Focus – An Open Letter To Joe
By Major Anne Pickup –
Occasionally, I get letters from readers of my column. This past week Joe (not his real name), whom I met at the Western Youth Institute, wrote to remind me of his prayers on behalf of my family, and to say his dearly loved grandfather is dying of cancer. Joe asked, “Why does the Lord take people away from us that we love with our hearts?”
Joe, you ask a familiar question! It flows from common emotions of frustration with God, anger, a sense of abandonment and disillusionment with life and God. Without some kind of positive response our spirit will wither, confusion will fill our mind and we will feel victimized by God. Let me share lessons I’m learning in my journey of grief.
First, you are not alone in your pain. When we hurt, God seems silent. We interpret that silence to mean inactivity, even disinterest. Psalm 34:18 promises, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.” Joe, there is no issue in your life, no emotion in your heart, no tear shed that is outside the loving knowledge and tender care of our heavenly father. It might seem you are alone, but God is passionately concerned and tenderly holds your fragile heart.
Second, this is a testing of your faith. I don’t know any Christian who has not had his or her faith tested in the crucible of fire. Life is blatantly unfair and circumstances often don’t make sense. Why would a loving God allow this painful reality? To secure and strengthen our faith. Faith ranks at the top of God’s priorities for his children. Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Faith is strengthed in situations that require faith! It takes faith pulling against reality to secure itself in God.
Third, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) Joe, at this difficult time you have options. You can break and run, waver in disbelief, curse God and die, or trust and remain obedient. Since all comfort, peace, assurance and rest come from God, go to God! Don’t cut yourself off from him. Even if you approach God with anger and doubt, he approaches you with welcoming love. Pray, read the Bible, go to church, be with Christian people. Put yourself in places of stillness and quietness where God can be felt and heard.
Fourth, death seems harshly final, but it’s not. I Corinthians 15 is a chapter devoted to the wonderful hope of resurrection from the dead and life eternal. “In Christ all will be made alive!” (vs. 22) We see life in terms of human limitations, but God has a wider, longer view. As the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, it is of minor importance to God how long we live. What matters to God is how we live. Those who live holy, faithful lives are promised heaven…life unending. When Christ rose from the grave, he became the first of many who will rise to eternal life.
There are answers, Joe, although they may not be easy. There is no escaping the blunt realities of life. But there is God! He asks you to embrace the truth of Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord…and lean not on your own understanding.” James Dobson reminds us, “The Lord can be trusted–even when he can’t be tracked.” As you put your faith in God you will know the comfort of his presence. He will give you strength to walk out each day. He will give courage to trust him. I’ll keep you in my prayers, but lean hard into God, Joe. There you will find the grace you need!
He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase.
To added afflictions he addeth his mercy,
To multiplied trials he multiplies peace.