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In my own grief processing efforts over the events of the south Florida shooting, I felt impressed to share truths I gleaned from Scripture this morning. This is in no way meant to diminish the pain of these families or portray myself as a grief expert. It is meant to point to the Great Comforter.
On February 14, 2018, a lone gunman strode into a south Florida high school, taking the lives of at least seventeen people and inflicting grief to last a lifetime.
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Not one for public displays of emotion, I sat watching footage of this horrific event as tears streamed down my cheeks. The screams of horror and anguish as students witnessed downed friends and teachers incited my somber attitude for the rest of the day.
But what’s truly disturbing is that these kids, families, and the community will forever be haunted by the events of Valentine’s day, February 14, 2018. Life will never be the same for them. And those who lost loved ones will suffer deep inner turmoil for years to come.
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Why do we face grief?
When we encounter such terrible events, it is our natural tendency to ask why. This is not wrong – it’s normal; our questioning nature a God-given capability. He also allows the emotion of grief, although not His original intent when creating mankind.
His original intent? A lifetime of fellowship with His created beings; a deep and lasting friendship resulting in glory to Himself, the Ultimate Creator, Sustainer, and Lover of our souls.
Jesus Christ Himself displayed God’s very essence – His entire ministry a manifestation, healing thousands; showing compassion, love, and forgiveness.
Jesus was sold out for God.
However, betrayed by Judas, one of his own disciples (and deserted by the rest), and suffering in agony at the hands of mockers and passersby, His message seemed for naught.
He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him: for He said, ‘I am the Son of God’”, they mocked. (Matthew 27:43, NKJV.)
God’s answers for pardon from grief
From a human standpoint, there seems absolutely no purpose in Christ’s life. He healed all those sick people and loved the unlovely for what? To be betrayed by a close friend and die a cruel and suffering death?
These four instances speak God’s different answers to prayer:
1.) God said no to Paul to glorify Himself
Thinking his affliction a deterrent to the ministry, not to mention his own personal pain and suffering, Paul asked in faith for his thorn to be removed. But God said His strength would be perfected through Paul’s weakness.
2.) God said “yes” to Israel – at the risk of their souls
“During their desert wanderings, the Israelites complained about the food God was providing each day. They craved meat – and insisted on getting it. Psalm 106:15, KJV, tells the result: ‘He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul’. They lost far more than they gained.” 31 Days of Prayer, Ruth Myers
3.) God said “no” to Christ to save our souls
“He trusted in God”. And yet, it seemed God turned His back on Christ in His hour of need. The day Jesus suffered on the cross, the soldiers didn’t know Christ had labored the night before in anguish. He prayed for God to make a different way – a way out of suffering.
4.) God said “yes” to David to glorify Himself
This king after God’s own heart felt the heat as enemies surrounded, threatening demise. Penning these prophetic words, later evidenced in Christ’s death, David had no way of knowing if he would be delivered or not.
“But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people.All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; ’He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!’” Psalm 22:6-8, ESV
But he was, and went on to live a long, fruitful, and forgiven life, blessed by God.
What purpose is there in grief?
God turned His back on Christ. God, Who created us to live in fellowship with Him, made a way possible – at His Son’s expense and a HUGE “no” – to gift us with eternal life.
To human reasoning, and certainly to the mockers, Christ’s life was a huge waste. But they did not know God’s purpose – they couldn’t.
Matthew records an astounding account following Christ’s death. It’s easy to ignore in light of the crucifixion and resurrection. But these very verses hold the key to why we do have a sure hope:
And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” Matthew 27:51-54, ESV
Did you catch that? Dead people came to life after Christ’s death. They walked around and were seen!
The purpose in suffering is that God wins in the end, and so do we. Dead people walk! We who were dead in trespasses and sins are made alive in Christ. (Ephesians 2:4-7.) This a sure hope.
A hope for when the darkest days loom.
We are all touched by grief
The last thing I want is to diminish the suffering of the Florida tragedy. I’m hurting, praying, and hoping for these families to find God’s comfort in these awful days. And the truth is, we all suffer loss. I’ll never forget the premature death of my grandma, who choked on her blood pressure pill. My father-in-law died of stage IV Glioblastoma within months of diagnosis. And my best friend and mom mentor passed away of cancer in her early 40’s.
One does not simply erase these grievous memories. They are forever etched in the recesses of our hearts.
Why does God allow suffering? The truth is, there’s no easy answer. But there is tremendous peace that passes all understanding, only possible through our great God – the One Who forsook His own Son’s suffering, even when “He trusted in Him”.
Paul said if he found out this whole Christianity thing was a crock, his life would have seem a giant waste of time. Parties missed, wealth lost, and his status in Roman culture forsaken.
But he knew death was not the end – only the beginning.
“His strength is made perfect in our weakness, His presence filling and satisfying our emptiness, becomes a secret of humility that need never fail.” (Andrew Murray, Humility.)
A prayer for the grieving
Our hearts go out to our hurting brothers and sisters in Florida. We grieve for you and cannot imagine your pain. We don’t even have the right words, but stand with you, praying:
Dear God, give us strength to trust in You. It is so very hard when we cannot reason why such cruel acts occur. “Oh Lord, we know not what to do, but our eyes are on You.” (Micah 6:8.) Comfort those who mourn in deep grief both now and in the days to come. We cry out to You, Father, asking for more faith to trust. It seems so senseless, God! Why does this have to happen? Yet, we praise You, as the Psalmist, David, when even pressed in on all sides, said, “For He has not despised, nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from Him; but when He cried to Him, He heard.” (Psalms 22:24.) Be with these dear mamas, fathers, sisters, brothers, families, friends, and this community. Thank you for Your Son, the Ultimate sacrifice of love for us, so that we could have peace, even in our grief. Thank you for eternal life. Thank you that you hear us. Oh for grace to trust you more. Amen.
When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. I Corinthians 15:54-58