Loss comes in different strains, but it is a common malady to all people. Every change brings some element of loss—a loss of what was—what can never be. It brings grief. A common response to loss is to question why it happened. If God is powerful and good, why did he not stop the course of events which led to the loss?
Right now I am walking through my own grieving process as I recover and move forward from the loss of a very close relationship. I have had an assortment of thoughts and feelings that osculate from sorrow to pain to wonder to despair to denial to hope to frustration to questions to peace and joy to sorrow again. Through my life I have endured enough other types of loss to know one thing to be very true and very important—turning away from God in bitterness and resentment for allowing the loss to happen is not the solution! Rather the only comfort comes from burrowing my heart into God, drawing closer to him, seeking him. It is not my natural instinct. Initially it is somewhat satisfying to “punish” God by blaming him and ignoring him rather than going to him. However, the choice of remembering God’s great love for me—he died for me and there is no greater love than that—is far more beneficial. So the first part of comfort I have found in coping with loss is choosing to trust God and letting him ooze his peace and comfort into the depths of my pain. This is the past lesson I have learned that bears truth into my present struggle, but now I turn to John 11 where I have been discovering a new comfort in this season of loss.
John 11 recounts the events and conversations that transpired with regard to the death of Lazarus. John writes that Jesus learned of Lazarus’ fatal illness but waits until Lazarus passes before leaving for Bethany. This is troubling from a human perspective, for the reader’s thoughts echo that which Martha professes, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” and what the other mourners consider “‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’” Truly, Jesus could have avoided this great loss of life if he had come in a timely fashion to Bethany—he had demonstrated in the past his ability to heal sickness. Yet, John gives a powerful insight into this situation that reveals the true motivation of Jesus—he quotes Jesus, “‘This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’” In verse 14, Jesus also purposes it to give the disciples belief. John also makes the effort to communicate Jesus love for Martha, Mary and Lazarus and express Jesus’ grief for the loss. Although God allowed the pain and death to occur in order for his glory to be expressed and the faith of his followers to grow, his love and compassion are real and congruous with these purposes. Now as the account continues, John presents the amazing resurrection of Lazarus to life—restoring to Martha and Mary the one they loved and had lost.
In my life, God may or may not restore this relationship to me. That may not be his greatest good for me. However, I can trust as Mary and Martha did while in the full throng of their sorrow that God is still capable of all things. I also can choose to have hope even in a hopeless situation that God will work it out to a greater good through ways unimaginable to me now. Best of all, I can know fully that God is at work to bring his glory about through this situation and that concurrently he is empathizing with my pain.
I am reminded as well of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac. He knew that God had promised him many descendants through his son, yet he still offered up his most precious gift to God with full faith in God’s integrity. Although, I have no promise from God that my future will include this relationship within it again as Abraham did, I do have a promise from God of a “hope and a future.” Therefore, though he is asking me to lay down on the altar the relationship I thought would give me a wonderful and good future, I can have faith that somehow he will bring about a wonderful future despite my current loss.
“The Lord gives and takes away, but still I will say, ‘Blessed be the name of the Lord'” Thanks be to God!