Several months ago, I confidently published a post claiming God can comfort. But my belief is wavering. Forgive me, Lord.
Recently the unexpected, sudden loss of a 21 year old son, brother, nephew, grandson, friend, and boyfriend has me questioning how God can really sufficiently comfort. My faith is so weak. God, help my unbelief.
The anguish the family is experiencing is more than I can imagine. I’ve bought a casket for a miscarried baby, which was excruciating in itself. What must it be like to buy a casket for a 21 year old son? My heart is overwhelmed with grief. And I never even met the young man.
I had only met his parents once before. But we had dined together. Laughed together. Had dessert together. We had bonded. Really the evening had been all about a job. My husband was leaving a big international accounting firm, which employed thousands, to consider joining this man in his boutique technical accounting firm that he alone was running. After our enjoyable evening out with this man and his wife, my husband decided to take the leap. After a steady, predictable career in public accounting, he was launching out into the wild unknown of entrepreneurship. But the two men made the perfect partnership. Both were tall, balding, and the quiet type. Both were extremely mellow, not being easily rattled by anything. Both had a number of kids – four and six. Both regularly attended churches with similar beliefs. Both had studied at the same college, even joining the same society, which was a close brotherhood. Perhaps even more remarkable, the two were connected in a way only God could orchestrate – their grandmothers had been best friends.
After almost four years working side by side as a team, life has taken a very sudden, unexpected turn. When Ryan told me the man’s son had died, I was shocked and felt like I was having a bad dream that I just needed to wake up from. This couldn’t be reality. Your oldest child doesn’t just suddenly die. But, here we were…one missed curve on a motorcycle ride right after a family dinner had now shattered hundreds of hearts.
The funeral was on my daughter’s 9th birthday. Celebrating life. Mourning death. Oh bittersweet world that we live in groaning under the weight of the curse (II Corinthians 5:2).
Entering the sanctuary of the church for the visitation, I beheld the grieving family up front. The parents and five siblings. Two sets of grandparents. The girlfriend. Pictures were showing on the screen. Familiar music I have on my own playlist played softly. At the front of the receiving line was the father. My husband’s business partner. Towering tall and seemingly composed. The rock for his family.
The line of people and numerous flowers had concealed the open casket until I was literally upon it. The sudden view of the deceased jolted me. Forcing myself, I stared trying to fully take in and accept this unbearable reality. Oh what a broken, cursed world we live in (Genesis 3).
Shortly it was our turn to attempt to offer comfort to the family. Ever since I heard of the tragedy, I had been asking myself how does one comfort during such a tremendous loss? Feeling helpless to ease any pain, I offered the towering father a hug as those before me had. Ryan repeated the feeble action. The line halted and I stood there silently and awkwardly facing those experiencing indescribable grief. Seconds passed. I felt so helpless. Then the father moved forward embracing Ryan a second time. The hug was longer this time and the slightest of sobs was uttered. Continuing down the line, we offered more embraces to the perfect strangers. When I faced a young girl I assumed was a girlfriend of one of the brothers, I felt the need to first ask if she even wanted a hug from me. Through her tears she responded, “I’ll take as many hugs as I can get.” So, I wrapped my arms around this complete stranger overwhelmed with the grief they were bearing.
II Corinthians 1:2-3 boldly claims, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction.”
But, how? How, oh how, could God comfort this family? This heartbreak was too much from my perspective.
Just a few weeks ago I had confidently told my kids that our God is a promise-keeping God. We had read a portion of the Old Testament listing detail after detail of the Israelites in the Promised Land. I reminded the kids how the generation under Moses had not believed God could give them the Promised Land and consequently had died in the wilderness. Yet, the next generation had faith and saw God fulfill His seemingly impossible promise. “Our God keeps His promises,” I declared without any doubts. Now, I wasn’t so sure.
As I wrote this post in an effort to process the tragedy, God graciously opened my eyes. When my editor (i.e. my husband) read this post the first time, he wanted me to delete the part about the second hug between him and his business partner thinking it was too personal. But, that second hug, I realized, was exactly what needed to be in this post. Where was any hope in this post without that second embrace? Then, it hit me. The second hug was God fulfilling His promise. I had approached the receiving line thinking it was impossible to actually comfort anyone suffering that much heartbreak. I had sorely underestimated the comfort of two compassionate arms embracing a broken heart. But God knew exactly what comfort to provide and had providentially ordered every detail for years so that my husband and I stood in that line at that precise moment so that the second hug could occur. How many countless other ways is God at work to overwhelmingly comfort this family? God is a promise-keeping God and He will comfort this family. Praise God that in the process of composing this blog post, my faith in Him has greatly been strengthened. Let us never waver in truly believing that God can comfort. Always. In ALL affliction.