In the last few weeks, our church has been shaken by tragedies
In the last few weeks, our church has been shaken by tragedies and difficulties of various stripes-untimely deaths, surgical complications, hospitalizations for everything from cancer to personal demons, and a seemingly endless host of personal struggles.
Some of these troubles have been visited upon members of our fellowship while others have affected family or friends of our members. But whoever they have touched, and however they have arrived, my sense is that we all have been reeling from their unwanted presence.
As a pastor, people often turn to me for an explanation of the heartaches they are suffering, but whatever words I offer seem about as effective as breaking concrete with a light bulb. So at the risk of sounding trite, let me share with you a few of the beliefs I fall back on during times like these.
Life is unfair. There's no way around this. Pain and suffering that we do not deserve come to you and me. Yes, sometimes we are the architect of our own affliction, and honesty demands we own up to our poor judgment. But there are other times when misery is visited upon us for no reason we can fathom. And no amount of sugar-coating or deft theologizing will change that.
Life is gift. Despite our many accomplishments and skills, none of us willed ourselves into this world, nor can any of us add one tick of time to our lives. That we are in this world at all is the gift of God. The people who matter most to us are all gifts as well. The moments of joy and wonder which come our way are gifts too. None of these things we earned, nor do we have them because we deserve them. They are all gifts of grace. So bad things come to us that we don't deserve, and good things come to us that we don't deserve. Therefore, if given the choice, I will always choose a life of grace over a life that's fair.
God weeps when we weep. I have no ultimately satisfying answers for the age old question, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" But I do believe I hear the echoes of God's tears in my own. And I have found that the most wonderful gift anyone can give me in the depths of my grief is the gift of their presence. I am comforted by the knowledge that God is holding me in the everlasting arms and mingling heavenly tears with my own.
The community of faith is indispensable in times of grief and loss. When the time came for us to pray together in worship the other day, and you opened your arms to me in a gesture of gift and embrace as you spoke the words "The Lord be with you," I was reminded again of what a gift you are to me. Not only have you ministered to the families who are hurting, but you have ministered to me as well.
No pastor south of heaven or north of hell has ever served a more wonderful group of people.