Thursday, February 20, 2014

When Sorrow is Our Story

“The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21

This plaintive message, without explanation, was left by a popular Christian radio host on her Facebook page. The next day, I learned that Janet Parshall and her husband were grieving the loss of their son due to complications from cancer.

Later that same week, I received another heartbreaking social media message from one of my former students. Misty had been struggling for years with several miscarriages and then the death of her little Charlie. Now came another cruel life blow. She and her husband were losing their home and every single one of their earthly possessions due to an infestation of black toxic mold. To a young family, this felt like the final blow. Misty was sick. She was tired. She was grieving deep gut-wrenching loss.

“The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away” is so hard to say the second part.

Sometimes Christians can seem too perfectly happy. We create an illusion of satisfaction and fulfillment that becomes the subject of scorn and derision by those outside the faith.

Others begin to wonder, “Don’t they ever have a bad day? Don't they suffer defeat and desperation and grief and loss?”

These two women did. They dropped the facade. They pulled back the shade. They let us in. It’s not easy to do.

We want to be strong. We want to portray a steadfast faith – even in the face of desperation. But, I don’t think that is our calling.

In the days that followed, Janet and her husband left a message asking for prayer and expressing the deep sorrow they were facing in the home going of their son. In response, listeners left note after note saying they were praying and grieving alongside of the couple. Janet wrote, "When the pain overwhelms us, we are so cognizant that our 'brothers and sisters' are lifting us up in prayer."

The day after Misty’s plaintive Facebook lament, a quick-thinking friend set up a donation account on social media and funds and prayers and messages, even from complete strangers, came rushing in like a great tidal wave of comfort and support.

In their open grief and moments of weakness, they provided an opportunity for others to speak, and care, and give back. As one donor said, "Your story strengthens the body of Christ and joins us in unity."

I don’t think our personal story should always be centered on our ability to cope or put up a good front. It can also be found in our visible suffering. The times when we open our lives and reveal our pain are a part of our story – an important part.

We can’t hide it.

We all suffer.

And through that part of our story, in some mysterious and awe-inspiring way, God is revealed. Not a fake God full of puffed-up confidence and expecting perfection, but one who sent His Son to bear the weight of this sin-ravaged world.

The weight of child loss and toxic mold.

The burden of desperate cries and sleepless nights.

That’s the kind of story we need to tell. That’s the kind of Christianity that people are drawn to.

Even when our stories seem unspeakable: “blessed be the name of the Lord.”

If you are interested in donating to Misty's family, you can read more of their story and send a donation to help aid them in their time of distress at this address:
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