This past week, a work colleague lost her younger daughter to bacterial meningitis. She was an 18 year old college freshman. As a parent, this is an unspeakable tragedy, and I can’t even imagine the incredible depths of pain she, her husband and older daughter are feeling.
I don’t know when I will see my colleague again. I have been wondering what I will say to her — if anything at all. I know that some of my Christian friends might say something like, “It is all in God’s hands” or “It’s all part of God’s plan” or “God has called her to be home with him.” I have never found these sentiments to be comforting, and I am not even sure they are biblically correct. But we face these situations, and as part of God’s front line of normal Christians, I think we have to be prepared to say — or at least think — something on matters like this.
I believe that God is all powerful and all knowing. And in the realm of the entire universe He could, and maybe even sometimes does, affect the course of events. But when and how that happens, I humbly admit I have no idea. Even when my prayers seem to be answered, that an event or situation changes and I was asking God for exactly that same thing, I am not arrogant enough to think that my prayers caused God to act in a certain way. I simply give God praise and continue to seek His grace.
I believe the world is broken. Satan still has tremendous power, sin still prevails, the planet is unstable, and disease is still a reality. God’s intention was not for us to live like this. But we humans have just enough self-centeredness that we regularly choose to be our own gods, and for a very long time, God has given us what we want: freedom. Ironically, our freedom leads most people to be enslaved to themselves.
I believe that God loves us. He created us out of Love. He gave us our freedom out of Love. He patiently guided His people for centuries out of Love. Eventually, seeing our desperate need to be put back into right relationship with Him, He sent His son to be the ultimate sacrifice for what I could not possibly pay. And He did this because He loves us.
A precious human is dead, her parents and sister are grieving. That horrible disease has a foothold on this planet, it strikes with viscousness, and it does not care who you are. Hatred, wars, suffering still abound. But don’t think for a moment that God does not notice or care.
“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
Jesus wept. (John 11:33-35 NIV)
Yes, whatever we can say in moments like this, we should know that God himself is weeping. Because that is the way Love works.