I've been thinking a lot about grief lately as I have watched, in the last couple of weeks, two different families experience the tragic loss of a dearly loved son. One was from a heroic two-year battle with cancer and the other from a heartbreaking decision to take his own life. In both cases loved ones were left in the wreckage that only death can bring, filled with pain and anguish deeper than they ever imagined possible, trying to make sense of it all, and wondering how they will ever be able to survive the next minute--much less the next day, week, or year--without their beloved child. It was incredibly hard to watch. Maybe because it was too familiar. For, looking into their eyes, I saw something that I recognized. It was a deep, indescribable pain that only the most difficult moments of this life can produce; one that reminded me of a different time and a different place when that pain was my own (Jackson). And I remember clearly that it was into the midst of the pain (almost 27 years ago) that God spoke, reminding me that he too had experienced the agony of losing a son. Reminding me that he could understand my anguish like no one else.
Another beautiful reminder of this was given to me just last week at one of the memorial services, in which the pastor turned to the grieving mother and father and said to them, "God understands what you are going through." He then went on to explain that at least a part of what may have been happening as Jesus died on the cross, and the sun hid its face and the rocks were split open and the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, was that God himself, a grieving father, was tearing his robes in pain and grief. I don't claim to fully understand how that is even possible, but when I heard those words it brought up a "yes" from the depths of my soul. "Of course," I thought, "that's exactly what God would do." It touched me to the core; a God who would share our pain, a God who would voluntarily take that pain upon himself that we might have life and hope. Only God would do something that beautiful. Only God would put himself in those shoes...for us. Why? So that in the midst of our deepest darkness and suffering, we might have an even deeper companionship with him. So that when we found ourselves in times of most desperate need, we might be met by a more beautiful vision of his heart. So that at those moments when we felt the most lost and hopeless, we might find hope and healing in the midst of our pain. Thanks be to God!