The phone brings me out of that place which lingers somewhere between being asleep and being awake… I slowly open my eyes and glance over to my right. As I do so, I notice my wife also looking at the object of my focus — the clock. The time reads 5:30am. Much too early for a phone call, unless, of course, it is one of those phone calls. ‘Uh oh“, my wife says ominously as she comes out of that same in-between place.
I answer the phone “Hello, Joshua here“, trying to eliminate all vestiges of sleep. My mind is ablaze with thoughts, Is it one of those phone calls? Is it my father, or my mother? My wife and I are at that unusual stage of life. A place where we know the approaching storm of losing our parents is not too far away. It was not my mother, nor was it my father, but it was one of those phone calls.
My mind races as I hear the voice of my wife’s uncle. He tells me what I did not expect and what I did not want to hear. Certainly, it was what no married man ever wants to hear. That the father of your wife is about to die. “But…” I think, “…he is never sick, he never gets sick!”
It turns out that I was incorrect, as was my wife, as about 30 minutes after that call, my wife receives another call. My father-in-law is no longer sick. My wife turns to me with sad, quiet, eyes and with an even quieter voice whispers:
“My Dad is Dead”.
Four words. Four short words. Yet these words scream into my heart.
The next two days are a blur, church services, sermons, leading music, other ministry, phone calls, booking flights, funeral directors, more phone calls. Yet, there is something else… actually there is someone else… Someone who is constant; who is always present — amidst the shock, the surreality, the tears, the anger, and the questions. Someone who is present amidst a broken messy humanity:
I have conducted a lot of funerals. When I stand before a grieving family, I always feel my heart wanting to shield people from the pain that comes from the reality of living in a cursed world. I would love to able to tell them, that they are invincible and that nothing will hurt them. I would love to be able to say to them “It’s OK”. I would love to be able to give them the reason as to why this occurred. But, I can do none of these things. What I can do, and strive to do, is point them to the one who does know the reason. Who can answer the question of ‘why?’
I point out to them, the God to whom we can go to. The God who can give us hope. The God who gives us hope in a world that promises all but gives none. Yet, I need to remind myself, this God is the very same God to whom, in my own grief, I too must go to. So to God I go. To God I run. To God I cling!
Yesterday I turned to Revelation 7:9-13
9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?”
This is the hope that God promises to everyone who places their trust in his Son. What a hope it is. A Redeemed humanity; a blameless humanity; a united humanity. A humanity who will stand before the throne. The throne of victory. The throne of hope. The throne of praise — The Throne.
So I go, I run and I cling.
What a hope we have, dear Christian!
It is your hope. It is my hope. It is our hope! A hope offered by God the Father; A hope given through God the Son and a hope guaranteed by the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit.
What a hope we have, dear Christian!
What a God we have, dear Christian!
So go — run, and cling to the hope that God provides, and not be distracted by the world which promises everything but delivers nothing.