"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)
He was diagnosed with a progressive brain disease that would end his life. His first reaction to was to educate himself about assisted suicide because he didn't want to go through the debilitation that was sure to overtake his body. When they found out, a group of his friends dedicated themselves to making sure he knew that he was loved and would have all the support he needed. Because he had been a mechanic, he decided to seek donations of old children's bicycles. He figured he still had the physical capacity to repair them. He then began donating them to children in homeless shelters. Now, after repairing and donating hundreds of bikes to smiling and grateful children, he understands that his remaining time is valuable. He is still able to make a contribution to the world and he no longer fears what may come.
When tragedy strikes, our first reaction is often to withdraw from our community of family and friends and ask, "Why me?" Loss is painful and can be devastating. Grief pours in and it feels as if we will be consumed, that life will never be the same. We face the choice of giving up or going on, of allowing God to walk us through the hardship or sorrow, or of turning our back on Him because we perceive that He has left us and no longer cares.
During this past week, three of my friends lost loved ones. Their grief is raw. Regardless of the pain they are in they are having to take care of all the things that accompany a death. Funeral arrangements have to be made. Paperwork has to be completed. People have to be notified. A lot of us have been through this and understand how tedious and difficult it can be. The world changes forever after the loss of someone near and it is hard to comprehend how life seems to go on as normal for those around us.
Hopefully, these three precious ones have support groups around them to help them through. But even if they do not, they are not alone. The verse above assures us of God's compassion and comfort. Personally, I have never felt God's presence more intensely than during my times of greatest sorrow or pain and I pray that it will be the same for them.
None of us want to endure a death, a disease or a catastrophe of any kind. Yet, eventually we all do. And when we find ourselves deep in agony and cry out to our Father and feel Him near, we are also being prepared to help others who go through the same experiences. A person who has been through the loss of a child or a spouse, for example, is uniquely able to minister to another who goes through the same loss.
The story I told today is about a man who was able to find a purpose for his life when he thought his usefulness had ended. Though his body shakes and he finds it difficult to walk, he can still hold a wrench and is able to mend broken bicycles that light up the lives of homeless children.
God always has a plan and a purpose for our lives. Even in the darkest days, He works. We may not be aware of where the paths He lays before us will lead but if we trust Him, He will reveal it.
As a hospice chaplain I urge families to allow themselves to grieve, however they need to and for as long as they need to. Great grief comes from great love. But I also counsel those that are Christians to ask the Lord to show them His purpose for allowing them to suffer through sad or difficult times. I have never known Him to ignore this request. Nothing is wasted by our Lord.
May your week be blessed and may you feel His hand on your shoulder.