The wound left by death and loss is severe.
A friend once asked, “When does it go away? When does the overwhelming pain stop?” Getting the weight of pain off our shoulders can become the preoccupation of our lives. But, unfortunately, the harder we try to get rid of it, the worse it becomes.
Pain is not the enemy of living. Death and separation cause a great deal of pain. God allows us to hurt over the loss of someone near, but for good reason. He wants us to be more complete, more of who He designed us to be, more of the people we so passionately long to be deep inside. As we grow in our understanding of the true nature of joy, as we open our hearts to the love that still waits to be given and received, as we sense the help of God’s Spirit, and as we set our priorities with eternity in view, God will use the pain we are experiencing to bring us to a place where we can live the “changed life” joyously.
In my struggle over the loss of [my son] Kyle, I have found much strength and direction and encouragement in the book of James. James, the half-brother of Jesus and senior pastor at the church of Jerusalem, wrote these words to his dispersed, hurting congregation: “consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2).
James goes so far as to say that the trials in life are “many.” There are more of them than we can count or imagine, and they come in a multitude of sizes, shapes, and colors. Facing the death of someone we care deeply about is one of the major trials we encounter in life.
A most remarkable phrase in these words from James is the simple word “whenever.” He does not say “if,” but “whenever” we face these potholes. Pain and suffering are a part of life. Not if, but when. Each of us who has lost someone near needs to realize that pain is not the enemy of life; rather it is a primary means God uses to help us discover a more complete, fulfilling way of living.
James goes on and says, “knowing the testing (purifying) of you faith produces endurance, and let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
God wants to bless us. Do you believe that? I didn’t. I said the words, but I never really believed them. We have a perfect Father who knows how to give us the greatest possible joy in our lives. And He is willing to help us, even when we don’t enjoy or appreciate what He is doing in our lives. True joy and blessing and fulfillment for each of us is found as we live through the difficulties in a trusting, dependent relationship with God.
It is because we know that God will bring us through the difficult times that we can experience pure joy in the midst of tremendous pain. That is at the heart of God’s plan. No matter how much we may hurt over the loss of someone near, we can be free to experience joy.