My Anchor Holds
“I’m so sorry, but your child has been killed.”
Can there be any worse words for a parent to hear? Though by God’s grace I have not heard these words myself, both a family member and a friend have in just the past few months. I can only imagine what went through their minds after such an announcement: adrenaline rush, disbelief, questions…
“Where were they?”
“What were the circumstances?”
“Could it have been prevented?”
“Did he/she suffer? “
“How do I go on from here?”
No one can prepare for tragedy. Whether it is the untimely death of a loved one, a loss of something precious, catastrophic illness, or other traumatic reversal of fortune, we cannot know how we would face it until we arrive at that moment. Satan loves to use these moments to cause us to doubt God; an abyss opens up in the aftermath of receiving such news and soon we begin to know as we never have before what it means to be “sifted as wheat” at the hands of a fallen world and a mortal enemy.
In the midst of unspeakable tragedy, God is there with us. As we relive the events leading up to the fateful moment, we remember moments where God affirmed His loving care and protection. We recall moments where we received blessed assurance of the condition of the soul of the one who would later be lost. We hear ourselves speaking words out of our own mouths (that we sincerely believe) that Christ alone is sufficient and that we put no thing before Him. Sometimes, when a look backward does not provide the assurance we seek, God’s manifest presence in the moment reassures us He has not forsaken us. Sometimes He gives an uncanny sense of good things He is going to do through the suffering. This does not in any way lessen the pain, but can transform it, since we know our suffering will not be in vain. Perhaps the news brings a greater sense of the transience of human life. “We are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” James 4:14 (NASB) This reality can create an intensity and urgency to live each day to the fullest, sharing the love and testimony of Christ, knowing none of us is guaranteed tomorrow.
As believers, we know no tragedy befalls us without going through God’s hands first. It is not an unchecked destroyer alone who has delivered these circumstances; it is the God who loves us more than His own life. How can this be? Let’s consider what we know of this God:
We know God is for us 1 and not (no, never!) against us. We know God is close to the brokenhearted.2 We know He has sent us the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, who is with us and in us through all afflictions and suffering.3 We know God will never leave us nor forsake us.4 We know He works all things together for good for those who believe and are called according to His purpose.5 And if we will present ourselves as a living sacrifice to God 6, He will use the circumstances of our lives to make us more like Him 7, and cause a testimony of His faithfulness to arise from our lips as we hold onto His faithful, saving love 8. This is not just an empty recitation of verses. This is Truth. In our darkest moments God causes us to recognize these truths as the anchor they are, the one we desperately need.
The majority of the people in Jesus’ time thought very little of the apostles and their testimony about Christ at the beginning. But after His death and resurrection, when the apostles were emboldened to live and die for God with joy and unflagging devotion, people began to take notice. In every tragic situation we have a choice, a choice to proclaim that what we believed on the mountaintop is equally true in the valley of the shadow of death. There is a power that rests on testimony brought forth in the midst of suffering. Of course we ourselves do not have the power to praise God in such pain. It is the powerful, sustaining work of the Holy Spirit in us that brings forth such a testimony. God’s power and love are real and they are enough to sustain us, even through the darkest times of our lives.
Are you going through a difficult, maybe even excruciating time right now? Know that God loves you beyond all description or understanding. He is good and His plans for you are still good, as much in the hour of your heartbreak as in the hour of your triumph. I speak these words with my head down in humility, looking at my feet of clay. I have never walked the “via dolorosa” you are on. I have not been nor do I imagine for a moment I will be, in the future, spared my own journey of tears. Jesus tells us, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows." John 16:33 (NLT) What I do know is that the God we serve is big enough to sustain us all the way through this life, and deliver us safely to our heavenly home when this life is over. He wants to walk with us through every dark night of the soul; one day we will understand, even if we do not understand now, what our suffering was for. Won’t you invite Him into your pain and allow Him to bring the solace, steadiness and peace that only He can supply? Though grieving takes time and must not be cut short, walking the road of sorrow with the King of Sorrows makes all the difference in the world.
In loving memory of Ethan Song and Jeffrey O’Brien.
2 Psalm 34:18
3 John 14:15-27 (AMP)
4 Deuteronomy 31:6
5 Romans 8:28
6 Romans 12:1
7 1 Peter 1:2-9
8 Psalm 89:1-18