Two different gracEmail subscribers wrote this week about the deaths of young soldiers. The first asked: “How do you comfort a mom who lost her young Marine son in Iraq? Her eyes are now hollow and empty. She is just trying to get through the days.” The second writer inquired: “My 19-year-old nephew was recently killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq. We need to know why we should pray for the safety of our families if God isn’t going to answer our prayers. How do you bring people to the Lord if all you have to offer is the promise that the closer you get to God, the more testing and suffering you will have to endure?”
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This is one of the most difficult questions the believer ever faces. I dare not offer a glib response but only a prayerful, humble answer with fear and trembling and yet with confident faith. Surely the untimely loss of a child is one of life’s greatest horrors and produces one of its deepest sorrows. As the questioners above indicate, it also presents one of the most troublesome challenges to faith. This particular tragedy exists in the shrouded mystery of a broken world and it has no satisfactory rational explanation. I thank God that I have been spared direct experience here, although several years ago I lost a bright and cheerful 16-year-old Christian nephew.
For those who grieve such a loss, we can best simply be present — with perhaps the fewer words the better — tangibly assuring them of our love, attesting that we share their unspeakable grief. In this way we serve as the visible face and embracing arms of the invisible God who, I am confident, weeps in heaven with the broken hearts of those whom he made and loves. I am confident of this because Jesus wept and he showed us most clearly the truest heart of God.
There will come a day when the grievers have cried out their tears and are able to receive comfort with their minds but we must not rush to that point before its natural time. In the next gracEmail, we will suggest several biblical truths that help us see the larger perspective and so enable us to go forward one day at a time.