This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled, Bound to Be Free, compiled by Jan Pit. In the following short quotation from the heart of Constantin Caraman (from Romania, Mr. Caraman was in prison three times for his faith), there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
The Lord gave and the Lord Has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised. (Job 1:21)
When I was working as a doctor in the Romanian countryside, I once met an old man. He was walking in the middle of the road, crying. I stopped and asked if there was anything I could do for him. He said, 'I had seven sons and all of them have been killed.' I looked into the face of this man to whom life had little meaning anymore. Automatically, the question arises: 'O Lord, why so much suffering?'
'I can't go on any more and I don't want to either,' the man said. In moments like these, it better to be silent. Then the only thing for a doctor to do is to entrust him to the care of our Great Healer and pray for peace and strength. I was thinking about Job. He would have understood and helped this man much better. But Job was not there. But He, who was tempted in every way, just as we are, He was there--Jesus Christ. He is able to sympathize with our weaknesses.
Job knew grief like no other. His reaction to suffering was not a fatalistic one. Fatalists say: 'It just happens to you and there is nothing you can do about it.' But Job sought comfort in the Lord in spite of his inner struggle and his questions. He had the kind of submission that overcame the ordeal.
My life is in God's hand. It is safe there, whatever happens.
A moment of introspection: The old man in this story was beside himself with grief. In his loss of his sons, he was bereft of hope and any value in life itself. As believers, were we in his "shoes", we have Paul's words to the church in Thessalonica to bolster and encourage us (1 Thessalonians 4:13): "...we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep." The apostle Paul would describe the sorrow of a believer’s loss to be a good grief. Not as Charlie Brown was wont to exclamation in the face of disappointment or frustration, but as a restoring grief, a healing grief.
In response to any loss, it is the human condition to grieve. Yet as beautifully written in Streams in the Desert (January 21 entry):
"Tribulation is the door to triumph. The valley leads to the open highway, and tribulation's imprint is on every great accomplishment. Crowns are cast in crucibles, and the chains of character found at the feet of God are forged in earthly flames. No one wins the greatest victory until he has walked the winepress of woe. With deep furrows of anguish on His brow, the "man of sorrows" (Isaiah 53:3) said, "In this world you will have trouble" (John 16:33). But immediately comes the psalm of promise, "Take heart! I have overcome the world."
The footprints are visible everywhere. The steps that lead to thrones are stained with spattered blood, and scars are the price for scepters. We will wrestle our crowns from the giants we conquer. It is no secret that grief has always fallen to people of greatness."
In a poem entitled "O Elder Brother", a line asserts "Grief cannot shake me if I walk beside you, My hand in Yours along the darkening way." We walk hand in hand with Immanuel, and His pacific voice bids us, "Tell me about it." Does Jesus care? (1 Peter 5:7) Yes, He cares for us. We miss out if we do not tell Him of our anguish:
I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!
I cannot bear my burdens alone;
I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!
Jesus can help me, Jesus alone.
Why is our Lord in the perfect position to assuage our despair? He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. (Isaiah 53:3) Furthermore, Jesus has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows (Isaiah 53:4). We needn't carry our mourning alone; let us rather present it to Christ:
What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
all because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer!
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow rightly asserted that "There is no grief like the grief that does not speak." And a Turkish proverb agrees, in saying that "he that conceals his grief finds no remedy for it." It is part and parcel of being human to know grief when we suffer a loss, but it is best that we not be pre-occupied with it.
Our joys as winged dreams do fly;
Why then should sorrows last?
Since grief but aggravates thy loss,
Grieve not for what is past. ("The Friar of Orders Gray", stanza 13)
Grief that lingers tends to make the experienced loss worse. Benjamin Disraeli describes grief as "the agony of an instant; but the indulgence of grief the blunder of a life." Grieved? Take time to work through it, but don't dwell on it and let it fester. Share it with Jesus in prayer. You'll find solace there. Be an overcomer.
Was the old man, unable to relinquish his sorrow to the Bearer of our grief, a man who needed our Father? Very likely. Xenophon (an ancient Greek philosopher, historian, soldier, mercenary, and student of Socrates) stated from his own experience, that "excess of grief for the dead is madness; for it is an injury to the living, and the dead know it not." Our Lord would have called this elderly man to follow Him, free from injury and, letting go of the grievous past--live (and that abundantly [John 10:10]). His Word calls to us: Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. (Philippians 3: 13-16) Our grief relives the past--that which is behind us--yet with every breath we live on the cusp of the future. From the Letter to Jewish Christians, the author of the book of Hebrews encourages us with these words (emphases mine): "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…" (Hebrews 12:1) With Constantin Caraman, may we victoriously say with confidence, "My life is in God's hand. It is safe there, whatever happens."