“A Cry was heard in Ramah – weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted, for they are dead.” (Matthew 2:18 NLT)
This verse in Matthew’s Gospel is a quote from the Prophet Jeremiah and speaks to the deep anguish many Jewish parents felt after Herod, in an effort to kill Jesus, had every child 2 years and younger murdered. How can this kind of tragedy be reconciled with our belief and confidence in a loving Heavenly Father? In some people’s hearts and minds, it can’t, which often leads them to a crisis of faith.
As a Youth Pastor in my 20’s my first funeral was for an infant. The Senior Pastor was out of town, so I had no one to turn to. In retrospect I can’t imagine how I could have been so insensitive, but what I shared, while it may have been Biblically correct, brought no comfort to that grieving couple. I’ve often wished I could apologize to them, but how do you help someone make sense out of something that makes no sense?
The Christmas season should be a joy-filled and happy time to celebrate the birth of the Savior of the world. Immanuel – God with us! But often it opens wounds of remembrance of a loved one who is no longer with us to celebrate. This season will forever bring to mind the passing of my beloved sister who, even though I know she’s with Jesus, leaves an empty chair around the dinner table, and an empty space in my heart that only she could fill.
One of the many things the Lord is teaching me is that a “crisis of faith” is often caused by a lapse in memory. On some levels it’s like we wipe from our remembrance everything we know and love about Jesus. He never promised us that life would be easy, carefree, or painless. Quite to the contrary He clearly taught us that in this world we will have troubles, heartache, and loss. And though the death rate of human beings is still 100%, somehow the Lord always manages to allow our loved one to be taken at the “wrong” time.
Death is the last enemy Jesus overcame on our behalf. Death for a believer is no longer something to be dreaded, but embraced and desired. I whispered to my dying sister that I was a little bit jealous that she was getting to go to heaven before me. A slight smile reflected her understanding of what I meant.
In a Family Life devotional by Lisa Lakey I read this morning, she wrote: “And so on Christmas Day in 1863, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem called ‘Christmas Bells.’ The poem eventually inspired the hymn we know as ‘I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,’ and contains what may be the saddest words I’ve seen in a Christmas carol: “And in despair I bowed my head; ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said; ‘For hate is strong and mocks the song Of peace on earth, goodwill to men!’” But gratefully, that wasn’t the end of the song. In verse 4 he writes: “Yet pealed the bells more loud and deep; ‘God is not dead, nor doth He sleep’ The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, With peace on earth, good will to men.”
C.S. Lewis wrote: “If [God] does not show Himself, nothing you can do will enable you to find Him.” The irony to me is that often the most powerful display of God’s caring presence is in the midst of pain and heartache. And the reason I believe that’s true is because we tend not to listen when things are going well. Sometimes tragedy, heartache, and the agony of loss is the only time we turn our thoughts to God, yet even then too often we’re blaming Him rather than embracing Him.
The only antidote to a crisis of faith is Truth. And the truth is, when things aren’t going well, whether because of the loss of a job, our health, a loved one, or in any other way, Satan is working overtime to distract us from recognizing the healing, loving hands of our Savior surrounding us. He is Immanuel – God with us – not only at Christmas time, but in every season of our lives. He IS Truth and He can be trusted to love us through every crisis we face, whether in our faith or in any other area of our life.
Blessings, Ed 😊