Friday, June 9, 2017

June 10, 2017

If life had continued as we had planned, hoped or thought, tomorrow we would all be celebrating Jonathan's 31st birthday.  Perhaps right now Pam and I would be frantically cleaning the house.  Or maybe she would be in the kitchen baking a cake or in her office wrapping a carefully selected present.  We might be anticipating spending tomorrow as a family, preparing for Jonathan to come through the door with his latest girlfriend -- or by now maybe even with his wife and our grandbaby in tow.

But, of course, life did not turn out as we would have wanted.  There will be no cake and no celebration.  There will be no daughter-in-law, and no grandchild for us to play with.  And, worst of all, there will be no Jonathan.  It is still hard to accept sometimes -- still hard to believe that its not just a bad dream.  It is a reality we must try to accept again daily -- he was taken from us and he will not be coming back.

From time to time people will say, particularly of my wife, that they cannot believe how strong we have been in the face of all that has happened.  There is a part of me that wishes that were true.  The truth is, though, that we are both still frail.  If only it were possible to peel back the exterior and feel what we feel.  You would experience an unbearable anguish -- a brokenness from which I doubt either of us will ever fully recover.

For many of us the burden of life can become overwhelming at times.  For all of us, there will be days when it seems like just getting out of bed and putting one foot in front of the other requires every ounce of strength that we have.  When those days come -- and they will -- I hope you have a little grace for yourself.  And, I hope that you find the faith to believe that God has something better for you in the future.

It is interesting to me that great men of God, who had far greater reason to trust God than most of us do, where nevertheless overwhelmed by the stress of life.  The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth not only about the hardships and suffering he and others were experiencing, but also about the emotional toll it was taking on them -- they "despaired even of life." 2 Corinthians 1:8.

Moses heard God speak from a burning bush, bring plagues on Egypt, pour water out of a rock, part the Red Sea and feed the Israelites with manna from heaven -- to name a few reasons why Moses might have been unwavering in his faith, strength and confidence.  But despite all of this, Moses was rarely in a place of comfort.

In fact, despite all that Moses had seen the Lord do, the burden of serving God often overwhelmed him. One time in particular the people were grumbling about, of all things, having to eat manna instead of the meat, fish, cucumbers, melons and other things that had been available to them in Egypt. And, Moses had enough -- the burden had become too great and he asked God to put him to death!

He asked the Lord, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me?  Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors?  Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’  I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me.  If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.”

Numbers 11:11-15.

Elijah, too, had seen God do many things. In First Kings, we read about Elijah's epic battle against the prophets of Baal. See, 1 Kings 18:20-39. You probably know the story. Elijah, the lone prophet of the Lord, challenged the four-hundred and fifty prophets of Baal to a kind of duel.

In the end, Elijah saw his prayers answered, as the fire of the Lord fell on Elijah's sacrifice -- burning not only the bull, but the wood, the stones, the soil and the water in the trench in the process. The four-hundred and fifty prophets of Baal lost their lives that day. 1 Kings 18:40.

Yet, shortly after this incredible encounter with God Elijah was running for his life. Like Moses, Elijah had enough, and asked God to take his life.

Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”  Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.

1 Kings 19:3-5.

In the end, though, Moses and Elijah persevered, and God honored His promises to them.  And, both of these men ultimately found themselves on the mountain top in one of the most powerful moments recorded in the New Testament.

After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.  Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

Matthew 17:1-5.

As I write this today, it is impossible to see Pam and me on any mountain top.  It is just not a place my imagination can take me.

Yes, tomorrow will come and go.  But many June 10ths will follow.  We will still have many Christmas mornings and Easter Sundays without him.  Every milestone in the lives of our other children promise to be bitter-sweet.  We will watch his friends have families of their own, and our joy for them will be met with a tinge of sorrow.  This is our reality.

But still, we have faith.  We cannot see it, touch it, or even imagine it -- but we believe God has a better future for us.  Maybe even an unimaginably good one. 

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