Wednesday, September 12, 2007

September 12

Nine Twelve, the day after Nine Eleven.

Sorrow, Grief, is powerful.

For some reason, certain kinds of loss are often perceived as more tragic than others. The death of a child is often perceived as more terrible than the loss of an older adult. Death of loved ones by seemingly unexplainable tragedy often is perceived as more terrible than death by what commonly is called “natural causes.”

Yet death is death. Loss is loss. The terror or terribleness of death and loss is the same for all who experience it. No one can make the terribleness less. No one can make the pain less significant or powerful.

The only way to deal with the pain and terribleness of loss is to conquer it.

But this is beyond our capacity. We do not have the power to conquer pain, misery, tragedy, and death. No matter how hard we try, we cannot overpower the pain. No matter what attempts we make, we cannot set the memories aside. No matter what we seek to fill the void, we still remember the loss.

This is why St. Paul writes:

But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. (1Thessalonians 4:13)

And what hope does St. Paul hold for his brethren?
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. (1Thessalonians 4:14-18)

The means by which grief is overcome is the faith that the Holy Spirit works, faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus. For those who believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus know that He has conquered death for the sake of all who will live in Him through faith. The comfort that overpowers grief has two parts, or better stated, two applications. First, the comfort is applied to the believer, so that the believer knows that his own life is kept safe in Jesus. Secondly, then, the comfort is that this safe keeping is for all who are in Jesus. No one who trusts in the death and resurrection of Jesus will be disappointed.

With this knowledge that is supplied by Faith, the believer does not grieve as those who have no hope. For Jesus is our hope. In Jesus we know that we are safe and that no tragedy and no loss can ever take that safety away from us.

This assurance and comfort is so strong that it even enables the believer to let go of the fear of never seeing a loved one again. Even when the loved one was not a believer, the communion that God provides for the believer is stronger. In Jesus, the believer finds that even the thought of never seeing a loved one again is overcome by the peace that surpasses all understanding. This is the knowledge that the Lord is good and His mercy endures forever. This is the knowledge that God is good and will not abandon us to our grief but will supply us with the strength that we need to continue onward in His mercy and love.

Job was given no explanation for the series of tragedies that took every worldly thing from him. All of his treasures, even the greatest of his treasures, his ten children, were taken from him. In response to all of his terrible losses, what was Job’s response?

Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. (Job 1:20-21)

Even that old standby saying, “If a person has his health, he has everything” failed him because the Lord granted Satan the power to rob Job even of his health. Yet as he sat in a pile of ashes scraping his sores with a piece of broken pottery he declared that it is right that a person should receive both what is perceived as good and what is perceived as evil from the Lord. By this Job acknowledged that the will of the Lord is good, even though we do not understand it, even when the things that happen are evil according to our best understanding. In truth, what Satan did to Job was evil, flowing from the darkness of the evil in Satan’s being. Nevertheless, the Lord’s will in all this was good, and Job trusted the will of the Lord.

How many people since the days of Job have found comfort in the faith that the Lord gave to him, faith that carried him through even the worst of tragedies, the tragedy of feeling doubt and despair? We have trouble relating to the strength that Job’s faith produced. But when Job finally broke down and began to complain against the Lord, this we understand fully. But even Job’s doubts and complaints were not big enough to destroy him. Not because Job believed so strongly, for by this time his personal faith was just a glimmer. No, Jesus was his strength. The death and resurrection of Jesus is what carried Job forward. The Lord did not abandon Job, even when Job’s personal faith failed him. The Lord came to Job and comforted him by confronting him with his own sinful weakness and then reminding Job of the Lord’s mercy which endures forever. Confession and absolution was the answer that Job needed and that God supplied.

So what is the point of all this?

Six years after the Nine Eleven tragedy some people still feel crushed and decimated by their sorrows and losses. Many still came to the site of the tragedy looking for solace through remembering the ones who were taken from them.

This is not where they will find comfort and peace. Seeking peace in the memory of those who are lost to them has no power except to bind them to their sense of loss. The memory that will set them free is the Lord’s memory, which He has toward those for whom He sacrificed all. It is to His remembrance of His love that we are to turn for our hope. Yes, He even commands it for our well-being, saying, “This do as oft as you drink of it, into My remembrance.” The Lord does not forget. He knows our needs. He gives Himself to us to supply us with those needs of body and soul. He remembers and He calls us to the table of His remembrance. There He remembers His beloved and they are caused to remember that He remembers. There He calls us to be joined with Him into His remembrance. There we find the peace that the world cannot give, His peace that surpasses all understanding.

Today is Nine Twelve. It is a day to remember that the Lord is good and His mercy endures forever. We treasure the memories of those with whom God has blessed us, but they belong to Him even as we do. Let us continue in the peace of His remembrance.

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