The Woods at The Hiding Place, Respite Retreat, Henrietta, Tennessee, January 2014
Intro. We as couples who have experienced the loss of a child often listen more acutely when someone comes to us and talks to us who has also lost a child and experienced great grief.
The big idea: Here in the life and words of Christ, we see a man with ultimate street credibility to speak into our sorrow as he has been a man of sorrows aquatinted with much grief and loss.
I. Jesus speaks words of forgiveness – even over closest friends who sleep during his hour of need and overwhelming sorrow. Matt 26:36
In the Garden of Gethsemene Jesus is in so much sorrow he sweats drops of blood – the same night that was cold enough for Peter to warm himself later by the fire. Christ’s friends sleep while he is in utter anguish. Ouch.
Maybe we should stop expecting people around us to understand fully how we feel after we lose a child. "Father forgive them for they know not what they do" was one of Christ’s cries from the cross. Jesus’ closest friends did not know how to comfort him. Jesus knows how we feel here.
I am not going to forgive them because they deserve it. Please, Father, help me to liberally forgive as Christ did. Thank you for your Spirit in me to bring that power I don’t have to forgive and keep resentment or hurt from growing into long term bitterness.
In addition, the truth is that we have offended God infinitely worse on our best days than loved ones around us have hurt us on our worst days. When our hearts are crushed with the mercy that God lavished upon us and how unworthy we are, we see the debt others seemingly owe us as real but minisscuele. This is the parable of the wicked servant in Matthew 18:23-35. We often see ourselves in the main characters of stories but if we are honest, we have more in common with this wicked servant than the ruler. In another event Jesus speaks the same message in Luke 7:47 saying he who has been forgiven much loves much. May God’s mercy on us melt our hearts.
II. Jesus challenges the assumption that God brings suffering into our lives to pay for sin. John 9:3ff
How many of us have thought that? I haven’t prayed enough for my dead child, I have not walked closely enough to God, etc. and this is why God took them?
Can we examine that ancient assumption? Does God bring suffering to make us pay? You can be assured that as followers of Christ this is NOT the case. Why? All the suffering we deserve was poured out on Christ on the cross. We can’t have it both ways – either Christ pays or I pay.
From this passage in John we see the question, "Who sinned?" This blind man or the parents of the blind man? That was the main question they asked Jesus that day in this passage. They thought of WHY is he blind in terms of a CAUSE. Jesus does not give them a cause but rather a purpose! What purpose? So that the work of God might be put on display in a life.
For there to be joy in your life in your home in the midst of sorrow that is the work of the Holy Spirit actively in your life and home. This is the work of God on display in your life. You going to work and engaging IS the work of God on display in your life. That IS the miracle just like the healing of this blind man.
III. Jesus knows what it is like to beg God and get a NO answer with silence.
Jesus prays, "Father take this cup from me." We pray God give us our child back. Heal him today. The answer was no.
Paul experiences the same no answer. 2 Cor 12:9 Paul has received a personal guided tour of heaven – a card if played would trump all other spiritual bragging around a dinner table.
Satan tries to discourage Paul’s faith and to drive a wedge between him and God. This "thorn in the flesh", however, is from God to keep Paul from exalting his new knowledge of heaven which would be GREATER than the pain of the thorn. "My power is made perfect in weakness" is what Paul got. This is the same answer that Jesus had on the cross where his power was weakest but where we see the strong redemption that God purchases for mankind.
Grace is not only pardon from sin but it is power. My grace will be delivered to you in the form and timing and quantity in which you need it. He is saying, "I will be enough for you."
After our loss of a child we experience emptiness – an empty room, an empty future, an empty baseball field, etc. Hear Jesus speak into this loss and say, "I am going to be enough for you in filling this emptiness."
We see our emptiness as our greatest problem. God, however, sees it as his greatest opportunity. God does his best work with empty. Genesis 1:1 God fills the emptiness. Abraham’s wife has an empty barren womb. When God fills that womb he fills it with a boy named laughter – Isaac.
Your emptiness is not up to you to solve. God will fill it with the joy of Himself. Mary with an empty womb receives the fullness of the work of God in giving birth to Jesus – the hope of the world.
IV. Jesus says I hold the keys of death and the grave. Rev. 1:17-18
The Apostle John was exiled to an island to haul rocks as a 90 year old man because he could not stop speaking in overflow of the great news of all Christ accomplished. He hears Jesus say that I, Jesus, hold the key to death. But what does that mean?
We are okay with Psalm 139 saying that all our days are written in his book before one comes to be. But what about the bad days? The day we get the call our son has died? When you get the diagnosis? When you find your daughter gone? Yes, these days are written there too. Why? Jesus says he holds the keys to life and death.
If we believe this then our children did not die a day early. God was not taken by surprise when our children died.
Therefore, we can surrender the ‘if onlys’ if we truly believe this. Not only does he hold the keys, Jesus is there on the other side of the door that these keys open!
Hear Jesus speaking into your regret that your child lived exactly the number of days that he intended. These days are good for you and for your child.
V. Jesus speaks to us offering us an invitation.
Jesus says come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. He is not really inviting us to a spiritual experience but rather to himself.
In the midst if your grief have you heard him say, "come to me"? Have you hid yourself in him?
Is it rational to say, "Jesus I trust you with my eternal life, but I can’t trust you in the death of my child"? Carrying the load of questions and resentment and anger is such a heavy burden. Jesus says that instead of running away from me to these things that are heavy burdens run to me – run to Christ. We don’t demand from him – we depend upon him. God is for us. Do we believe that?
We have to surrender those dreams that we thought would make ourselves and our family complete that now in our child’s death are shattered early. This feels like another loss. However, you will not find rest outside of Christ. Surrender.
We have heard Jesus speaking from his word into our sorrow. How will you respond to him in prayer?
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