Two years ago last month I got an email from my mother. She had forwarded an email from the church office back in Alabama that a dear friend had passed away. I was stunned. Sammy couldn’t have been much more than 40 years old. I checked my email later in the day and the strangest thing happened, my mother had forwarded to me all the past emails that had been bouncing around since Sammy’s accident all the way up to the last email about his death that I had already read.
The first email said he was in a wreck and that the whole congregation needed to pray that he would recover. There were more. One email said he was getting better and that doctors were hopeful. The next would say he had taken a turn for the worse. Up and down his struggle for life went and the emails chronicled his journey toward death. There were moments of hope and there were moments of sorrow. I am not usually much of a crier but reading all of that certainly did a number on me.
I cannot tell you how strange it was to know your friend had died and read that initial emails with that in mind. Usually you read these emails as the events unfold but this was different. I was listening back in on emails that had been sent in the days prior already knowing that the end result was his death. It got me thinking about God’s perspective on everything. When we go through these things, God already knows how it is going to turn out. He already knows how the last email is going to read (more on that in a minute). There isn’t anything that is going to catch God off guard. He already knows everything. Psalm 139:1-4 says,
1 O Lord, you have searched me
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O Lord.
Isaiah 55:8-9 puts it this way,
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
God is amazing and incredible. What am amazing blessing it is to be made by God, loved by God and sustained by God. God is answering prayers we don’t even know how to ask! (Rom 8:26-27). Paul says the end result of it all is that God will work good for those who love Him! (Rom 8:28). So let us live with confidence that God knows how this whole thing is going to turn out and while some times seem like they are full of despair Psalm 30:5 tells us that mourning may last for a night but rejoicing always comes in the morning. Let us remember that in Christ we are new creations, a new dawn has come and we are to be people who find joy in the midst of suffering and who find peace in the middle of the storm because God already knows how it is all going to work out. Not even death can stop Him!
Let me let you in on a little secret…I want to tell you how the last email regarding this whole messed up world of sin and death reads. Here is what it says…
“Death has been swallowed up in victory” – 1 Cor 15:54
What if we read these words and then started living our lives through that lens? We can conclude the same thing Paul concluded a few verses later…” Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
Matt, your post is so much appreciated. Please allow me to describe my journey.
I am a man in my sixties. My son took his own life 11 years ago. Before that, my two best friends took their own lives. I lost my father to heat disease, my mother to pancreatic cancer, a brother and a sister to brain cancer. One brother is in an institution for life for violent paranoid schizophrenia, while another brother is on the street as a drug addict. There are no others left.
While I thank God each morning for my wife and my daughters who assure me daily that I am loved, I have to thank God also for my faith. Because you see, I am in complete amazement that I have any faith at all. Believe me, there have been times when I have aske myself, “Why haven’t I thrown all this ‘God-stuff’ away?”
But I can’t. As senseless as much of what has happened seems to be, nothing makes sense without God. But the shallow laws and answers from my religious youth do not work anymore. God is either all in all, or there is absolutely nothing at all. Either all things flow from God, through God and to God, or there is no flow of life at all. Either God is closer to me than I am to myself, or self is just an illusion. Many may not be able to grasp what I have just said. But it is the only way I can think when I am still walking around, with scars, warts and all, many of my own doing, and I look down below my feet and see nothing.
Thank you for your honesty and openness in discussing these parts of your life. God is more real than we can imagine. He is more present than we give him credit for. He is the life giver and sustainer of all. Thank you for reminding me of those simple truths that are so real and overwhelming that you just can’t deny it.
I treasure that verse in Matthew 11 about Jesus asking us to take his yoke upon us…sometimes I forget that it is not MY yoke I should look at or compare to others. John looking at your story and considering the yoke you grew up carrying – but then taking the yoke of Jesus…when He says his burden is light…what a concept. We can look at our own lives and think what a yoke (NO pun intended) – but when we back up to our Father’s perspective – the yoke of Jesus was a rough one – yet he is still carrying it alongside us, for us, with us. Blessing, mercy, grace, and that one simple yet compelling statement ‘Father forgive them they know not what they do’ these are the yokes that I carry and you too. Thanks for sharing the yoke that you cast aside, to be humble enough to carry Christs. John my He lighten your load daily as you hold him.