Ukrainian Christians fleeing the constant shelling leaving deceased family members behind. A family member dies of Covid. A husband suddenly decides he no longer wants his wife. Your family physician uses the “C” word (cancer). The Holocaust. A 21-year-old young man beloved by so many in our community is suddenly taken away through a car accident. A motorcycling friend of mine loses his life instantly because someone didn’t see him. A devastating stroke leaves permanent brain damage. A young mother experiences the pain of a stillborn child. Electrical wires short out and a family’s house burns to the ground.
I’ve experienced some of these situations, and I’ll bet you have witnessed some of them, or a few I didn’t mention. Sometimes it seems as though time slows down to a crawl while your emotions scream “Why me?” or “Why my loved one?”
It doesn’t make sense.
Children left behind without a mother. A husband loses his wife. Grandparents are preceded in death by their grandchildren. At first, there is a form of denial. You just know that missing loved one is going to come walking through that door at any moment. It doesn’t seem real. When reality finally sets in, sometimes it’s all that anger that surfaces. They were a good person. They didn’t deserve to leave this life so early. Why couldn’t it have happened to someone else who actually deserved “bad karma”?
Quite frankly these feelings are often worse when we, or the victim, are Christians. We have an expectation that because we are living our lives for Jesus Christ, then God’s blessings and protection are going to be upon us and our loved ones. It’s not that we are living in Pollyanna Land assuming that we are immune to any misfortune whatsoever, but the really big, horrible tragedies — that’s different. Where was God? Is He unjust or just didn’t care?
The Apostle Paul had those same feelings. Listen to him as he laments: “For your sake, we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Romans 8:36). Paul had seen his share of Christians facing death through war, persecution, famine, destitution (prior verse), and he personally had experienced severe beatings, floggings, left for assumed death through stoning, gone without food for days, and faced exposure to the cold weather practically naked.
Sometimes there is a disconnect between our emotions and our intellect. Our feelings scream “Why me” or “This should not have happened,” while our intellect begrudgingly admits that we are not invulnerable to these tragedies.
We know that Jesus told his disciples that severe persecution awaited them; Jesus himself was put to death in an extremely excruciating manner. We know how the Apostles died, it wasn’t pretty. But that was back in the 1st century in a strange foreign land; this is now in my life. If we lived as Christians in North Korea, or China, or certain Muslim countries, we wouldn’t have such a disconnect — we would be witnessing, or personally experiencing, such injustice constantly.
Eventually we go through some of those “stages of grief” and come out on the other end adjusting and accepting reality.
The truth is that none of us are promised tomorrow.
Graveyards are full of infants, children, teenagers, young adults, older folks.
What I have noticed, however, is that when all the disbelief, the shock, the anguish, the anger, the bitter feelings — when all of it slowly fades over time into acceptance, something supernatural kicks in for the person who lives their life for Jesus Christ. There is an unexplainable peace that pervades their minds, a comfort that floods into their souls that comes only from the Holy Spirit. God was not missing or uncaring; He was there all the time through it all. He felt our anguish and pain. He intimately knows the depths of our heartfelt loss. He is waiting until we get through our natural grief and mourning stages until we can actually feel His love once again.
This short life, in the context of eternity, is nothing but a grain of sand among all the world’s beaches. A lot of seeming horrible injustices will fade into inconsequential faded memories as we rejoice with those whom were seemingly gone forever in our lives on this earth — and they are healthy, happy, no disease, no tears, not even any aging.
Paul’s conviction was as follows:
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels or demons, neither the present or the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
– Romans 8:38-39
He wrote that one verse subsequent to his prior emotional affirmation of being “sheep to be slaughtered.” It’s a fitting conclusion.
This article originally appeared on The Daily Herald: Stephen Rowland: When life doesn’t make sense