It’s not supposed to be this way.
You are not supposed to watch your grandparents stand over the coffin of their youngest child.
You are not supposed to listen to the cries of your mother as she mourns the loss of her second brother (when she was about nine, her little brother Ronnie died who was four).
You are not supposed to…you just aren’t.
It’s not supposed to be this way.
But it is.
I listened as my grandmother and grandfather prayed over my uncle’s body before we left the viewing this evening. My grandfather gently spoke a short prayer that I will never forget.
He said, “God, into your hands we commit his spirit. We’ve done it before.” (He was referring to the death of their son Ronnie). After this, my grandmother let out cries like I have never heard.
It’s not supposed to be this way. It’s just not.
It was good to hear more and more of the story this evening from the search and rescue team. They were able to fill in some of the questions about what happened that night. As those questions have been answered, it has been amazing to realize that if just a few little things would have been different, my uncle would have been fine. He would have walked out of the woods and it would have just been “another day.”
But, the fact is, things weren’t different. Things happened just as they happened. The fact is, if God wanted to intervene in just one or two simple ways, it would have been different. I would be asleep in bed with my wife in Philadelphia and Gordon would probably be here telling a funny story of what happened that night and he would follow that by some cheesy joke.
But God didn’t intervene.
No, this is not the way it is supposed to be. Death was not part of the original plan. Things didn’t start out this way. Genesis 1 & 2 didn’t include this.
I know that one day, there will be no more tears, no more crying, no more death. But today in our family, there are lots of tears, lots of crying and a very unexpected and sad death.
It’s been hard to come to realize that while this is not the way it is supposed to be, this is just the way that it was supposed to be. God could have done something different. But He didn’t.
The “what kind of good will come out of this” is not even a question I want to ask right now. The truth is this:
We mourn the loss of someone we and hundreds of other people loved dearly. We mourn knowing that God has not abandoned us.
We mourn not completely clear on who those two truths coherently fit together. But they do. We mourn. He loves us. Things are not
“alright.” But God has not abandoned us.
Tomorrow at the funeral we will sing the song “Blessed be the Name” by Matt Redman. In it is a line that says, “He gives and takes away, he gives and takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”
I feel as if my family, in the midst of tears, pain and anguish, can somehow sing this song with absolute integrity. This very fact makes me so humbled to be part of a family that clings to the message of the cross and the resurrection and looks forward to a hope that is not based on simple cognitive reasoning, but is based on and rooted in on a personal encounter with the risen savior. If this were not the case, we could never sing this song.
Perhaps tomorrow, we won’t be able to sing it. Perhaps the pain will be too great. But, the truth remains. God has not abandoned us.
As Rob Bell has said, “we live between two trees.”
This week, one of those trees feels a lot closer than the other.