Monday, September 26, 2011

Grave Avoidance?

In the year following Micah's death, I would visit Micah's grave fairly frequently. But in the last year, Heather and I have felt less of a need to visit the grave. In fact, Heather has not visited the gravesite in nearly two years; I have not visited his marker since the beginning of this summer.

Our visits to his grave are not for our son; any time we spend at the grave is really for us. My son, having been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ on that roman cross nearly 2,000 years ago, is now in the physical presence of God. While I can not tell you what his daily life is like now (or whether he experiences anything like our "days" at all), I know Micah is in a better place. As Paul states in 2 Corinthians 5:1, "Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands." We know where Micah's well-being, right now, is not impacted by the frequency of my grave visits or any other ways we might honor him.

As grieving parents, how we view our own visits to the grave might serve as a barometer of how well we are grieving, generally. Visiting the grave every day, at the expense of relationships and work ministry opportunities, would probably mean that we are "stuck" in anger, or the past, or in our guilt. Alternatively, never visiting the grave at all, even if only mentally, would probably mean that we are trying to suppress our grief through avoidance.

If we live in faith in a loving and sovereign God, we need not live in the past, as if that is all we can hope for with our child, or live in avoidance of our grief. In Jesus Christ, we have a "living hope" that, even now, our deceased children live with Him, and that we will see them again someday. To the extent that our grave visits point us toward this "living hope," they are visits well spent.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Faith -- In Fear & Trembling

In the August, 2011 online issue of Christianity Today, columist Mark Galli writes about the recent discussions among Christian leaders about hell. Along with Rob Bell, Francis Chan and other Christian leaders, Galli has written a book to weigh in on the question. Apparently, Galli's critics contend that his espousal of the traditional view of hell amounts to his "punting" on the entire question.

In response, Galli rightfully notes that accepting the traditional view of hell is not "punting" on the issue at all. Galli writes, “...God is perfectly just and perfectly merciful, and this we must proclaim right in the midst of the most awful circumstances and in the face of the most mysterious questions. But we proclaim it not glibly, not easily, but in fear and trembling, with nothing to hold on to but faith. We proclaim it not because we know exactly how God will work out his justice and mercy—for this he has steadfastly refused to reveal. What he has revealed to us is that he is perfectly just and perfectly merciful—as demonstrated in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ...” Mark Galli, Trusting God with the Ones You Love, Christianity Today, August, 2011 (web only version).

Certainly, traditional views of hell might seem paradoxical or troubling to 21st century sensibilities. But that is the point of faith in a God whose ways escape human understanding. If you signed on to Christianity thinking it would provide you with simple, easy answers to difficult questions in life, then you probably have been sorely disappointed. Rather than approach this issue with glib simplicity, Galli correctly notes that we ought to approach this question in faith, not knowing exactly how God is demonstrating His unmatched mercy and love, but trusting that He is (and will) demonstrate these attributes through His judgements of humans.

I resonated with Galli's comments, not so much because I have thought very much about hell, but because I think the same principle applies to those of us trying to wrap our arms around God's purposes in suffering. In trusting in God's promises for us, we are not "punting" on the philosophical and theological issues that accompany the "problem" of how a loving and sovereign God could allow suffering. When you have lost your child, then easy, simple, or glib theological answers won't do. Instead,fully recognizing our inability to answer all these questions, we approach our faith in humility, trusting that whatever joy God has in store for us by reason of this suffering, it will be great, eternal, lasting joy.