On Thursday morning many friends will gather alongside a family as they lay to rest a much loved wife and mother, who died in the early morning hours last Monday. Only a few months ago she was in the prime of life, caring for her husband, serving children in a local school and walking faithfully with her Lord. Then the cancers came; and a grim prognosis; and a season of difficulty for this saint. Grief gained a beachhead in our hearts weeks ago, and its invasion is now in full force.
In the midst of her treatments and the dramatic changes to her body, though, her spirit was undimmed and her delight in her family and daily life continued. Her simple, bright online notes communicated a measure of the wonderful personality we knew and loved — and encouraged many of us to hold our days more precious too. In her last days, we often saw evidence of the Scripture, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23 esv
I had been much in fervent prayer for this sister for many weeks, in the pulpit and in private. I also have often wondered why such afflictions came to such a choice servant in the prime of her life. Although we do not often discover the answer to such “why” questions, we are reminded in the Bible about the holy and good character of our God. For instance, just today I read further in the passage cited above (Lamentations 3) and found these words about our God:
“The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. …For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men.” (3:25, 31-33)
That last verse in particular is instructive: We dare not judge the heart of God simply by a few of His actions. An old puritan pastor, Thomas Brooks, unfolds some implications of this text, for those wrestling with grief:
“No man can tell how the heart of God stands by his actions. His hand of severity may lie hard upon those upon whom he has set his heart as you see in Job and Lazarus. …Consider the gracious, blessed, soul-quieting conclusions that come out of afflictions. As Christ commanded the boisterous winds and the roaring raging seas — “He rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm” (Matt. 8:26) — so let the conscience speak to the soul: Be quiet and still; ‘Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord’ (Psa. 27:14), and ‘Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him.’ (Psa. 37:7).
May the truth of God’s Word be like a sea-wall against the battering waves of our grief. God does not willingly or wantonly afflict His children! Our sovereign Lord does all things in accordance with His perfect will, for His glory and (ultimately) for the good of His people! And “He will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love.”