By Jon Aman firstname.lastname@example.org
There are stories eyes can tell only through tears. Mortal eyes are disoriented as they frantically search to catch a vision of the immortal, a reason for the pain. Death rips away what is closest to the heart, while burying fears, grief, loneliness, and questions deep into the mind. Why, why God? Why do you take some and spare the lives of others? Why do some grow old while others are slowly laid down into unfeeling soil with half a breath still in their lungs? Why do we live in a world where a father must bury the small frame of his once lively son, where one-flesh is torn in two by the death of a spouse, where siblings die of cancer? Where is God when death storms our home? Is God unfeeling when we grieve? Is God impassible, making ambiguous choices for when and how we die? How should we respond when those we love die and does God remain emotionless because he knows the big picture, reassuring us that everything is for the good?
Death is not a ripple effect that slowly permeates through our lives. Rather, death is like an unforgiving tsunami that devastates on a mass scale, leaving mangled wreckage in its wake. Either death and experience of pain will estrange us from God or draw us closer to understanding him. Seeing someone you love die is one the most tangible and potent experience you can have as a window into the heart of God.
Let me explain why our experience of witnessing death reveals the character of God. Perhaps one the biggest mistakes we make, while not always on purpose, is viewing God as an “it” rather than a person. Often God is overly characterized as being completely outside of time, so wholly other we cannot know him and is often reduced to an idol of deism. God is almost like the matrix, a computer making choices and calculations to balance a formula with little regard for the costly side effects. This could not be further from the truth of who God is. We must understand and interact with God as a person, not as cosmic entity or force or another name for everything as a whole, like in eastern mysticism. To be a person is to be in relationship. God is a person in a trinitarian and creator/creature way. The story of the gospel is about the character of God, his love for us and how we are made to participate in relationship with the Father, the Son and the Spirit. We were never meant to experience death, separation from those we love. We are wounded, torn and grieved to the point of sorrow because of death. However, God is perhaps the most wounded of all. He is our God, the one who forms us and breathes life into our lungs; our God, who calls us friend, daughter and son; our God, who calls us by name, inviting us to home of belonging; our God, who is jealous, not of us, but for affection; our God, who delights in our delight, who finds joy in our joy. This is the God of the Bible, a person who desires for us to know and experience his love.
We are often taught that death is natural, the normal process of life. If death is natural, then why are we filled with feelings of outrage, grief and bewilderment when death shows its face? Death is unnatural, an outrage, a distortion, and a consequence of sin! We should detest death; feel the anger burn at such an atrocity. Sin is the cause of death, separation from each other and God. However, we grieve over death, but tolerate sin, sometimes celebrate it. Our lives are paradoxes, trying to heal sickness with the very thing that caused the pain in the first place. We made death a reality through sin, God is not the cause. Death shakes us to our core because we are forced to come face to face with the reality of our sin, having to view the corpse of those we love being lowered into a lifeless grave. Do you feel the weight of what we lost? If you know the grief death brings, you have a small window into the heart of God. When we weep, God weeps. When we grieve, God grieves with us. When we are outraged at death, God’s righteous anger burns with fury against sin. God is not unfeeling, callous or disconnected, but feeling, loving and ever showing care for us. Our grief pales in comparison to the God who sacrifices as a servant to bury death in his grave. God is moved to action, to restore what is lost in death because he is a God who is intimately close with his creation. Our lives are short and we will see a handful of loved ones die, but God experiences the death of all of humanity, through all time. God is the one who is wounded the most by death, filled with sorrow because he understands the true weight of what is lost. Grieve over death, feel outraged at the reality of death and you will have a small glimpse at God’s heart and new hope for the resurrection.
Isaiah 53:4-6 “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”
Revelation 21:4 “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”