Wednesday, June 13, 2012

No stranger to tragedy

11 ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.  Jeremiah 29:11 (NASB95)

Most of us are no strangers to tragedy. That’s certainly true for me. I was well acquainted with my family’s stories of tragedy from a very early age. You see, I knew that my dad had had a little brother who fell out of my grandparents’ moving car and was run over. My dad grew up in a southern share cropping family right after the great depression and they lived miles from any real medical care.  So, when the accident occurred, my young grandparents picked my dad’s baby brother up out of the dusty road and drove miles to the nearest help they could find – a drug store. It was there that the toddler died in my grandmother’s arms. Obviously, I wasn’t there. But when I think about the story I can hear the sound of my wailing grandmother as it travels the distance of nearly one hundred years.

In 1970, when I was just ten years old, that same grandmother was herself killed in an automobile accident. I loved her very much. It was a tragedy that profoundly affected my extended family. She was the glue that held us all together. Since her passing, many of my cousins and even a sibling of mine have faced some serious battles over the years. That causes me to wonder if those battles would have occurred at all if the matriarch of our family hadn’t been taken from us so soon.

My closest friends also know the back story of the passing of my mother and father. I lost both of them to cancer at what could be considered relatively young ages by today’s standards. During that time I was working so hard to provide a living for my family while going to graduate school that I don’t remember much about the specific events leading up to their passing. But the one thing I do remember was the pain. Sure, I remember my own emotional pain. But worse, I remember my parents’ physical pain and how they endured it literally unto death. It was a pain so intense that anyone who saw how it ravaged them would never forget it.

Tragic perspective
Last week I was in a meeting where a Christian brother courageously shared His own battles with tragedy, the worst of which was the death of his teenage daughter in an automobile accident. As he described His previous anger with the Lord, this man said something so profound that it caught me off guard and it gave me the perspective I needed for a better understanding of tragedy. He said that one day as he was crying out to the Lord in anger and bitterness he came face to face with the irony of his resentment. That’s when the Lord asked him the following question. “So you think you’re the one who has suffered for me?”

I’ve thought a lot about that since last Saturday. And even though losing a child is the most unspeakable horror I can think of, it’s nothing compared to what God put His own Son through on our behalf. You see, the mere tragedy of death is not what makes Christ’s sacrifice so dear. In fact, the brutality of a Roman beating and torture are meager compared to the enormity of what Christ became in our place. This is what renders Christ’s sacrifice so very personal and so poignantly significant. He took on every sickness that humanity has ever experienced and every disease and malady that has yet to be discovered. He experienced in His heart the shame of the most heinous crimes a human being could ever commit. He suffered the rejection of the people He loved the most including the momentary turning away of the Heavenly Father. Tragedy? I’ve experienced some, and I know other people who have experienced more. But when I look at the cross I realize how very little I truly know of the experience, and I’m prompted to fall prostrate before a holy God that would suffer real tragedy for you and me.

Scripture to claim
 5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.  
Isaiah 53:5–6 (NKJV)

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