And, like many of you, I have been struggling to process such an evil act on innocent little lives. I have 2 children. It hit close to home for me.
This past week has been a time of reflection for our country and certainly for me.
I began to sense some encouragement this week as I took time to reflect on the tragedies of the past and how there was always a thread of hope.
For instance, a few years ago I received a call one night from a church deacon that relayed to me that someone had just phoned from the hospital and requested one of the pastors from the church (me) to come quickly. A teenage girl had just given birth to a little baby boy. The baby tragically died in her arms just a few moments after birth. I had the privilege to perform this little baby’s funeral with hundreds of friends looking on at the cemetery. I saw the hope in that mother’s eyes the entire service. God’s comfort was real.
In 2007, my wife and I were expecting our first baby. I was the single adult pastor at a church in Atlanta at the time. One of our single moms came up to me in March and gave me a stuffed animal for our new baby. She was so sweet. Later that week, this single mom was told that she had an aggressive form of cancer. She died before my little girl was born the following month. It was that fast. The single mom’s name was Rachel. My little girl was born just days after her death. Her name is Rachel.
I was asked to perform that funeral and gladly accepted. It was April 13, and there were three boys sitting on the front row waiting to see what the pastor was going to say about why their mom was gone. I struggled with putting that message together. I had no idea what they were going through. But, I knew there was always hope.
I think that’s part of my struggle in finding the right words to communicate to those in Newtown. I know pain, but I don’t know their pain.
But, if I were a part of the funerals for those sweet little children, these are a few of the things I would communicate to the families and to that town:
“A child once found a bird’s nest in which were eggs, which he looked upon as a great treasure. He left them, and when a week had passed, went back again. He returned to his mother grieving. I had some beautiful eggs in this nest, and now they are destroyed. Nothing is left but a few pieces of broken shell. But the mother said, Child here is no destruction. There were little birds within those eggs, and they have flown away, and are singing now among the branches of the trees. The eggs are not wasted, but have answered their purpose. It is better far as it is. So, when we look at our departed ones, we are apt to say, Is this all you have left us, ruthless spoiler? But faith whispers, No the shell is broken, but among the birds of paradise, you shall find the spirits of your beloved ones singing. Their true person-hood is not here, but has ascended to its Father God. It is not a loss to die, it is a lasting, perpetual gain.” Charles Spurgeon
(2 Cor 1:3-4) “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort , who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”
Sometimes we have more questions than answers:
Life is like an oriental decorative rug, it has two sides; on one side the underside is full of dark, mangles, threads that make no sense to us, full of knots with no pattern to its reasons why. But when we look at the rug from the top side, you see the beautiful patters, designer work, the full picture.
POINT: that is the way we see life so often from the underside, full of confusion, knotted lives, no patterns to why things happen the way they do….. . but God, sees life from the top side He sees the full picture.
King David grieved like many of us today because he lost his son. He grieved, he cried, his heart was broken. Hear what David said, “I know that my son can not come back to be with me here, But One day I will go to be with my SON.” He knew that God would one day work it all out for them to be back together.
Death is not the end, beyond our veil of tears there is another life, another world:
(Revelation 21:1) Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
(2 Cor 4:16-18) “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Adrian Rogers, a former pastor who died of cancer said the following:
“Sorrow looks back; worry looks around, but faith looks up.”
“Suppose you are a gardener employed by another. It is not your garden, but you are called upon to tend it. You come one morning into the garden, and you find that the best rose has been taken away. You are angry. You go to your fellow servants and charge them with having taken the rose. They declare that they had nothing to do with it, and one says, “I saw the master walking here this morning; I think he took it.” Is the gardener angry then? No, at once he says, “I am happy that my rose should have been so fair as to attract the attention of the master. It is his own. He has taken it, let him do what seems good.” It is even so with your friends. They wither not by chance. The grave is not filled by accident. Men die according to God’s will. Your child is gone, but the Master took it. Your husband is gone, your wife is buried- the Master took them. Thank him that he let you have the pleasure of caring for them and tending them while they were here. And thank him that as he gave, he himself has taken away.” Charles Spurgeon
There were 27 roses taken from us last week.
And, we grieve with their families, their friends, their town.
But, there is always hope. And, that is the message that we must convey in times of trouble like this and the ones to come.
Hopeful,Steve Gillis Founder | Exec. Director www.patchourplanet.org