It’s been a busy time packing and cleaning up before moving on to the next exciting adventure that the Lord has waiting for us. Many of you will know from experience what it’s like the day before the removalist comes and takes all your stuff away. You have to make important decisions about what to keep and what to bin; what to take to the Lifeline Op-shop and what leave for the next owners.
At a little after 8pm that evening the phone rang to say that Jandre had died. That wasn’t totally unexpected. Usually admission to a Hospice is a recognition that life expectancy is now down to a few months. Nevertheless the call was sobering and sad. A delightful young man is no longer with us. A family is struggling with the empty place in their home.
My immediate thought as I drove to the hospice was, “Here I’ve been carefully packing away our earthly treasures all day and now Jandre’s death is reminding me how frightfully unimportant it all is.” Sobering! But then Jesus already reminded us not to lay treasures on earth but to lay up treasures in heaven. All the stuff that fills our homes and sheds is rather insignificant in the context of eternal realities.
At the hospice, while talking with the family and friends, we reflected on a more sobering lesson: you don’t have to be seventy or eighty to die. So true! There was the funeral I took many years ago of the 18-year old who had wrapped his car around a tree. The death of young people is a sobering reality check. The pity of course is that many people don’t learn the lesson. We grieve for a while and then we forget and life goes on… until the next untimely death.
The biggest reality check at times like this is the character of God. There are well-meaning Christians who say that God doesn’t want anyone to get sick and that we should always claim his promises for healing. Jandre’s family have been praying for years for the Lord to do a miracle and reverse the decline that was taking place in Jandre’s body. His church family have been much in prayer for him. So what went wrong? Isn’t a gracious and loving God supposed to make sure that things like this don’t happen?
And there’s something else. Everything in us screams out in protest that this isn’t “normal”. Parents are not supposed to outlive their children. There have been many instances where even grandparents have outlived their grandchildren. I recall the eighty-year old grandfather who was for the third time attending the burial of a grandson. With a cry of despair he lamented, “Lord, you took the wrong one. I’m ready to go. Why did you take him?”
The reality check is that we can’t fathom the inscrutable ways of our God. It may not make sense to us that God takes out of this life so early, a godly young man with a quiet trust in his Saviour, while He allows the young hoodlum, who is before the courts for the third time, to live. In our books there are times when God does not seem to make sense.
And trying to blame the problem on our lack of faith or because of sin in our life just doesn’t wash. On the contrary it unfairly loads a guilt trip on “the victim”. It is hurtful to suggest that Jandre wasn’t healed because his faith was not strong enough. This young man demonstrated the strength of his faith in the way he carried the burden that the Lord gave him to bear.
No! The reality check is the same reality check that the book of Job faces us with. God is absolutely sovereign and He carries out His plans and purposes even if they don’t seem to make too much sense to us. And that’s just the wonderful comfort at a time of grieving such as this. Our sovereign God never makes mistakes. And even in the toughest moments He makes the light of Jesus shine into our lives – in ways that that we often don’t see when all goes well. Our unchanging God hasn’t stopped loving us… instead He’s drawing us ever closer to Himself.