Death, grief, and waking up at 3 A.M.

This has been a tough year for me to wrestle through death. I’m not a grim-faced pessimist who thinks about death with any frequency at all but this year’s been a little different. Here’s why…

In January my friend Shawn was killed in a car accident on his way to a worship conference. He led worship as a high school senior at the young adult ministry I led in Denver. In June my grandpa passed away from an abdominal aortic aneurysm. He felt fine in the morning and passed away by that night. In late July my friend James lost his battle with Stage 4 throat cancer. He was 35 years old and led worship with me for Saturday night services in Kiowa three years ago.

In late August a friend of mine from high school Rachel passed away from complications with her pregnancy. She was 37 weeks pregnant with her baby girl Selah, who also passed away shortly after Rachel. In August some friends of ours had an emergency C-section for their first baby, a boy. He was 24 weeks old and put up an incredible fight for a month. He passed away on September 14th. I don’t think I will ever see a smaller casket.

About a month ago I woke up in the middle of the night and started reading Scripture. We had just read parts of Lamentations 3 in our weekend services the Sunday before. I even led worship that weekend and read the verses about God’s faithfulness being new every morning.

So, when I woke up in the middle of the night, it wasn’t because I was so at peace with God’s faithfulness. I was angry. I was upset with God because if His mercies are truly new every morning, why wasn’t there enough mercy to prevent these tragedies from occurring?

I was all ready to start giving God the verbal what-for there at 3 A.M. until I read these verses towards the middle of chapter three:

31 For no one is abandoned by the Lord forever.
32 Though He brings grief, He also shows compassion
because of the greatness of His unfailing love.
33 For He does not enjoy hurting people
or causing them sorrow.

I chewed on these verses for almost half an hour and wrestled through these thoughts…

God doesn’t get giddy when it comes to grief. He’s not some sicko or dark, brooding God who gets His kicks from watching us go through tragedy. He doesn’t abandon those He loves to go through hurt alone. God may allow tragedy to happen but He follows it with compassion. He does that because it’s who He is; it’s part of His character.

Anyone on the outside looking in at the losses I’ve seen this year might argue that point but He’s proven Himself to me in more ways than I can count. I’ve seen situations and experienced stories where things are restored and the broken made beautiful in ways that can only be explained as grace from God.

So, I hold onto this promise, that God doesn’t just check out when the stuff hits the fan. He’s right there with us and it breaks His heart when He allows the weight of our brokenness to crash into our world.

Each of these losses has resulted in someone telling me personally that they are closer to God because of the person we lost. That’s the unfailing love of God in these situations: people in the midst of tragedy experiencing a God who cares enough about them to get close to them in their pain.

God cares about us when our brokenness threatens to pull our lives apart. Even when grief comes because we live in a broken world, His compassion is at the ready. At the moment we hurt the most, His grace and compassion are already on its way.

If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

And that’s what helps me sleep at 3 A.M.

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