18 April, 2006

Your Faith is Simple, but not Simple Enough

(Moved from April 11 to 19. I started this a week ago, and never had a chance to finish it.)

I sat in Bible Study a couple weeks ago, and a scenario was posed with a question.

"You just heard that your friend's parents were killed in a car accident. What do you tell her?" A wonderful saint answered quickly, "It depends whether or not they were saved. If they were, then no problem."

I was stunned.

I could not think of anything to say without insulting the intent of her statement, which was obviously kind. If they were saved, then Yes, those parents were in a better place, but the (adult) child who was left was in a much worse place. If they were not saved, then what comfort would this commenter have for this girl? Either way, this sudden orphan was in a place without two of the most important people in her life, and two of the most dependable people. She had leaned on them, loved them, and been loved by them for decades, and now they were gone.

"...then no problem."

Ouch.

I had to think about this one. I try not to let instinct overwhelm truth, but in this case instinct was dead-on-accurate.

The commenter was speaking from simple faith. I advocate simple faith over complex faith any day. I don't want to have to understand God to believe in Him, or I am doomed when the pressure is on. I cannot think clearly when I cannot quit sobbing, so my faith had better work better than my mind. Faith had best be simple.

The commenter had a simple faith. God had said He would care for the righteous dead, so the child left behind could be at peace.

The commenter's faith should have been simpler.

She should be at peace without the answer to that question.

No matter what you believe foreknowledge, election and predestination mean (and Weekend Fisher is a little way into a discussion of just this over at her site, though more important things have called her away for the time), they mean you can believe that He works all things for the good of those He has called. All things includes evil things. And death is one of the evil things that He works for our good.

I said "our" good. I have heard this verse twisted almost to mean that God brings evil into our lives for His own good at our expense. God Forbid. Yes, God works all things to His own good, but, Yes, God works all things to our good too. Our good is always in His heart. Whenever there is a difference to be paid in bringing good to all of us, He takes the expense on Himself. He paid the price to make this possible, and not we ourselves. He works in His compassion to us, and He gives us grace we cannot repay. He works all things to our good.

Let's go back to this poor girl who lost her parents.

What would I say to her?

I will assume that we would all listen for a long time before we speak. We would weep with her while she weeps. When the time comes, we would share our similar experiences, and assure her that life might always be different, but that it will again be good and joy-filled.

What do I say to her after all that?

God works every tragedy to the good of those that He has loved. That doesn't make tragedy less tragic, but it makes God the Redeemer.

Death is His enemy, even more than ours, but He overcame death. He will overcome this for you, and turn it into a blessing. It's hard to say that about something so awful, but He earned that trust from us. He didn't overcome death by the strength of his right hand. He overcame it by enduring tragedy. The Son suffered it, the Spirit watched it, and the Father had to turn His back on His only Son. God has allowed this suffering into your life, but He knows what you are suffering, and He is standing with you now. He knows what you are feeling, and He has pledged to make your joy complete. I do not know His ways, but I know His promises, and I know what He paid to make them good.

Would I have to ask whether her parents were saved? Of course, I would. It matters to them. It matters to God. It matters to her. But it does not matter to God's promises. God will heal the broken heart of that girl. His heart was broken once, too. And having been there, He promises to comfort the grieving. Every tear will be wiped away.

(Yes, I lost an atheistic father that I loved, so I can say these things, but that's not the point.)

Our faith must be that simple. When tragedy strikes, we do not have to ask questions before we know whether God will comfort us completely.

He will.

9 comments:

DugALug said...

Codepoke,

Wow this is a horribly tough question and thanks for the insight. I have two things I would say about this:

1) When faced with tragedy, I find myself saying, 'what have I done?' or 'why is God letting this happen (to me)?'These are the wrong questions. It's not necesarily about me! I am not at the center of the universe: God is!

All of life is not a test... for me. I am tested, encouraged, motivated, chastised, and lifted up on a daily basis. But the fact that God's ultimate plan may cause short-term tragedy or hardship in my life is something that I must accept, and deal with.

Giny Owens has a song that touches me every time I hear it. Somewhere in the middle she says:

"But you never said 'it would be easy': You only said 'I'd never go alone'.

That is what I can rest on. That in mourning, God mourns with us. We can be thankful of a loved ones eternal destination, but even in that, it doesn't mean that I won't miss them greatly here.

2) What to say to a survivor?! It is too deep to put a simple answer too. I believe that we, as humans want to believe that life has purpose. This is why we cry when we see Private Ryan kneeling at the gravesight of Captain Miller, at the end of the movie. Ryan wanted him to know that his living was with purpose.

I am hoping what your Bible Study saint was really saying is that God gives our lives purpose. As Christians we are soldiers in another war. I am hoping that she would share that her parents fought the good fight and God needed them, even in death to fulfill His plan. Maybe even tell her that I am certain that it was not their desire to leave when they did, and even God had to make a decision, that he knew would hurt, but that God was with them and is still with you and he is weeping with you. You could even say something to the effect the girl was the ultimate purpose of the parents and their legacy lives on through her.

If they were not Christians, the encouragement is much tougher. You can certainly point to the girl as a purpose for life. You could point to acheivements, and the fact that they were good parents. But all of that is somewhat hollow without a 'higher calling'.

I have found that with survivors of non-christian households, it is better to mourn with them, and not offer reasons. God has quickened me to witness in this time, but mostly I want them to know that I am here for their support. God calls us to be more Christ-like and approachability is certainly one of those traits. The subject of salvation, in most cases, will innevitably come up anyway. But it is at their pace, not pressed upon them.

Some of my brothers look at death as a wake-up call to others: get right or get left. I tend to look at death as part of the cycle set forth when Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit. Just because God has freed us from death's bite, it hasn't free us from death itself.

-Doug

Milly said...

This one is hard because my response is this AAAAHHHHH! You need to comfort the person who just lost a loved one not question. They need to see God shine through you. I was told after mom’s funeral that it was God’s will. The screaming in my head didn’t show on my face.(My mom taught me that it was improper to show that kind of emotion at a funeral) I smiled and walked away thinking you must be kidding! Someone just said that to me! I don’t believe that God wanted the doctor was to make such a huge mistake. I don’t think He wanted my dad to find her gone. I don’t think He wanted me to almost deck the hospital social worker and I don’t think He wanted her nephew to be held back when he wanted to try to save her. I do think He sent my husband to talk to the woman who got in my face at the hospital. (So I wouldn’t flatten her) I think He wanted me to talk to her that morning. He wanted me to call the hospital and tell them to review the signs of a woman having a heart attack.

In times like that show love. As questions like that later much later. If the person is a Christian they too have questioned it.

Codepoke,
I’m sorry that your father wasn’t a Christian. However, I don’t know if we get a chance when we stand before God to see Him and ask for forgiveness.

DugALug said...

Milly,

I am sorry for your loss too. There is nothing that anyone can say that can lesson the pain of missing a loved one. I pray that there were those around you that supported you with love and understanding of your situation.

I did want to say that there is a difference between mourning, comforting, and answering questions as to why.

It is of no comfort to tell a person in mouring that it was God's plan for their parents to depart.

It is of greater comfort to give them the faith that they are in a better place and that we will see them again.

The why's are when we, as Christians, need to be able to answer with love, kindness, and conviction, guided by the Holy Spirit. They need to know that God hasn't left them or departed from them. God is not angry at them and that His love has not diminished.

I go back to a purpose and a higher calling. We, as humans believe that life must have purpose. Faith in Christ and His calling has assured us that it does.

I am confused a little by what you mean by 'stand before God to see Him and ask forgiveness' Are you implying that it is not too late to repent after death? I would have to take great issue with that.

(Please forgive me, Codepoke, if this is innapropriate in any way. I don't want to make light of your loss and feel free to delete this comment if it is out of line. I hope I am not)

God Bless,
-Doug

japhy said...

"God does not put us into these situations. God helps us through them." I heard that from a facilitator of a retreat I attended in high school.

I also like a passage from JRR Tolkien's "The Silmarillion", which I feel is the best non-Scriptural answer to the question of "why is there evil in the universe of a loving God?":

In his work "The Silmarillion", which describes the history of Middle Earth before and during the time of the Elves, he includes the Creation mythology of the Elves. Briefly (to give this passage context), Eru ("the one") called Iluvatar by the Elves, began creation by thinking into being the Ainur, musical angelic figures. The Ainur were devised to make music before Eru, and then he gifted them by bringing them all together and allowing them to perform a theme as a group. It began as perfect as Eru intended it to be. Then one Ainur, Melkor, the mightiest and wisest of them, decided he would weave his own theme into the song they were making. The themes began competing with one another: the beautiful, slow Music of Eru, and the braying, loud, repetitive music of Melkor (and those who feared to oppose him). The music ended with a chord "deeper than the Abyss, higher than the Firmament, piercing as the light of the eye of Iluvatar". Eru stood in silence and then spoke these words:

Mighty are the Ainur, and mightiest among them is Melkor; but that he may know, and all the Ainur, that I am Iluvatar, those things that ye have sung, I will show them forth, that ye may see what ye have done. And thou, Melkor, shalt see that no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite. For he that attempteth this shall prove but mine instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined.

I can't think of a better way to put it. No matter what happens, God shall help us see how to pass through the trials and tribulations and to see what good can be done after (and in spite of) it.

Milly said...

dugalug,

I am confused a little by what you mean by 'stand before God to see Him and ask forgiveness' Are you implying that it is not too late to repent after death? I would have to take great issue with that.

I'm just not sure what happenes after we die in body. Our spirit goes before Him for judgement. I can't stand on this earth and say exactly what happens.

Let's take this to my blog folks for a discussion I'd love to read your views and scriptures. (Honestly!)

codepoke said...

Thanks, guys!

For the comfort, I thank you. No worries, though, God comforted me in the church back in '97 when it happened.

For the discussion, good stuff all.

Maybe even tell her that I am certain that it was not their desire to leave when they did, and even God had to make a decision, that he knew would hurt, but that God was with them and is still with you and he is weeping with you. You could even say something to the effect the girl was the ultimate purpose of the parents and their legacy lives on through her.

Powerful, DugALug. I will try to remember that if I ever need it.

This one is hard because my response is this AAAAHHHHH! You need to comfort the person who just lost a loved one not question.

Amen, Milly.

Japhy,

I have never heard that Silmarillion quote. That is very direct stuff from Mr. Tolkien. That God would allow the angels to see their dance played out is a rich picture. Thanks!

codepoke said...

DugALug,

Please forgive me, Codepoke, if this is innapropriate in any way.

I love it when we commenters begin talking amongst ourselves. This is a free chat zone! (Within the obvious boundaries of decency.)

Let's all head over to Milly's place!

japhy said...

I'm reminded of the lyrics to the song "We Live" by Superchick, part of which is as follows:

Waking up to another dark morning,
People are mourning,
The weather outside in life is storming.
But what would it take
For the clouds to break,
For us to realize that each day
Is a gift somehow, someway.
To get our heads out of the darkness
And spark this
New mindset,
And start to live life 'cause it ain't gone yet.
And tragedy is a reminder
To take off the blinders and wake up,
To live the life we're supposed to take up,
Moving forward with all our heads up,
'Cause life is worth living.

DugALug said...

Codepoke,

I headed over there, but you are too dang fast with your wielding of scriptures!

Well done man!
-Doug