Last week, we held a memorial service for my sister-in-law, Leslie Chandler Robinson. It was hard. It was hard on multiple fronts. The first, most gut wrenching one was the fact that her transfer from here to heaven, feels like a tragic loss to those of us left behind.
Here was a woman who had grown into one of the most life-giving people you would ever want to know. Her enthusiasm for life… her delight in her family and friends…her care and compassion for everyone she met…her commitment to God and his people, made you feel like she should be one of the last to go.
Yet, in a matter of six months, this perfectly healthy, middle-age wife,mother, sister, sister-in-law, aunt, cousin and friend, went from taking a common antibiotic which led to a photo toxic reaction which led to sepsis in her bloodstream …and then she was gone.
She fought hard.
We are having trouble picturing life without her.
At the memorial service, I talked about the suffering and loss we are feeling and the gains that God is giving Leslie.
Right now, in this post, let’s take a look at our loss:
First, there’s the big “Why?!” question and what happened to all those prayers hundreds and hundreds of us were praying for her?
When we, who believe in God, go through painful experiences we’re bound to struggle. We say or think things like, “I thought God was good all the time.” “I thought God loved me.” Or “If God watches over me, cares about me, how could He let this happen to me or to this precious person I love?”
All this is a natural response to our suffering.
The paradox of what we see both in scripture and in our lives is that we live in mystery.
The mystery of the cross shows us that whatever it means that “God watches over us”- it doesn’t mean that God prevents tragic things … cruel things.. unfair things from happening.
We see this when God allowed His own son Jesus to go through a tragic, cruel, and unfair death on a cross. Even though Jesus felt abandoned in his darkest hour, God’s silence did not mean He was absent in that moment.
Actually, God was anything but absent!
In our times of greatest need God carries us through the intimate depths of the tragic thing itself and continues to do so in every moment of our lives until the experience or death itself transforms into something miraculous, mysterious, breathtaking.
The people, who prayed for Leslie, entered into her suffering through their prayers. They joined with God in compassion for her. They asked God to be near her- and He was, and to heal her- and He did. He just answered our prayers in a different way than what we thought was best.
Either way Leslie needed a miracle. I can think of nothing more miraculous than a soul’s transfer from earth into the eternal Presence of God. All the while, the rest of us grew in our compassion and selflessness, becoming even more God-like in the process. She got a greater gift than we could ourselves believe for.
Either way, it’s all gift.
1 Cor 3: 22-23 Everything is already yours as a gift—the world, life, death, the present, the future—all of it is yours, and you are privileged to be in union with Christ…
Our lives are gifts supernaturally given to us. But, the circumstances of our life don’t always seem like a gift nor do they indicate how God feels about us.
Rom 8:38-39 says that “I am convinced that neither death nor life…things present nor things to come, nor any power can separate us from the love of God.”
God’s constant and final word on how He feels about us is- Love… as revealed by the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross… not by whatever pain, sorrow or trouble we may face.
The profound paradox and mystery of earthly life is – there will always be the simultaneous co- existence of deep suffering and loss, mingled with intense love and joy.
And here is another mystery: Our God is all at one time in Christ both a conquering, victorious Savior and also a humanly suffering servant. What a paradox! He both suffers WITH us and FOR us… But then, gets us THROUGH it.
Ours mind can’t fully comprehend paradox. They were not designed to. Only the soul can hold these competing mysteries and be transformed by the experience.
While God’s original design and desire for us was never to suffer, it is often through suffering that God carries us deeper into an understanding of who we are in Him and Who He is in us.
Song of Solomon 8 seems to sum up every resurrection we experience with Jesus: “Love is stronger than death.”
Love will win. Love is all that remains. ANYONE who has walked through any type of personal death (and there are many forms of it) will tell you how TRUE this is.
That’s why suffering in and of itself never gets the last word. In Christ, death always, every time, gives way to a resurrection.
In Him there is always life. There is always hope. There is much beauty even on the other side of suffering like hell.
In fact, the Bible promises that EVERY horrible thing that ever happened
will not only be UNDONE and REPAIRED, but will in some way make the joy beyond it even greater!
This is what Leslie’s family and friends are clinging to this week: with Jesus, we find the power to hold the pain of life until it transforms us and resurrects us.
If you feel you need some help in seeing the transformation God is at work on right now in your own situation, email us for a consultation @kairoscollective.com.
Next post: What Leslie gained through our loss.