“What happened here?” our family asked ourselves as we drove into the driveway of our home.
A thick blanket of leaves and broken branches covered the driveway.
Upon examination of the garden, our family discovered devastation. Holes had bored into many plants’ large leaves. Some leaves that should have had rounded edges, were ragged and worn. Some of the trees had gaping wounds in their trunks where branches had broken off. Other trees had lost their fruit, while others had lost all of their leaves. Last of all, some plants had been knocked over and now lay completely lifeless.
While we were enjoying life in Zimbabwe and ministering there, a tremendous hail storm had ravaged through our garden and left its evidence of destruction. We had had no idea.
It’s taken a while to clean the garden up and dispose of the broken branches and fallen leaves. In time, everything will be sorted. But big messes never go away all by themselves, do they? There is always work to be done – to make things right, to bring things into order, to help us feel settled again.
But what happens when the mess or the challenges we face are more than just cleaning and tidying up a garden?
I can tell you that in the past 48 hours I have heard some incredibly difficult life stories that have seared my heart. They have left me broken, absolutely broken.
Holes have bored into hearts.
Souls are ravaged with grief.
Open, gaping wounds weep with suffering.
Broken, dispirited lives litter the land.
Devastation and heartache are not easily healed.
I grieve for these families and I don’t even know them. They have been experiencing a ravaging storm over the course of a year or more – while my life, although not perfect or pain-free, has been a full, productive, and pretty good year. While these families have been bombarded with a variety of emotional assaults, my life has been filled with homeschooling, dishes, cooking, cleaning, writing, and all of my other day to day kind of stuff. My days go on, while their days have lurched to a cataclysmic stop as they center their love, their attention, and every possible effort on their loved ones – and in the midst of it all, upon their God to see them through this barrage of emotion, pain, grief, and uncertainty.
How grateful I am that although my words of comfort, love and support are inadequate, the love and care of my Savior Jesus Christ are not.
He said this to his disciples before their lives would be shaken to their core:
Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. New International Version, John 16: 20-22.
While some grieve, others rejoice.
While some cry, others laugh.
While some panic, others sleep.
While some care, others are clueless.
While some attend, others forget.
While some pray, others frolic.
While some rest, others strive.
While some see, others are blind.
In every corner of every country in the world, some one grieves while another person – perhaps even next door, rejoices. Unless we are aware of the needs of those around us – we just live on – focused upon our own set of circumstances. Until the time comes, and it will come, when we are ravaged by brokenness and pain due to a sudden, merciless storm. It will be our turn to grieve.
And when the challenges come, Jesus says this: So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.
How do we go through tumultuous times?
How do we endure the pain and loss?
How do we grieve?
How do we clean up the mess?
How do we live on?
Friends, I have found that in such times the only way back from a devastating loss is to be in the care and to rest in the comfort of my Savior, Jesus Christ.
Hudson Taylor, pioneer missionary to China, once said: “I am no longer anxious about anything, as I realize the Lord is able to carry out His will, and His will is mine. It makes no matter where He places me, or how. That is rather for Him to consider than for me; for in the easiest positions He must give me His grace, and in the most difficult, His grace is sufficient.”
Hudson Taylor had reached the point in his life where he embraced that Jesus Christ alone, was his life:
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. New International Version, Colossians 3: 1-4
Whether in times of grief or times of rejoicing, we can rest in the assurance that Jesus Christ who is our life is with us – come what may.
There is goodness, blessing, joy, rest, and purpose in all things in Christ – even in the storm and even afterwards.
True, my heart grieves for families going through the incomprehensible – things that bore, break, devastate, and could destroy. And yet, I choose to remember and to rest in this truth – in the midst of it all, is Jesus. Storms always come, but in time they pass on. Our Jesus, our Savior, our Friend and Comforter, and our Healer and Help remains throughout. His grace is sufficient.
It is my prayer that during our own times of grief and hardship, His love and care will enfold us and carry us through the storms and beyond. I pray that we will embrace His life sustaining love and grace no matter what happens here.
May it be so. Amen and Amen.