Monday, January 31, 2011

Help, God. It Hurts.

"The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy." (Proverbs 14:10)

    It's been a week since my last post, after searching for the reassurance of God's presence and comfort in "Is He There? Does He Care?". In the midst of significant changes in my own life, I learned some personal information about my friend Yeswanth's death that shook me. It profoundly altered my perspective on the grief of someone he has left behind, who is trying to come to terms with the fact that he is gone. It also brought my writing on this blog to a standstill as I tried to digest the implications of what I had heard and reflected on the crushing weight of this person's sorrow. I cannot even begin to comprehend what this individual has been feeling. It's been one of those bittersweet weeks where the words of Proverbs 14:13 became very much a reality: "Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief."

    There is something about the devastation of hopes and dreams that hits the heart unlike any other. That crushing sense of shock, tightness in the chest and accompanying dizziness in the head that feels as if everything is spinning. Or that sickening sensation in the stomach that feels like being in an elevator in free fall. Gone. Over. No Hope. Irreparable. Incurable. Terminal. Destroyed. Shattered. Finished. None of us want to face words like that when it comes to the deep desires and dreams that reside in our hearts - love, relationships, marriage, children, career, education, family, finances, projects, even ministry.

    Unrequited love. A relationship ended. A child that must be buried. A spouse betrayed and marriage devastated. Love's labour lost. Or perhaps a promising career or venture brought to a sudden end. The feeling always seems to be the same - something missing or permanently lost. A vacuum or hole in the heart and mind, and the accompanying grief in realizing that it is gone. Perhaps even regret at all the effort that went into the dream that is now reduced to ruins, being signed away on divorce papers, lying on a hospital bed, being lowered into a grave or burned on a funeral pyre. It all comes with very tangible sense of despair and inability to hope in the light of all that is happening at the moment. At times when that which we have loved and desired is being burned to the ground, it's not just that we can't grope for some measure of hope; it seems as if we don't even want to. As inevitable defeat seems to stare us in the face, the instinct is to crawl under the covers, lie down and die.

    As much as we like to think and pretend otherwise, the truth of the matter is that the human heart is extremely fragile and sensitive.

    Like those who hurt over his passing, I find myself deluged with questions on the matter. Why did this happen, God? I know that You have a purpose in everything You do, but situations like this are so hard to explain. Why did his time come when circumstances in his life were so promising? How will his family find hope? How will the person who longs for him pick up the pieces and keep moving on with life? Can You do something about their pain, God? Help, God. It hurts. Please heal their broken hearts. Please console and comfort them. Please save them. Please.

       It is in the midst of all these questions that I find my own heart turning to the Word of the only wise and true God, Who has carried me through my own moments of personal hurt and sorrow. I was reminded of chapter 25 in the book of Isaiah, titled "God Will Swallow Up Death Forever." Verses 6 to 9 read as follows:

    "On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And He will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of His people He will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, 'Behold this is our God; we have waited for Him, that He might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for Him; let us be glad and rejoice in His salvation.'" (Isaiah 25:6-8, ESV)

    This prophesied defeat of the curse of death that hangs as a covering and veil over all people and nations was fulfilled 740-odd years after the life of Isaiah, in the crucified body of the Son of God that hung on His blood-drenched cross, and His resurrection three days later. In the final book of the Bible known as 'Revelation', John the Apostle is given a vision of the resurrected Christ such as He has never seen - hair white like wool or snow, eyes burning like fire, feet gleaming like polished bronze, a voice with a roar louder than an angry ocean, and a face "like the sun shining in full strength." (Revelation 1:13-16, ESV). Yet of all the opening lines that this terrifying persona could have chosen, I find it deeply moving that Christ speaks words of comfort to His beloved Apostle, of life on the other side of death: "Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades."

    Time and again throughout the Bible, God promises an appointed time to come when death will be no more, when this fallen and dying world will pass away and the creation of a "new heaven and a new earth" (Revelation 21:1). I find it interesting that in the entire Bible, there are only two places where life is recorded to be perfect. The opening two chapters of Genesis, the first book, record the beginning of time with creation and life with God before mankind sins through disobedience and is separated from Him; the final two chapters of Revelation, the last book, record the end of time with the 're-creation' of a new heaven and earth, and the words of God Himself in His promise of new life:

    "And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, no pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.' And He who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.' Also He said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'" (Revelation 21:3-5, ESV).

    It is no gamble to put my trust in the only God who promises life and light on the other side of darkness. If you are sorrowing today, may you experience His powerful and comforting presence and put your faith in His promise of new life for you. See you in the next post.
- The Wisdom Seeker

    "For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." (John 6:40, ESV)

    "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25. ESV)

    "Because I live, you also will live." (John 14:19, ESV)