An Unfinished Letter and a Teenager’s Death

I began a letter yesterday that I did not complete. I plan on finishing it soon but I sensed I needed to let my thoughts and prayers percolate for a while. The letter was intended for a family whose mother passed away far too early. The family has been on my mind in recent days and I wanted to express my sympathy. I also wanted to offer some biblical answers in an effort to help this family deal with the pain of their loss. Then last night, my friend Pastor Craig Etheredge informed me of a teenager’s accidental death in our community. Some of the teen’s family attends North Richland Hills Baptist while others attended Craig’s church, First Baptist Church of Colleyville. I woke up this morning hurting for them. As a father of three, it is easy to feel some of their pain.

When tragedy strikes we often feel the pain in waves and as a community of believers we hurt, pray, and sympathize with those grieving. And while I don’t have all the answers in such times, for much of the pain we experience is a mystery, I do have a few of the answers so many desire. So, as an expression of love, allow me to point to several biblical answers why God allows His children to suffer. I have included numerous biblical references as I encourage you to go to mediate on these passages of Scripture and God’s goodness in the days to come.

1. Do not doubt that God is loving and gracious to His children (Ephesians 3:14-19). His love is powerful and His love is loyal (Psalm 36:5-6). Don’t ever think for a moment that God deserts His children. The Bible tells us that the Lord is near to the brokenhearted and He saves those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18). Again, the Bible tells us that even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we need not fear. Why? For God is with us to comfort and care for us (Psalm 23:4). The Bible also tells us that God comforts those who are in affliction (2 Corinthians 1:8-9). Despite our questions where we often doubt His love and goodness toward us, the Lord is gracious to His children. Despite the pain, I encourage you to never doubt God’s loving compassion and grace to those who follow Christ through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).

2. God has a purpose in permitting pain (Romans 5:3-5).  This is an odd statement for those who are in the midst of searing pain for very little of the hurt makes sense. Our perspective is not God’s perspective and we don’t have the sight he has.

As you consider God’s perspective I encourage you to reflect on an analogy from Corrie ten Boom, who suffered a great deal as Jewish young girl in Germany during World War II. She said suffering in this world is like looking at the bottom of a tapestry. God is weaving it from the top down, and he sees the picture developing. Yet, we see the tapestry from the bottom up, and we’re seeing all of these tangled threads. It doesn’t look like it’s making any sense at all, but it’s the same tapestry.

The Bible gives us enough evidence of God’s good wisdom to comprehend that He is making a bigger picture of the tapestry. God shares enough promises (Romans 8:28) to show He is making something stunning of our lives even when we see from the bottom up.

3. Through my experiences, I have learned to “press pause” on my doubting questions as I learned to wait on God to bring more clarity to my struggles. This is an act of faith and it’s tough to do. When we experience suffering that collides with our knowledge of God’s goodness and kindness, we must cling to God’s compassion and mercy as an act of faith despite the present troubling times. God rewards such faith and He will always, yes always, speak to those who patiently wait for Him.

Indeed, we can confidently say that God brings pain into our lives to promote our faith (2 Corinthians1:8-9) for there are dimensions of spiritual growth that happens during seasons of such pain that rarely happen in any other time of our lives. Most believers do not experience spiritual growth as a constant, steady, and progressive increase. Instead, spiritual growth happens in “spurts.” I am confident that in the future, I will see that God has pressed the “accelerator” on my spiritual growth during my most painful times. For it is then that I experience His comfort when I read about Him in the pages of Scripture. You will also experience a richer  breadth to your journey with Christ because of such pain (Philippians 4:11-13).

4. The Christian’s eternal hope is that we are continually in the presence of God Himself after our death (Romans 8:18). Thankfully, in the tragedies mentioned above, both individuals choose to follow Christ by faith and trust in His death on the cross (Colossians 1:3-5; Romans 10:9). The Bible teaches whenever a believer in Christ dies, she is immediately in the present of Christ Himself (2 Corinthians 5:8). This thought is infinitely precious and will keep us steady amidst the waves of emotion that come when tragedy strikes. Despite the protesting of secularists, the hope of glory is not the product of our vain imaginations, instead it is the well-attested hope of saints throughout the ages (Hebrews 11:39-40). In the midst of suffering, I encourage you to think often of God’s majesty and splendor, as it is being experienced by all the believers in heaven currently.

I pray that God is your refuge and fortress for He is able to work your future toward unspeakable joy. God is stronger than our most desolate feelings. He will soon vanquish all His foes including suffering. We live in expectant hope for that approaching day.

What Happens When I Die? – Pastor John MacArthur on Larry King Live

In light of this month’s new sermon series, What Happens When I Die?, you maybe as intrigued as I was to see Pastor John MacArthur answer this question in a panel of other religious experts. Both videos are each around 7 minutes in minutes in length. I found MacArthur’s answer refreshingly biblical while the other panel experts noted their objections.

If you are someone new to Christianity seeking to see how Christianity stacks up against the other religious beliefs in the world, here is great comparison and contrast.