Saturday, January 14, 2012


"I have sometimes thought that we cannot know any man thoroughly well while he is in perfect health. As the ebb-tide discloses the real lines of the shore and the bed of the sea, so feebleness, sickness, and pain bring out the real character of a man." President James Garfield.

One of the ways that God uses unspeakable suffering is to make us more like Him. But like skipping through the middle part of a book and reading the end of the book first in order to find out how it ends, we are being unrealistic if we gloss over the reality of what it means to be “sanctified” (that is, made more like Jesus Christ).

It’s a startling, humbling discovery when you pull back the veil around your heart and you have occasion to see the full extent of your own selfishness and sin that resides deep inside. The Old Testament Prophet Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9. While it is true for all of us, it seems that for me and for a few other grieving parents I know, deep grief has a way of accentuating each and every imperfection in our life. Those who know me best know that, even before Micah died, I could be impatient, selfish, short-sighted, and easily angered. Now, with Micah's death, each of these undesirable traits seem to have been magnified. Rather than becoming more patient, I found that in my grief I had grown less patient; rather than extending grace to those around me, I found that I could feel the anger boiling up inside of me at a moment’s notice. My imperfections previously seemed like small ant hills to climb; now, they now appear before me like the Himalayas.

The Apostle Paul , the man whom God handpicked to lead the early church, is not shy to disclose the ugliness that he sees residing in his own heart. He naturally follows the law of sin that dwells within him. He even calls himself a “wretched man” for his innate sinfulness. Romans 7:24. Regardless of the way we view our own morality, the Bible teaches that none of us are good enough, on our own, to make it to God on our own. For each of us, our moral imperfections keep us from God. That is, we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Romans 3:24.

In light of this moral ineptitude, how much sense does it make to “turn inward” in order to address the obvious ugliness that springs from within? In researching the options generally available to grieving parents following the death of a child, so many resources are premised upon the idea of finding the answer “within ourselves.” But my experience, coupled with clear Biblical teaching, shows that it is illogical for us to turn to our own hearts to find hope in our grief and to address obvious personal shortcomings. The answer is not found within ourselves. When we have a greater awareness of our own moral separateness from God, we have no choice but to fall upon God for his grace and his mercy.

God, in his mercy, provided His Son, Jesus Christ, as an answer to our ugliness. Paul writes in the 8th chapter of Romans, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus...By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” If you know me, you have extended grace towards me and put up with a lot of ugliness since Micah died. Similarly, if you know another grieving parent, you might need to be ready for some additional ugliness in their lives. But, by God’s grace, none of us are left alone in this ugliness of our own making. Let’s praise God for how, in spite of our moral imperfections, and the ugliness that has been apparent to God even when not apparent to us, He came to earth to save you and me from an eternity stuck in our own ugliness.