Hope in Loss
" Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." — Romans 5:3-5
Time and again, we see people wrestle with the idea of a loving and benevolent God, and the suffering we see in the world. That's often the subject of films made by Christians and non-Christians alike. I contend it's the biggest theological issue that Christians and non-Christians wrestle with, and it's one for which there are no easy answers.
The truth is we don't fully understand God's plan. As the Apostle Paul says, "We see through a glass darkly." Again, that's usually not the comforting answer that those who endure pain and suffering are seeking. But that's not to say there isn't comfort found in the Scriptures.
I've been reflecting on that a lot this week after my friend shared the news that he and his wife lost their daughter. The loss of a child is a deeply sad and devastating thing, something I can only imagine. But what's touched me is the sense of faith and hope I've seen in my friend, despite what I can only imagine is the most painful week of his life.
This week in Faith in Film I looked at "The Invention of Lying." It's an interesting film because it's a window into a certain kind of worldview, one from Ricky Gervais, a devout atheist. A part of the film is the exploration of the difficult reality that for those who believe there is no God, this life is all that there is. In one frank sequence, a character about to die is left scared and alone by the thought of dying and heading into nothingness. She's terrified of the prospect of what happens when this life is all that exists, and what that means for someone who's at the end of their journey.
Thought this movie was made by an atheist — someone who believes this life is all there is — it doesn't shy away from the bleakness of that reality. And it really strikes home, especially since it's such a stark contrast to what we believe as Christians.
For us, we know that death is not the end for those that believe, it's but one part of the journey. I remember a few years ago seeing a clip from a movie made about heaven. The interview was with a father who had lost his young daughter due to an accident. Though the pain of that loss was still apparent, so, too, was his hope. His hope of one day being reunited with his daughter in heaven.
I saw that again this week from friend, who through grief and loss expressed a powerful belief that his grief is temporary — that he will one day be reunited with the daughter lost far too soon. And it was beautiful.
We don't understand why things happen in this life, and why some are made to suffer or lost too soon. But we know that God loves us, and He has a plan. He is in control, and His Son's sacrifice means that this life — and death in particular — is not the end. And that gives us hope.
And we know that when we suffer, we don't suffer alone. God is there. He feels our pain, and He understands. Those who can wrap themselves around that mystery can find a way through their grief, even during times of profound sadness and loss.