A Matter of Life and Death

A lot can happen in the span of 24 hours. If you’ve ever watched the TV series “24”, you know exactly what I mean. The world can pretty much fall apart, but Jack Bauer can put it back together again in just 24 little hours. Is it me, or have we had a lot of days like that recently? One day, things are not so bad. The next, it seems like the whole world is falling to pieces. I haven’t even known what to write really. What do you say about hurricanes and fires and the worst mass shooting in American history? One of the hurricanes hit my hometown of Houston (thankfully my family was protected) and the mass shooting was right here in the city I’ve called home since 1989. Talk about hitting home. So much death. So much destruction. It’s still hard to process it all.

There’s been a plethora of talk and news and articles and blogs and stories, so I wasn’t sure there was anything else I could add to the conversation. Then I remembered the funeral of a young girl we had at our church a few months ago. We were given bags of sunflower seeds to plant in her memory since she loved sunflowers so much. I got goosebumps, because just a week earlier, I had spent a day reading and praying at a friend’s house. I sat in her backyard, and watched this.

I remembered thinking how unattractive those dead sunflowers looked and had wondered why she kept them. Then I watched all morning, in awe, at the wide variety of birds that came and feasted on those dead flowers. They were chirping and singing and seemingly rushing off to find their friends to bring them back for the feast of seeds! Death of the flower was still bringing much life to those birds. So, at that funeral just a week later, I showed my video to some of the girl’s friends and her family. It was clear to me that through this girl’s death, she was bringing others to life. People were coming to church who might never have otherwise. A friend had stirred up the courage to be baptized when she had been timid before. Her death was bringing hope.

And so it is a painful truth. Death and life are intertwined.

We forget that pain makes us sacrifice, and sacrifice brings meaning to our lives. We wake up when others are in pain. It stirs our soul to give money and food and our blood and our time. Where there is grief and hurt and turmoil, there is also compassion and prayer and tenderness Would that we could just be kind and compassionate without there being a tragedy! But the truth is, we don’t. A few weeks or months will pass. The hurricanes and fires will stop. We will forget to comfort and support and reach out. We will go back to complaining and bickering about presidents and football players.

“Instead, be very glad–for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.” 1 Peter 4:13

We are never more like Jesus than when we are under the weight of suffering.

And this is the beautiful circle of life and death, comfort and pain:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.” 2 Cor. 1:3-7

May we all be found as faithful as Habakkuk when he chose to praise God even…

“Though the fig tree does not bud

and there are no grapes on the vines,

though the olive crop fails

and the fields produce no food,

though there are no sheep in the pen

and no cattle in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the Lord,

I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;

he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,

he enables me to tread on the heights.”

Habakkuk 3:17-19

Rejoice in the Lord. Tread on the heights. God is your strength.

It’s a matter of life and death.