Ambassador of Reconciliation
6/10/15 at 08:55 PM 13 Comments

"What If Your Blessings Come Through Raindrops?"

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Bill's son Nick (R) and his stepson Mike. Mike is career Navy and Nick has just graduated from Navy boot camp.

On Thursday, June 4, 2015, my brother-in-law Bill slipped into eternity after a valiant battle with leukemia. Five days later, his many friends and family gathered to celebrate his life and to support my little sister Linda, who has been widowed for a second time. Her first husband died of cancer at age 33, just after graduating as a physician’s assistant, leaving her with a two-year-old son, Josh. Now the unimaginable has happened again.

Why did God take a young man, just as he was poised to serve people with his medical training? Why did God leave a little boy fatherless? Why did He leave Linda to raise Josh alone, and then give her another husband, only to take him too? Why did He let Bill go into remission, only to strike him again? Why did the healing that so many prayed for not come? Why did Bill not even live one more day, until his son Nick graduated from Navy boot camp? Why is Linda left alone, now with both boys grown and gone?

We have no answers to these questions, but the song that my niece Kristen sang at the funeral asks some other questions that offer some insight and a ray of hope. “Blessings” by Laura Story poses “What if” questions that give a glimpse into God’s gracious purposes:

What if Your blessings come through raindrops?
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near?
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?

The family on vacation while Bill was in remission

Maybe God gives us gifts through grief, and we have to open our eyes to see and receive them. Bill’s obituary listed his many family members and said, “An unexpected gift during Bill’s illness was treasured time to build and strengthen these relationships.” His death brought together many members of our extended families as well as friends from many walks of life. We’re thankful that Bill and Linda were able to take Josh and Nick on a cruise while Bill was in remission, before the boys left the nest. Although Bill didn’t get to go to Nick’s graduation, we’re grateful that he knew that his son had passed all his requirements and was successfully launched. And we will never know in this life how God has been working in the lives of those who were connected to Bill.

Bill clowning with one of his nurses

My sister Jan has walked this path herself, having lost her fiancé in a car accident three weeks before they were to be married. As Jan said in her meditation at the funeral, Bill was a big, strong guy, but his strength could not defeat death. He faced his illness with courage and determination (and stubbornness!), but those qualities could not conquer death. Neither could all the money poured into his treatment nor all the skill of his medical team nor the state-of-the-art technology nor the arsenal of medicines given to him nor the loving and diligent care provided by Linda and countless others. Nothing we do can ultimately overcome our greatest enemy, death.

But as Jan explained, there is One who has completely vanquished death. There is a Redeemer who is fully able to rescue us from sin and death. The Old Testament Scripture reading at the funeral was from Job 19:

I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;
I myself will see him
with my own eyes—I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me! (Job 19:25-27)

The New Testament reading identified the Redeemer: Jesus Christ—the Way, the Truth, and the Life (Jn. 14:6). Although we don’t yet see the fullness of it, Jesus secured the victory on the cross and sealed it with His resurrection from the dead. Death could not hold Him in the grave, and neither will it keep its hold on those who look to Him and believe in Him:

“For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day” (John 6:40).

By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also (1 Cor. 6:14).

Fight it as we may, none of us can defeat death or avoid going to the grave. But the grave is not the end of the story:

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life (Rom. 6:4).

And what is the point of rising from the dead? To come back to this life as it is would be pretty depressing! Paul says that we are raised so that we may “live a new life” (Rom. 6:4). Our physical bodies will be transformed (Phil. 3:21) and we will be renewed inwardly (2 Cor. 4:16) so that we are the kind of people we ought to be (Col. 1:22). All brokenness will be healed (Rev. 22:2) and all relationships will be restored (Eph. 2:14). There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain (Rev. 21:4).

How can we be sure that all these declarations are not just empty promises or wishful thinking? Because Jesus put His money where His mouth is by promising to rise from the dead and then pulling it off. If He can triumph over death, He can and will fulfill any promise He makes.

Even in our pain we see hints that something better is to come. Every human being knows that something is desperately wrong with this world and longs for something better. That universal longing points not to a wishful fantasy but to a glorious reality—the reality that God will redeem and restore His creation. As Laura Story sings,

When friends betray us,
When darkness seems to win,
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not our home.

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy?
What if trials of this life—
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights—
Are Your mercies in disguise?

____________________

Be sure to watch one of the many music videos of Laura Story singing “Blessings.” Meditate on the lyrics and ask yourself how they apply to the trials of your life. See also "I Know My Redeemer Lives."

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