Reality is hard.
Our family has become steeped in pain and loss.
Many others suffer far greater tragedies.
Reconciling the hurt with the heart of God is hard.
It is tempting to add a veneer of softness, to speak in cliches that turn raw, ripped-open pain into a lie.
Sometimes this is even encouraged among those of us who follow Christ.
Yet to do this denies that we are real, that our hearts can be ripped in two, that our pain and loss can suffocate and almost overwhelm us.
To do this denies that Christ is real, that His body and heart were also ripped apart.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?All through the Bible, God seems to not place much importance at all on whether we are free from pain or suffering.
Abel. Abraham. Joseph. Moses. Uriah the prophet. John the Baptist...Jesus' cousin. All of the apostles...Jesus' closest friends.
Understanding why Kristina had to die is hard.
I might never know the reason.
Can I trust in the heart of God?God's purposes are not for me to understand His plans: His plan is for me to understand Who He is...Faith is this unwavering trust in the heart of God in the hurt of here. (Ann Voskamp, A Holy Experience)
In C.S. Lewis' story of Narnia, The Silver Chair, two children (Jill and Scrubb) and one Marsh-wiggle (Puddleglum) are given by Aslan (the Christ-figure) four signs with which to find the lost prince of Narnia. They completely muff the first three signs which leads to their imprisonment with a madman who is chained to (you guessed it!) a silver chair. The fourth and last sign is that someone "will ask you to do something in my name, in the name of Aslan". The madman entreats the three travelers to free him, which is where I will pick up our story:
"Once and for all," said the prisoner, "I adjure you to set me free. By all fears and all loves, by the bright skies of Overland, by the great Lion, by Aslan himself, I charge you --"
"Oh!" said the three travelers as though they had been hurt. "It's the sign," said Puddleglum. "It was the words of the sign," said Scrubb more cautiously. "Oh, what are we to do?" said Jill.
It was a dreadful question. What had been the use of promising one another that they would not on any account set the Knight free, if they were now to do so the first time he happened to call upon a name they really cared about? On the other hand, what had been the use of learning the signs if they weren't going to obey them? Yet could Aslan have really meant them to unbind anyone - even a lunatic - who asked it in his name? ... They had muffed three already; they daren't muff the fourth.
"Oh, if only we knew!" said Jill.
"I think we do know," said Puddleglum.
"Do you mean you think everything will come right if we do untie him?" said Scrubb.
"I don't know about that," said Puddleglum. "You see, Aslan didn't tell (Jill) what would happen. He only told her what to do. That fellow will be the death of us once he's up, I shouldn't wonder. But that doesn't let us off following the sign."
That doesn't let us off following the sign.
Instead, if we have nothing else (and we do have so much else!), if we can turn to and trust nothing else, we have the cross.
After his wife of only four years had died of cancer, C. S. Lewis said
If only I could bear it, or the worst of it, or any of it, instead of her...But is it ever allowed? It was allowed to One, we are told, and I find I can now believe again, that He has done vicariously whatever can be so done. He replies to our babble, "You cannot and you dare not. I could and dared."And so I find that perhaps, after all, it does not matter why. It does not matter from whence came the hard thing.
If God ever had to prove anything, at the cross He proved His love, His promise to work for the best of all He created.
It is not a bad thing to seek for the why's and how's and from where's. God is able to handle our questions, our fears.
Yet if we never get any answers, if we never know the reasons, if we never understand, we who have chosen to follow Christ, who have allowed Jesus to be the Lord of our lives, we who have embraced His sacrifice of love...
We aren't let off following the signs.
Art Credits: Photograph of Cross wooden statue by Asta Rastauskiene; Marsh-wiggle picture (I was not able to find the original); Rembrandt's The Three Crosses
Thanks also to my wonderful Dad who gave me some of the ideas in this essay.