What do you say to someone who has just lost the love of their life? What do you say when a child's life is tragically ended? What words matter when a wife, son, brother, daughter, friend and mother are with us one minute and gone the next? How can you make sense of this? Don't feel bad for struggling to know how to react... we are with you in that! Over the last week, as people responded from literally all over the U.S., we struggled with these very questions ourselves.
Jesus, in John 10:10 says this: The thief comes only to kill and steal and destroy.
I was convinced prior to the events of Monday, October 10, when my sister-in-law, Karen, and my nephew, Cole were taken from us of the truth of this statement. I have seen the effects of the thief in my own family, my friends' families and in lives of people in our church. I have witnessed the destruction of marriages, relationships, and careers. I have seen hopes and dreams disappear like a cold glass of water in the middle of a drought. All at the hand of the thief. I have even preached about it. I am convinced of the truth of this statement even more now.
Some would rather blame God. Everything happens for a reason, they say. God doesn't make mistakes. As if it is preferable that somehow God had some purpose in mind for this tragedy. I still say that God didn't do this. Who did then? The thief did. He is known by other names: Satan, devil, accuser. The trigger-man may have been someone who walked among us, for sure, but the thief was there, nonetheless. He tempts and twists and plants seeds of hurt and blame and condemnation that take years to cultivate and grow. And just like James says, when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death (James 1:15).
By the way, I do think everything happens for a reason. That reason is called free will. The thief knows that. And he uses it against God and against us. I think one day that we will understand the importance of free will to the nature of God. I believe at the very least, it is the only way love as a concept and as a reality can truly exist. God has to allow free will for me to have the opportunity to respond to him in love. Free will has to exist for you to love God in return for the love he has shown you. God wants us to choose to love him because he knows that is the best thing for us! His love is best! David said it this way: your love is better than life!
Here is where we pay tribute to Karen and Cole. They had already chosen to love God back. Years ago. The thief did alot of damage. He hurt them and he hurt our family. He cut us deep. There are scars that will forever be visible. But he didn't destroy us. He may have taken their physical lives, but he couldn't touch their souls. Those belong to God. He may have watched their last physical breath leave their bodies, but Jesus had already guaranteed their eternity. You see, they had free will also. And their exercise of free will was to honor God with their lives. Hope, faith, commitment, and love was the path they chose. Praise God for that! Mourn their passing, but know without a doubt that the thief was limited in what he could do. We will never forget their examples. Examples of hope, faith, commitment and love.
God loves you, too. Do you love him back? He will allow you to choose. He will never force you to choose HIM over the world. He isn't that kind of God. I thank him for the examples they lived out. And I believe we will see them again.
Thank you, Karen for being the mother, wife, sister, daughter and friend that this world needed to see. Thank you, Cole for being such a godly young man, when it must have been so hard to take what life 'dealt' you. You did so, oh so courageously.
We love you and miss you already.