Robert Wilkins and I have been called upon to minister to a family after the tragic death of their nine year old son. I do not know of a pain greater than the death of a child. I do not know of a loss more heartbreaking. The family’s counselor has recommended the book Bearing the Unbearable: Love, Loss and the Heartbreaking Path of Grief by Joanne Cacciatore to them. The title accurately describes what they are being asked to do, to bear the unbearable.
Tragedies like the death of a child bring questions like “Why?”, “Where was God?”, and “Is this truly God’s will?” to the fore. One could spend a lifetime reasoning, researching, praying, studying, discerning in an attempt to answer these questions and still fall short of any semblance of understanding. I know that, for me, satisfactory answers have yet to present themselves. Rather than answers, what I find are promises like this from I Corinthians 13. Now faith, hope and love remain – these three things – and the greatest of these is love.
The Bible Points from this year’s Vacation Bible Camp are in the same vein. God knows us. God hears us. God comforts us. God forgives us. God chooses us. While these lessons do not eliminate unanswerable questions, they do point us to promises beyond the questions.
The VBC lesson “God comforts us” is drawn from the story of Hezekiah, king of Judah. Hezekiah is receiving written and verbal threats from the Assyrian army which is threatening to overrun Jerusalem. In response to these lies, threats and insults the king clothes himself in sackcloth and heads to the temple where he literally lays the written threats before God. He then cries out, imploring God to turn towards himself and towards the terrified people. The understanding is that though God does not take away our problems God does promise to be with us, holding us through the struggle.
I still find the book When Bad Things Happen To Good People (written in 1981) by Rabbi Harold Kushner to be one of the most helpful considerations of these questions. Rabbi Kushner wrote this book as he wrestled with the death of his son Aaron from progeria, rapid aging disease.
As he reaches the book’s conclusion he writes, “I would say that God may not prevent the calamity, but He gives us the strength and perseverance to overcome it.”
Please remember Robert and me as we minister to the family. Please pray that as they grieve they will find some measure of comfort. Please hope that, over time, they will come to know a peace that passes understanding.
This Monring on LABC Zoom – Pastor Allison leads Wednesday Prayer and Bible Study at 10:30.