The past week has been a hard one in the life of our church.
Over the past several days, we watched and prayed as one of our youth faced insurmountable complications from a heart valve replacement surgery. We prayed for a miracle. We wept. We begged for healing. And we waited.
As we gathered together to worship yesterday morning, we got the news that we didn't want to hear. We stood and sang songs of God's faithfulness with tears streaming down our faces, all the while grieving for the life that had been taken from us.
The ties that bind a church together are sometimes hard to see. Like any family, we have more than our fair share of squabbles, but the thing that I love about the church is the way we take care of our own when it counts. When one part of the body of Christ hurts, we all hurt. We all feel the pain. We all feel the loss.
Yesterday was hard. But it was so, so good to be together while we grieved. To kneel together at the altar and pray for peace and comfort. To stand together and proclaim God's goodness in the midst of heart-shattering grief. To bow together as the tears overflowed.
There's a long road ahead for Cole's family. The days will be long, and the nights longer, but I pray that God would use us, the people of their church, to walk beside them on the road to healing. This is what it means, I think, to bear one another's burdens.
The promise of the gospel is not that we would never know sorrow or pain but that we would never face it alone. The gospel promises that God is not only with us in our suffering, but also that he shelters us in the darkest parts of the storm. I'm convinced that he sometimes uses the church to do just that. It's one of the ordinary means through which God gives us extraordinary grace.
To say that I'm close to the family would be a lie. I know some of them better than others, but I knew Cole only in passing. What I knew of him made me smile. He was a funny kid with a quick wit who wasn't afraid to use it. Although I don't know them well, I do know what it is to be a mom, and imagining the total devastation of losing a child took my breath away, drove me to my knees, and forced me to cry out on their behalf.
I wept yesterday, not just for the loss of such a bright light, but also because we live in a world where things like this happen. Jesus lived, died, and rose again so that death could no longer have victory over us. But sometimes, as we live and breathe in the space between his resurrection and the time when he will finally make all things new, that promise seems so very far away.
And yet, it's the promise to which we must hold on tight. Without it, we are lost.
The book of Job tells the story of a man who lost everything. In one crushing disaster after another, he goes from being the man who has it all to the man who has nothing left. Somehow, though, he manages to maintain hope. I want to have hope like that. Shane & Shane sing a beautiful song about it. I've included it here so you can listen.
The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Though he slays me, yet I will hope in him. (Job 1:21 and 13:15, paraphrased).
Our hearts are broken today, but thanks be to God that brokenness doesn't get the final word. He does. And he has promised to bind up all our broken hearts, to mend the places that are torn, to wipe away every tear from every eye, and to make everything right in the end.
Today, and every day, until that day, I will praise him. What else can I do?
Until next time, grace and peace.