darkness is gone, His face will be the light of heaven.

My heart breaks for Greg and Cathe. I have come to know Jesus through Greg's faithful teaching of the Word of God. I watch and wince at every blow of grief, but I am confident there are blessings in the buffeting and grateful that Jesus is with them.

Source: Harvest Online Daily Devotions


Related: Nobody's Exempt

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