Tag Archives: grief

Making Sense of Suffering

First of all, making sense of suffering is an almost impossible task. The tragedies that the author of It is Well with My Soul, a hymn that has comforted countless grief-stricken, heart-broken people, are almost incalculable. Horatio Spafford lost so much in a short span of time that it would have been quite understandable if he had given in to bitterness and fury. How did he cling to faith in the midst of such pain?

Most of us have known the wrenching devastation of grief and suffering. Platitudes don’t help. It would be better if those who try to explain our misery would just remain silent. When there are no answers, we don’t need someone to try to give them to us.

Where do we turn? Where is the God who promises protection and provision for His children? How can God claim that “never again will you fear any harm” and be “mighty to save” (Zephaniah 3:15, 17)? How can a loving God allow so much suffering?

Scotty Smith, founding pastor of Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tennessee, wrote a wonderful book, Objects of His Affection. In the eighth chapter of the book, he offered his thoughts on the love of suffering. The love of suffering? Whose love? Can we really believe that God can love us through suffering? Can’t He just take our suffering away or keep it from happening altogether? Can there possibly be a purpose in our suffering?

We draw close to Holy Week, the week of the passion of Jesus. Smith noted that God has responded to the suffering of His world through His Son. Jesus Himself spoke of His purpose in coming into our world. After His encounter with Zacchaeus, Jesus said, “The Son of Man has come to seek and save those like him who are lost” (Luke 19:10). Mark’s gospel recorded these words of the Lord: “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

Smith wrote: “To desire the saving of many lives over the preservation of one’s own life is the way of the cross. It is the saving of many lives that defines the suffering of Jesus.” It is ultimately the suffering of Jesus that can help us gain a better perspective. “It is the suffering of Jesus that answers our cry for justice in the face of evil, suffering, and injustice. And it is the suffering Jesus who knows how to console us until the promised day of vindication and consummation of our redemption.”

“The Way of the Cross Leads Home” is not just some trite religiosity. It is a life view. It is a way of facing the tragedy and pain with hope that sin, evil, and death are not the end of the trail. The cross is our symbol of what we mean to the Father. The cross is His statement that nothing would prevent the ultimate destruction of that which seeks to destroy us. Even through a veil of tears, we continue to be a people of faith, trust, and love.


Triumph over Tragedy

Monty Williams had just been told his playing days were over. A promising freshman basketball player at Notre Dame, he was devastated by the doctor’s diagnosis – a rare cardiovascular condition that could take his life if he continued to play. Disconsolate, he thought about suicide. He had met a young woman named Ingrid Lacy and they were falling in love. When he was at his lowest, she encouraged him to set his sights on new challenges. In the next two years, their relationship blossomed. Friends and family were praying for him. His symptoms vanished and he was able to return to the team and then head to the NBA.

Triumph over tragedy? Monty Williams now coaches with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Life seemed to be on the upswing. He and Ingrid, valued contributors to their church and community, enjoyed a full life. Parenting five children was both daunting but rewarding. On February 9th, Ingrid was driving, accompanied by three of their children when her vehicle was struck by a car traveling at 92 mph. The head-on collision took the lives of Ingrid and the woman driving the other car. The children survived their ordeal.

Triumph over tragedy? On ebruary 18th, more than 900 people gathered for the “celebration of life” service to honor and remember Ingrid Williams. The crowd included NBA and college coaches and players, civic leaders from Oklahoma, media members, and people who just wanted to be there to support the family.

Monty Williams gave the eulogy that day. You can find it easily because the service coverage went viral. The grieving husband acknowledged the family’s  pain but said, “We didn’t lose her. When you lose something, you can’t find it. I know exactly where my wife is.”

His powerful words spoke of hope in the face of despair, and faith in the presence of heartache. He asked those assembled to pray for the family of the woman who also lost her life. He didn’t pretend there was no hole in his heart, but he refused to be defeated.

In our broken world, tragedy happens much too often. How do we make it when it happens to us? There are no easy answers, no simple pathway. Every day is a crisis in faith. But every day is an opportunity to take one step. Bill Gebhardt was the Williams’ pastor while Monty coached the New Orleans Pelicans. He said of Monty: “He truly understands that the price of love is grief, and he is deeply grieving. He is facing each day with faith and authenticity.”

“God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). Empty words? Not to Monty Williams.

A Minute with Mark – Memorial Day

images (3)Memorial Day Weekend approaches. For many, it marks the beginning of summer. For others, it is a much-needed break from routine. It’s a great time to take in a ball game, have a cook-out, and to be with family and friends.

For people like Carmen Gordon, Memorial Day is a difficult, painful experience. On October 3, 1993, Carmen became a widow. Her two children, Ian and Brittany, lost their father. Mogadishu, Somalia was the site of a gruesome, deadly battle that cost the lives of 18 US servicemen and hundreds of Somalis. Gary Gordon was one of those who died that day.

A Master Sergeant in the elite Delta Force, Gordon and his fellow Delta operative Randy Shughart, volunteered to try to reach a downed Black Hawk helicopter, with four critically wounded crewmen on board. Surrounded by a tightening circle of Somali gunmen, the crew could not be reached unless help was inserted. Told it was too dangerous for such a mission, Gordon and Shughart repeated their request until permission was given.

Having fought their way to the crippled copter, the two men gave aid to the wounded men while fighting off the attackers. Outnumbered and outgunned, the two Delta soldiers fought on until they both received fatal wounds. For their heroic actions, they were both award the Medal of Honor.

When you and I pause this weekend to reflect on the true meaning of what began as Decoration Day after the Civil War, say a prayer for families like the Gordons and the Shugharts. For too many, the day will not be a holiday. It will be a grim reminder of ultimate sacrifice.

A video worth watching: http://youtu.be/JKqT0-3JV5E