“Through the heartfelt mercies of our God,
God’s Sunrise will break in upon us,
Shining on those in the darkness,
those sitting in the shadow of death,
Then showing us the way,
one foot at a time down the path of peace.”
Zechariah’s song (Luke 1:67-79)
Last night my wife and I were given the privilege of being able to attend the visitation of a friend’s father who was recently killed in a horrible crime. Words cannot even begin to express the flood of emotions and heartache that this family is experiencing right now. The shock of the crime, the immediate nature of the death, the reality that life will never be the same, all serve as a recipe for a house shaken.
In the midst of this somber occasion, I met a woman last night who shined with such hope. Even though she was close to the deceased, she was a shining light in the room where darkness is still shrouding this family. Her face shined with expression and her spirit, though deeply broken, was hard to miss. It was a beautiful and bittersweet experience. And I was reminded of why we attend funeral visitations.
This morning I wanted to write something that might give you hope if you are experiencing a season of darkness. As I woke up this morning I came across this portion of Zechariah’s song. Zechariah was the father of a guy in the Bible who is know as John the Baptist. John the Baptist was the fore-runner of Jesus. He was the guy who came out of the wilderness right before Jesus showed up on the scene in Israel.
John was not anything to look at, but the message that he had to offer the people of his time was the most important message that humanity has ever received. His message was this:
God has not forgotten you. God is coming to you. God is coming for you. Come awaken.
The Baptist literally told the people that God had arrived and was now on planet earth, in the flesh. It was time for rescue. And in the story of John’s birth, his mother’s joy, his father’s silence…there is this gem of a song sung by his father. I’ll let you go read the story for yourself in Luke chapter 1, but the climax of the story comes as the new father sings over his newborn son. I’ve included the last part of the song at the introduction to today’s reading.
I have two boys and two girls. Every night when they were young I would sing songs of inspiration over my boys. To this day, I’m sure they at least recognize the songs I sang over them. My girls still get the honor of hearing me sing over them just about every night. (Insert sarcastic snarl here). As their father, I love to sing over them. It gives me great joy and fills their little hearts with a sense of love that I know they will cherish.
Which leads me to hope.
This year our town has had many tragedies. Earlier this year our friends lost their little boy to a random unknown health problem. Another young man just a few weeks ago was killed in a freak accident. This man whose visitation we attended last night died in a sporadic moment of crime.
In an instant they were all gone. In an instant the landscape was forever changed.
The question that always haunts us in these times of shocking and sudden loss is of course, “Why?”.
I’m not going to pretend I know all the reasons why these things happen. God is infinite in his wisdom and beyond our capability of understanding and even getting the answer to that question brings little to no satisfaction in our wandering and wondering hearts.
However, I do believe that there is one common purpose that God has in all loss, suffering, and struggle in our lives. In the lives of those of us who are around after tragedy happens, we must accept and understand that those we’ve lost were taken to awaken us to something more real, more true, and more important than all that we have deemed important up til now.
There are three realities that must be faced. Three unchanging truths that we can’t get away from. Here they are:
- I don’t get to write my own story.
- God is alive, active, and awakening us all to His story.
- God is singing over you.
I have dedicated my life to opening up the eyes of everyone around me to these two realities. There must be time made for mourning, for sadness, for pain, for suffering, for grief. We must go through the process that loss brings.
The sadness is not the goal. The pain is not the end game. The suffering is only for a season. The grief, though deep and difficult, is an instrument to extract complacency and darkness from our lives.
There is a story that we get to be a part of that isn’t bound to this earth.
There is a story that we get to participate in that will set us free from ourselves.
There is a story that we get to tell, that we get to live in, and that we get to share with those we call family, if we’ll only open our eyes and come awake. Though our loved ones were taken to awaken us, the awakening is the start of living in the light of something greater.
And finally, God is singing over you. He loves you. Like a father singing over his newborn child, His voice rings with joy and his eyes are filled with tears as He holds you, comforts you, and embraces you with His presence. This is the way a father responds when his child is in need. This is how He awakens you to His story. This kind of love is irresistible. And it’s yours if only you will accept it.
It’s Your Turn
Tell your story. Create something better. I’d love to hear from you.
Leave your story in the comments field below. Here’s a question to get you started.
How have you found awakening through your loss?