Early Monday Morning around 1:30 a.m. I received a text message from a dear friend. I know people aren’t normally up at that time of the day texting unless something is heavy on their heart. I immediately texted back and said, “Let’s talk,” so we did. Sure enough he was awake for a good reason. Before we said good night, we prayed.
I decided to stay up and spend some time praying and reading scripture. I chose a reading from The One Year Bible. To be honest, I almost wished I hadn’t read those passages. They were passages that to the rational mind make no sense and are anything but comforting. You know the kind of passages out of Deuteronomy where Moses is sharing laws that related to crimes and violence? The New Testament passage was also filled with judgement on Sodom and warnings to this city and that one.
So I decided to read from a book called Wounds that Heal: Bringing Our Hurts to the Cross by Stephen Seamands. The title of the chapter I read was the same as the words spoken by Christ to His Father on the cross, “Why Have You Forsaken Me?” In the chapter Seamands quotes one of my favorite authors, Phillip Yancey, whose book, Disappointment with God, is referenced. Yancey is raw and honest about the mysteries of life and gives us permission to follow Christ’s example and ask God the “why” questions. Dr. James Dobson’s book, When God Doesn’t Make Sense, ranks right up there with Yancey’s when it comes to addressing those questions that seem to have no answers or at least answers that don’t really seem to bring comfort.
I decided to go back to bed, and this morning I arose to discover in my email a message from another friend, whose perfectly fit 30-year-old daughter, mom to two little girls, died of breast cancer over the weekend. Wow, and the pain goes on, and the beat goes on.
I recently read the following:
When we are young in our faith prayer is our endless chattering to God about what is on our mind and what we need from God. In our mid-life prayer moves from making statements to God to asking questions of God. By the time we are moving to the sunset of our lives, prayer has moved from statements, to questions, to silence.
I’m 65-years-old, so I suppose I’m somewhere between questions and silence; so today I’m doing both.
This past weekend I texted two of my friends who had lost loved ones this past year. I shared with both of them that they were on my mind during the Good Friday and silent Saturday periods of Holy Week. One texted back and said, “This year Easter is bitter sweet,” and the other responded with three purple hearts. I know my friend well enough to know if those hearts had eyes they would be dripping with tears. I wished I could have been there to hug both of them, but most of all I wished I could take their pain away, along with the pain of my friend who lost his daughter to cancer and my friend who texted me in the middle of the night. All I could do was pray, so I did.
On Saturday morning I spoke to a minister friend from New York who shared that he had been asked to conduct a private memorial service for a baby that was born pre-mature and didn’t survive. He was searching for words on what to say on Easter when you are saying good bye to an infant. I told him that when people are in deep pain they don’t hear they only feel, so give them permission to ask why, acknowledge the pain, and although this doesn’t take the pain away now, tell them they will someday hold him in Heaven. Until then, weep with those who weep, and although God may seem a billion miles away, His Word tells us that He is near to those who have a broken heart and contrite spirit.
Following Easter some of your friends and family members are still in the Garden of Gethsemane and are daily living a Dark Friday reality. Don’t try and fix it; only God can do that. Be a tear catcher, hand holder, and a shoulder to cry on.
Before I retired for the night after reading all of those depressing materials, I decided to try one more book. The book was one by John C. Maxwell called Encouragement Changes Everything. John dedicated the book to a friend who had died, but his memory of that friend still lives on. He wrote of his friend Rick Goad, “A friend and encourager who added value to my life. He loved me unconditionally, served me continually, and brought joy to my life daily. Thousands would say with me, Rick made a difference in our lives.” John begins the book by quoting George Matthew Adams, “Encouragement is oxygen to the soul.”
Life can be hard, painful, tragic, and ugly. We may question and wrestle with God about the why’s even as we trust that He is good. My message this week is simply look for someone who needs oxygen and be that breath of life.