Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Death, Lamentations & Hope

Disclaimer: this post is a little heavier than my usual ones... 

Oh death, where is your sting?
Oh hell, where is your victory?
(1 Corinthians 15:55)

It was almost two years ago to the day. I have never had my emotions swing in such an insane way in such way ever in my life, and I doubt that I will ever feel that way again.

I was with my favorite group of ladies – ones that I had had the opportunity to live with and learn with, laugh with and cry with over the past few months – and we had just won a competition that we had been working hard and strategizing for for over a week. It was a big deal. Like mega big for us. We walked into our common living space, expecting the next few hours to be full of excitement and celebration, and instead were met with the news of the death of a family member. It was quite literally like being punched in the gut and having the joy sucked out of me all at once… a feeling that I hope I never have to feel again, but that I felt regardless of the fact that I didn’t even know the person who had passed away. I can’t even imagine how I would have felt had I actually known the person.

The reality of death sometimes is that the hope gets sucked out of the lives that are left behind. We get so focused on Earthly things that death is sometimes a crushing blow. As I sat in my room crying for someone I had never met, his new wife and his family, all I could think about was “what if that had been my brother?” … “What if that had been my cousin?” They were sobering thoughts. It’s a moment in my life that I think will stay with me for the rest of my time here on Earth.  

Lamentations has become one of my favorite books (not something that people say often, but if I’m being honest my favorite of all the books of the Bible is Job, which is definitely not a usual favorite), not because of the dreariness that it can bring but because of the hope. Throughout the whole book the author is opening up his heart and kind of laying it all out on the table – it’s a depressing book, sure, but the hope that he finds is a bright star in the midst of a pitch black night. In chapter 3 he writes: “For the Lord will not cast off forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone” (3:31-33, NIV).

I guess what I’m trying to get at – and the place that I got too months later, a few weeks after one of my friends tried unsuccessfully to take their life – is that though death seems hopeless, we have the greatest hope. And when death seems to punch us in the gut and kick us while we’re down, that doesn’t have to be the end; we don’t have to stay down. God has not left us on this Earth without Him. He has not left us here with no love, with no hope and with no way out. He will show compassion because His unfailing love is so great.

David writes in Psalm 56:8 a promise that is very powerful and beautiful: “You [, God ha]ve kept track of my every toss and turn through the sleepless nights, each tear entered in your ledger, each ache written in your book” (MSG).

God has conquered death but it’s still a part of our life while we live here on Earth. It’s normal but often earth-shattering. Don’t ever lose hope. He has conquered it and He is a comforter. He will not leave you to deal with it on your own.

P.S. As a self-diagnosed feeler, it’s easy for me to take on other peoples’ emotions and to have them sit heavily on my heart. I’ve learned (and continue to have to learn) that I can’t hold on to them for too long or they will weigh me down. God can take those. He is literally The Comforter. Don’t take that for granted.