Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Precious in the Sight of the Lord

Our family on Daphne's side

These past couple of years have been hard for Daphne and me. While in most ways our world has gone on as normal, two events have interrupted our lives in a profound and sad way. Two years ago my Mom passed away. She had not yet turned 70 and it was too soon to have to say goodbye. This past month, Daphne’s younger sister, Christine, finally succumbed in her fight against cancer. She left a loving husband and three precious, young children. There is no doubt about it, death is hard on those who are left behind. We cling to precious memories and suffer grief, even while trusting in the goodness and greatness of our gracious God. Sometimes, maybe most of the time, it is hard to know what to say to those who have lost their wife, their mother, or their sister. In that regard, it was interesting to me to see how John Calvin responded to the untimely death of a friend’s son. The following comes from a biography of John Calvin by Herman Selderhuis.

Calvin starts by expressing his heart-felt grief over the matter:
When I received the message about the death of master Claude and of your son Louis, I was so shocked and so despondent that for several days I could only cry. And although I tried to find strength in the presence of God and wanted to comfort myself with the refuge he grants us in time of need, I still felt as if I was not at all myself. Really, I was no longer able to do the normal things, as if I myself were half dead.

Perhaps the most helpful part of his response could be summed up by these ideas – don’t dwell on the why’s, instead, concentrate on the kind providence of a loving God:
There is nothing that robs us more of our power, nothing that dejects us more than when we let ourselves fall into such complaints and questions as: Why did things go like this? Why not another way? Why like that just here? There would be reason to utter such words if we on our part had made a mistake and if we had neglected our duty, but if we have done nothing wrong this matter, there is also no place for these types of complaints.
If in your pondering over your son you were to consider how difficult it is in these dark times to bring our life in a pure manner to a good end, you would surely consider happy one who has been delivered from this at an early age.
And so it is God who has reclaimed your son, that son whom He entrusted to us to care for under the condition that he ever remain His possession.

Calvin spoke this same way when his own son died:
The Lord has dealt us a heavy stroke in the death of our little son. But he is our Father. He knows what is good for his children.

No, death is never easy. It is not intended to be. But, as the Scriptures say, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.”

Christine's Family