Meaningless memes

The pain of losing a child is excruciating. Physically it is exhausting. Emotionally it drains you. Depression will overcome you at times. There were times when I didn’t care if life went on yet I was never suicidal.

Five and a half years have passed. Time has left an awful scar to a terrible wound. Time has been a teacher of things I knew nothing about however. Time and grief have educated me about God, faith and myself. The morning fog does not dissipate immediately, neither does the fog of grief but as it lifts the light of the sun makes your surroundings clearer. I see life and death differently. I see myself and God more clearly.

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I read the social media memes of grieving parents. Many of these memes express a broken heart desperate for hope and comfort. I get that, I want that for myself as well yet in some of them I have found their words to be hollow and unhelpful. I have desired truth on my journey with grief and have found no relief in a well worded lie.

Truth has brought to me real comfort and real hope. The world scoffs at truth saying, “What is truth?” The Christian replies, “Jesus is the truth and his word is truth.” There is a comforting anchor of hope in the actual, historical, prophetical and archeological facts of the scriptures. I find no hope or comfort in mystical notions, speculations and unverifiable philosophies concerning life after death. I want and need the truth.

Truth answers the tough questions. Truth is, God answers to nobody and not all the answers made available to us. But God has made know to us his love, his grace, his mercy and in this I find immeasurable comfort and hope.

If this life is all there is and death is the end of all things then I would choose to become a hedonist. Let us eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. If death is not swallowed up by life then I am greatly decieved and my faith is pointless. I am a fool left comfortless and hopeless if the sting of death is the end of all things.

But I am no fool and I take great comfort in the hope given to me by God in the scriptures.

The only comforting hope for me is based on actual, predicted, historical and verified events concerning Jesus. Apart from this my son is only a memory to me and we shall never embrace again. The resurrection of Jesus changes everything- it is everything- he is everything! And in this I rejoice with hope and joy inexpressible.

Cling the gospel my friends. It is our one hope and comfort in the dark days of our lives.

“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-8

Till we meet Jesus and greet our loved ones again.

“The Lord bless you and keep you;
 The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.” 

The life and death of passion

Four family deaths and the burial of three loved ones on the same day did something to me that only those closest to me have witnessed. Today I want to reveal it to everybody. The death of Jacob has doused many passions I once enjoyed and involved myself in life. Like a bucket of water thrown on a campfire all that is left of the once hot fire are charred coals, some rising steam, and the sound of hissing.

I want to write about the death of passion for those who are on the outside of grief and know nothing about losing a child. I desire to write this not to be critical or cynical of your passions so I preface my writing so you don’t misunderstand my heart. My hope is that perhaps I can help somebody who is confused as to what changed in their friend who once shared similar passions with them. Maybe your golfing partner no longer plays anymore, perhaps your buddy doesn’t want to come over and watch the big games like he used to. What happened? I think I can explain it out of my own personal experience.

I used to be obsessed with outdoor activities. I couldn’t get enough of hunting and fishing. I once was deeply involved and passionate about the sport of wrestling. There was a time when American politics were of great interest to me and I involved myself in the dialogues and used to be a dutiful voter. I also was once a fanatically obsessed fan of Michigan sports teams. It was easy for me to enter into activities and conversations that involved my passions at one time, but not anymore. On March 26th & May 15th 2014 these fires were quenched by a bucket of grief. Oh, there are the remnants of the fire there in my life but none of my former passions mean a hill of beans to me anymore.

The death of certain passions have caused me to pull away from the conversations and activities that I was once obsessed over. Much of it is like eating a cracker with cotton mouth and nothing to wash it down with.

My former passions have all but become inane nonsense to me. I hate the political noise, I can’t change the world with my one vote so I have chosen to walk away from a former passion that is of no personal help to me. I no longer allow my thoughts and desires to be hijacked by my sports teams, or guns, politics or outdoor activities. No, grief has all but struck the last and fatal blow to those former passions. Even entering into the conversations of these things has become difficult for me to endure. Why is this? Have all my passions died?

In my experience with grief I have learned to chuck all the noise and nonsense that only adds to the chaos and robs me of peace. Most of the passions I once had  have all but died in my grief and I am not sure they will ever be resurrected again. I suppose only time will tell me that, I am not without passion however. Life’s passions for me got extremely pared down because death always magnifies what is truly important and eliminates what is not. Deer hunting, a stinky fish, political views, a football game are of little or no value to me anymore. Though I still lightly involve myself in these occasional enjoyable activities they don’t consume me.

Bring up politics, hunting, fishing and sports and I may be lightly engaging but quickly bored. And if I were to bring up my passions you might be lightly engaging and terribly bored as well. What have my passions and interests boiled down to you might ask. Read my blog posts and you will discover that I am passionate about the truth. Jesus said, “I am truth” and he also stated that “the word of God is truth.” Jesus is God in flesh, and he as the God-man beat death, was raised, ascended through the heavens, and is now seated at the right hand of God. The scriptures foretold it, it happened, and he is returning to judge the earth. I am passionate about this hope in him.

I have discovered that people have many passions but I find few people (especially men) who are passionate about Jesus and the truth.

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)

Oh and by the way, I do have one other passion I will mention. Her name is Stacey and we have three beautiful kids (one in heaven) who we are passionate about. They have life partners now and God willing I expect my family to grow. Somehow I think that grand babies will be our next passion in life.fam

Jesus said that our mouths reveal the passions of our hearts. What we talk most reveals our true passions, so we do well in listening to the stuff that our tongues are wagging about. Many of the passions that once dominated my time, my thinking and speaking died with my son. My passions are for Jesus, the truth, and my family, almost everything else to me has become superfluous.

Maybe I am an anomaly or maybe I am not, but this is for certain. Grief pares down our passions to the most important things in life. Sorry if I don’t appear to care about my former passions anymore, the fire was doused by 4 funerals. I am pretty sure other grieving people are feeling similar things. So cut some slack to your friends and family who have silenced the noise and focused on the things that matter most to them. Death kills many passions but also gives life to the passions that matter most; don’t try to understand this, just please take note and accept it for what it is.

 

 

Death benefits: part 2- faith, hope and love

Some months ago I had a conversation with a person whose sister was brutally murdered. He said to me that he rejects the notion that everything happens for a reason. He feels that the death of his sibling was pointless and without purpose. As I listened to him speak my mind was at the other end of the spectrum. I thought to myself that there is reason why my son died, it is not meaningless and it has purpose. This is quite a juxtaposition. How do two people view death in two very different extremes? Was I just looking through rose colored glasses and was he looking through dark shades? No, I don’t think so.

It wasn’t that I am an optimist and he is a pessimist. The fact of the matter is that I view death through the lens of faith, and he, being without faith in Christ, cannot see what I see. If a person doesn’t know the meaning and source of life he certainly will never know the meaning behind death. But the bible answers both if a person is willing to listen and be enlightened by the truth concerning these confounding questions.

Why did Jesus allowed his friend to die?

Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died (John 11:21&32)

Have you ever pleaded with God for someone to get well but God didn’t show up and your loved one died? Have you ever considered that maybe God actually ordained the sickness and allowed death to happen for a much greater purpose? Some very close friends of Jesus find themselves in this very situation a short time before his own crucifixion. Mary and Martha sent for Jesus to come and heal their brother Lazarus but Jesus purposefully delayed going for two days so that he would die.

There was a greater purpose in the death of Lazarus that could not be realized by healing his terminal illness. Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son might be glorified through it.” (John 11:4) This is a sobering reminder about our prayers and petitions that seem to be ignored by God. Father knows best! “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.” (Isaiah 55:8)

Some might call into question the love of God in permitting such a thing, so John records that, “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” (John 11:6) Love would certainly become evident to all when he arrived, he was troubled when he saw his friends and even his enemies grieving at the tomb. “Jesus wept” (John 11:36) He groans over the toll that sin has taken on his creation. Who can free the world from the chains of death? Christ and Christ alone! “We groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for the adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:21-25) This is our blessed hope and this miracle of the raising of Lazarus is a prelude to the hope we have in Jesus who possesses the keys of death and the grave. How did he obtain the keys? He has destroyed the one who had the power of death through his own death, burial and resurrection from the dead. (Hebrews 2:14)

What miracle would give God most glory; the healing of Lazarus or the resurrection of Lazarus? This resurrection miracle is the crown jewel of all the miracles done by the Lord. It puts the glory and power of God on full display. But there is more that Jesus will accomplish in his delayed trip to Bethany. He is actually joyful over the fact that he was not going to heal Lazarus. Yes, Jesus was glad that he was not there. “Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sakes I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” (John 11:15) The glory of God is the primary purpose behind this death but building up the disciples faith is of great importance as well.

Death and other various trials will cause our faith to grow; The Lord finds joy in this and we should as well. This funeral built a deeper faith in God, a confident hope in the resurrection of the dead and a deeper love for Jesus to the glory of God. “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)

What we believe should move us to action. What Jesus asks the family to do next is almost unbelievable if it hadn’t actually taken place. He says, “Take away the stone.” (John 11:39) For a more contemporary understanding of this I pictured Jesus handing me a shovel at the headstone of my son Jacob and saying, “Dig.” Martha objected for obvious reasons and I am sure I would have had the same concerns. But the Lord wants a faith and trust that obeys even the absurd and things we fear. He reminds Martha, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:40) Faith went to work and the eyes of everyone witnessed a dead man come to life and exit his grave. All this to the praise of God and his Son Jesus Christ.

What we know about God is not what gives God joy and pleasure, it is what we do with what we believe that delights the Lord. “And without faith it is impossible to please him.” (Hebrews 11:6) The disciples seen the glory of God because they believed and rolled the stone away. I ask myself the question, “What stones do I need to roll away in my life, by active faith, that I may behold the glory of God?” The Lord knew his beloved disciples believed in him but he engages their faith in essence by saying, “Don’t just say that you believe. Prove it! Put your hands to the stone and roll it away.”

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