We are never more than a text away from life altering events. Days that seem normal can change in an instant.
On July 4th, 2016 we received such a text from friends in our home group. Their 18 month old daughter was being rushed to the hospital because she had stopped breathing during her nap and was unresponsive. The Lord took her home later that night at the hospital surrounded by family and friends from our church.
I’ve spent all week feeling sad, questioning things in my heart, and feeling sick to my stomach thinking about how my friends are feeling right now. They are strong, faithful believers, and this was by far the worst day of their lives.
SORROWFUL YET ALWAYS REJOICING...WHY?
Events like the one I’ve just described are horrific. When it’s unexpected, and especially when it involves young children, it is devastating. How do Christians, that suffer such trials, make it through? How do they stand and continue to move forward when it feels hard to breathe?
The apostle Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 6:10, that Christians are a people that are “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” Sorrowful because bad things happen. Rejoicing because we have truth that sustains us through it.
God is not cold to our suffering and our trials. The pages of the Bible are filled with stories of persecution, sickness and disease. In Romans 8:36, Paul says that Christians are even “being killed all the day long” (even in our own day we know this to be true). God does not turn a blind eye to any of this, but gives us his word to stand on. The power of his promises can go so deep that true joy never leaves us. Joy is not happiness. We are not a chipper people, but we are a joyful people. Why?
When you read a passage like Romans 8 there are so many comforting words from God that get to the depths of a hurting soul. But you must ask the question, “on what grounds is all of that truth built on?” All of it comes from verse 37:
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
It’s love, demonstrated by Jesus dying for our sins on the cross. If we trust and believe in God’s love for us, then that grounds us for all of life’s circumstances. That truly allows us to be “sorrowful yet alway rejoicing.”
Jesus, God in the flesh, without sin, died a horrific death he did not deserve. Perfection took on the sins of the world. If Jesus did that for me and for you, then we not only have someone to lean on and cry on when life is terrible and confusing and “unfair,” but we also have a HOPE that cannot be taken away.
The promises of God, through the word of God, sustain our hearts when all seems to be stripped away. Here are just a few more I wanted to highlight:
Romans 8:18: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us…..(keep reading)
Romans 8:28: And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (ALL THINGS)
John 16:33: Jesus says: In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
James 1:2: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete lacking NOTHING
GOD DOES NOT WITHHOLD GOOD FROM HIS CHILDREN: MORE PROMISES TO THE HURTING
Justin, my friend who lost his daugher, and I are in a small group that meets weekly on Saturday mornings. We study scripture together, talk about our lives and pray. A few weeks ago Justin mentioned that he wanted us to take our group to the next level and start memorizing scripture together. We would hold each other accountable and recite from memory our verses every time we met.
Just two weeks ago our scripture was Psalm 84:11-12.
“The LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!”
A verse like that is a promise from God. Often I come to a promise like this and it’s easy to say or memorize but hard to believe and live by. I mean is it really ‘no’ good thing? Wouldn’t it be good for him to have his daughter back? Wouldn’t it be good for us to adopt the girl we’ve been pursuing from Guatemala? There are a million things that we can insert there to ask that question. But the key part of those verses is “the one who TRUSTS in you!”
In order to deal with the trials we do and will go through, we must trust in someone that can see from a different vantage point than we can. God has a better and perfect perspective and understanding than we have. In all honesty, I struggle with this promise because I struggle to truly trust God. But my struggle doesn’t negate the power of the promise. God knows what’s best when it comes to what would be good for us.
ALL THINGS WILL BE MADE RIGHT: FUTURE HOPE, FUTURE GLORY
Ultimately, where is this all going for the believer? Why all the HOPE? For the longest time I think I have had a wrong understanding of what heaven is. Last month my wife and I read through Revelation together. There was so much that we really didn’t understand, because of all the imagery, but it was truly insightful and led to a better perspective of heaven. It tells of how Christ will make all things new and give us a new heaven and new earth to replace the earth where we currently exist.
Here’s what it says in Revelation 21:1-7
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Heaven will be so much more glorious than we could ever imagine. I can’t even comprehend a place where there is no more pain, where there is no crying. It sounds amazing. And the most amazing part is that God will dwell with us and we with him forever. We get to be with God. The one that took the penalty for our sin. That’s amazing.
Heaven is the answer to our earthly suffering. But what does ‘wipe away every tear from their eyes’ mean? What I think it means is that everything that has caused us pain in this current life (like the passing of an 18 month old) will be made right.
I don’t believe that means we will automatically forget about it (maybe it does), but that the glory of heaven and His presence will make the sorrows of this life so dim in comparison. I also believe we will be reunited with fellow believers in heaven and most definitely those who went “home” as children. If we are reunited forever with the ones we loved on this earth, then the pain of losing them will feel very faint and lose all weight once we see them again. That is one of the reasons the Bible speaks of our afflictions as ‘light’ and ‘momentary’ (2 Corinthians 4:17-18) and ‘not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us’ (Romans 8:18). It’s not that our sufferings are trivial and meaningless, but that heaven is infinitely more glorious.
This week has been difficult. I’m mourning with my friend. But I’m not without hope. I am sorrowful, but I have not lost my joy in Jesus. He died for my sins and that is the greatest gift we could ever be given. It is the reason for our hope. And one day God will return, bringing heaven to us, and establishing a place of complete joy that will cause every tear that we have ever cried to be worth it.
...but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the HOPE that is in you… 1 Peter 3:15a
Josh Walker (@joshdwalker) is the co-founder and owner of One Fifty Media House, a Houston, TX based Audio and Video Design Team. He is the writer and author of music products such as Family Devo, Grammar Time and Hymns For Selena. He is married to Angela and has two beautiful children: Nathan and Charity Joy.