Monday, May 09, 2016

Address for Remember our Child Annual Service May 2016

Psalm 56


There's a popular misconception out there that if you have faith in God, you can expect life to be all green pastures and still waters...that somehow bad things just won't happen to you.
That's a really dangerous assumption – and one that is disproved somewhere on a daily, if not hourly, basis.
It always has been.

If you doubt me, have a read of the book of psalms....a collection of poetic prayers that were old well before Jesus walked the earth. They are the story of all the ups and downs of the life of faith...good days when it's easy to celebrate and praise God.
Hard times when it's almost impossible to believe that God is there at all.
Whatever your feelings on any given day, I can pretty much guarantee that there's a psalm to match.

The reading Shirley just shared with us is a really good example of the journey that faith and feelings often make together.
Clearly the writer is up against it.
He feels ground down – trampled by people and events.
And I'm guessing that feeling isn't unknown to most of you...that sense of being so squashed by life and by grief that you might as well be face down in the mud, suffocating, unable to look up and see the stars even for a moment.

The earliest days of loss are just like that, and if you're here in that first rawness of grief, then really all anyone can do is to stand beside you, weep with you, hold the light, even if it's no more than a flickering candle, until one day your own being recovers the light of life.
To be honest, for most people that's all that GOD can do at first...stay close, weep with you, carry the light.
God doesn't wade in to fix things, much though we might long for him to do so.
God goes through them with us.

That's just the way it is.

And what's interesting in our reading is that though things are obviously very tough indeed, the writer somehow manages to hang on to his faith...
He doesn't cave in, blame God and turn his face to the wall.
Instead he makes a very positive declaration.
Despite all that has been going on he dares to say
In God I trust. I am not afraid.

Of course it's tempting to blame God – and a bit of honest anger is, believe me, absolutely OK.
You see, God is so involved in our lives that all our pain, bewilderment, grief and fear is completely real for him.
God takes on those feelings and carries them for us – just as God carries so much else.
Those feelings are precious to him because they are a reflection of our love..and it is in loving that we come closest to God on this side of eternity.
It's true, God has never promised that life will be straightforward and pain free if we throw in our lot with him.
Quite the reverse.
in the world you will have troubles” Jesus warns his friends...
But what we ARE promised is that nothing in the world will ever separate us from God's love and that nothing – NOTHING – is ever wasted

Every moment of pain, every tear you have wept, is precious that God saves all those tears in his bottle, a priceless relic of our feelings of love and loss.
I love that. In just the same way that each of us, as parents, files away the strangest things – outgrown baby clothes, a threadbare teddy, a football shirt – because they were special for our children, and so are forever precious to God hoardes those tears that we've shed, tokens of our love and our suffering.

God gets it, understands completely how we feel...
God never glosses over the reality of our pain – not for an instant.
And in all that pain God is FOR us.
Uncompromisingly on our side.
Weeping with us, yes – but also lending his strength and his hope.
God is for me.
God is for you.
No matter what the external situation might suggest – you are not alone in a hostile universe, where pain and sadness have the upper hand.

If you let him, God will lead you gently, step by tiny step, on that same journey that the psalmist has taken.
It's a journey from the pain of loss, through the gradual remembering of God's care, to that moment when you can begin to raise your eyes and glimpse a new dawn breaking over the horizon as you recover the light of life again.
The God who made and loves your children holds them safe and holds you too.

You know that each moment of your child's life had meaning – that their whole life was complete and perfect in itself, even if lasted just a few brief days. It would not have been a BETTER life if it had been longer.  A day lily is not a failure because it withers and fades so much faster than an oak or a Californian redwood. There is no comparison.  Each is perfect in itself. There is nothing lacking.
Our children were completely themselves – exactly the people God had always intended them to be.
And now that life – and your memories of it – are safely held close to God's heart.

And you are left to continue your journey of grief, in which every moment has meaning and purpose too.
Of course the loss of a child changes the whole world.
Nothing is ever the same.
But nothing is wasted either.
The God who saves our tears in his bottle, weeping over each one of them with us, can be trusted to take care of us just as he is taking care of our children.
So – let yourself trust and do not be afraid.

That grief which was so huge that at first it threatened to keep you face down in the mud forever does not need to be your defining truth.
There's nothing disloyal, nothing unloving, in allowing yourself to look up, and choose life.
When the time is right, you could even begin to gradually unclench your fingers and let go, handing your grief over into God's hands so that you can walk forward, in the light of life that he holds before you, the light that will, in God's time, guide you safely home.


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