(Written January 2012)
Six months ago on a hot July weekend, we were preparing for our week of vacation. We were making lists and shopping and double-checking that the tail lights worked for towing the camper. I was sitting in our green recliner when Theo’s phone rang. He had a strange look on his face. Not much was said. He hung up. “My mom is at the campground with Jiquirria and they can’t find him, they think he might have jumped into the lake.”
Denial. Consideration. Thinking the best. Complete and total terror. Knot in stomach, palms sweaty. More denial. More terror. Within an hour we were at the hospital being told that he drowned. While little Theo toddled around and looked at the fish swimming in the tank in the Helen Devos Children’s Hospital, I watched the auntie of my toddler attempt to process the fact that her son was gone. In that surreal way I watched it unfold for each person there, my husband, the grandmas, the little sister, our Pastor, the aunts and uncles and cousins, myself.
No one could possibly be unaffected by this. This thing. This monstrosity. This tidal wave of injustice and wrongness. This heavy incredible painful blackness that words cannot, in any way, do justice. Death.
No experience in my life has made more clear to me the fundamental wrongness of death and human suffering. The absolute raw, soul-crushing weight of a child with an untimely death, the knife which cuts, the ache that makes it hard to breathe. God did not want it to be this way, it was not supposed to be this way….
During the days that followed, days where we all desperately wanted to feel anything other than how we were feeling, I was reminded of 1 Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has seized you but what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
Really God – you call this “common”? You mean to tell me this kind of suffering is common in this great world of yours? This is not beyond what we can bear? This is doable? Manageable? This all-powerful grief that now holds us in its hands so that we can hardly breathe – tell me, where is the way out? Because to me it looks awfully dark right now… In retrospect, thank you Jesus for allowing me these questions and this anger.
And so our Pastor came. And Janie came. And phone calls and emails came. The visitation came, the funeral came, the luncheon came, and so came many, many from our church family, who sat behind us like a strong wall of protection and comfort. And the hugs and the tears came. The Sunday afterwards came, and the church gathered around us and laid hands on us and prayed for us. And through all these things I knew that Jesus came, the way out was provided by the Provider of Ways Out, the Son of God himself, just like He promised in His Word.
I wonder on a regular basis why, which I think is what we all do when we are faced with tragedy. Maybe the trying to make sense of it is useless, but maybe it is helpful for some. I also wonder if it will ever be one of my sons taken, or if my husband’s cancer will come back, or if someone else close to me will be snatched away. It is not enough for me to bury my head in the sand with a smile and deny the possibility, or to live in an ignorant state of optimism pretending that none of those things will ever happen, because when I get down to the honest truth, I know that some of those “ifs” are really “whens”. No, it is only enough to rely on the Word of God, his immeasurable grace, the comfort of his spirit and the love of his son, in every trial, in every gift, in every moment of life and death.
God did not want it to be this way and it was not supposed to be this way….but most importantly, it won't be this way forever. As his grandma and mom have said, today Jiquirria is celebrating his birthday with Jesus. May everyone who has suffered a loss also experience the hope that can always be found in the Word of God and His people who come.