By Carey Helmink
This past Saturday I experienced the joy of spending the day dress shopping with my daughter. Not just any dress, mind you, but THE DRESS. We were just getting started with our first appointment when I got a text from my dear friend Patti, saying that her son-in-law had just passed away. So, I am in the midst of a long awaited, joy-filled occasion, and she is in the middle of a nightmare that she wouldn’t wish on her worst enemy.
As sisters in Christ, what do we do with that?
At least for me, that tension –the mingling of joy and sorrow every day of our lives– is one of the most difficult things about this journey on earth.
No one escapes sadness and heartache, but most of us experience our share of joys as well.
I have been on both sides of this equation, and I’m sure you have been as well. For example, why were my dad’s last days on earth so miserable? He loved the Lord with all his heart. I know of people who love the Lord who left this life peacefully. I’ve heard stories of everyone singing hymns around the bed, and it is as if the Lord ushered their loved one into his presence. Not my experience at all.
Conversely, I know dear women who have longed for a child and done everything possible to make that a reality, and it hasn’t happened. But my daughter was told she would not be able to have her own children and miraculously she did, and she is pregnant again!
As I have been thinking about this the past few days, my mind keeps coming back to John 21. The story takes place shortly after Jesus’s resurrection. It is the dialogue between Jesus and Peter where Jesus is basically commissioning Peter to take care of his people and his church–his sheep, if you will. Then he gets to the part that is a little hard to hear:
18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.” 19 Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me!”
20 Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His bosom at the supper and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” 21 So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!” [NASB]
You’ve gotta love Peter, don’t you? He is having this “moment” with Jesus–the first one really since he denied him before his crucifixion–but he just can’t resist the comparison. He is so distracted by John’s story. Jesus’s response was essentially, “Peter, you do you,” or maybe let ME do You. Walk your path, live your story, and don’t compare that story to anyone else’s. We have no idea what God is up to in someone else’s life. Let’s be honest, there are many times we don’t know what God is up to in our lives either, and we may never know this side of heaven.
But here is what I DO know. Amid joy AND sorrow, I must cling to what I DO know. Certainly, we can come to God with our questions. He is not intimidated or offended by them. The Psalms are a clear picture that it is okay to ask God the hard questions. But the Psalms are also crystal clear that there are things we CAN know.
In the words of Beth Moore:
”If I know enough statements that end in definitive periods – My God is good. My God is faithful. My God will always come through. He will always work it all together for good. Then I can still live with those dangling question marks that drive me crazy.”
Psalm 13 says:
O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
How long will you look the other way?
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
With sorrow in my heart every day?
How long will my enemies have the upper hand? (v.1-2)
(So many questions. But then come the statements of truth.)
But I trust in your unfailing love.
I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
I will sing to the Lord
Because he is good to me. (v. 5-6)
Let’s continue to immerse our hearts in truth as we follow and worship this mysterious, glorious, approachable God that we call Father.