...But He sent His Friends
I sat with 20 other folks in a lakeside lodge in Michigan. We were different ages, different races, different backgrounds, but we shared one thing in common: we had all lost a child.
Each person or couple shared their story; it was heartbreaking and healing, caustic and cathartic.
Tim and Karen sat on our left and talked about the life and death of their son, Kyle. Like most of us, they were still processing the pain and how to live with it.
I wrote down in a small booklet thoughts and phrases from each of the stories; with Tim and Karen, what struck me as I re-read that booklet this week was something they shared about the days and weeks and months following Kyle’s death.
Karen said this: “I expected to feel Jesus. And I didn’t feel Jesus…But He sent his friends”.
She was referring, of course, to the Christ followers she knew who surrounded her with whatever presence and comfort that they could.
“I expected to feel Jesus. And I didn’t feel Jesus…But He sent his friends”.
I think how often Amy and I could say that same thing over the past four years since the death of our son. Oh, we sometimes felt Jesus; but most of the time not. Senses numb with pain don’t feel much of anything.
But even when we could not feel Jesus, he sent his friends.
This should not surprise us, I suppose. God channels his richest blessing through people; especially, but not always, those who know Him. How rarely in my life have I “felt” the direct presence of God. And even on those rare occasions He only brings the smallest part of who He is; a candle, not the sun.
I suppose this will always be so in this life. Not because He is playing hard to get, but because He is hard to get, and it is as impossible to understand Him as it is dangerous to be too close to the “consuming fire”.
The electric company, for my own safety, does not allow me near one of their great power-generating plants. Instead, they channel a part of that fierce power to my home through transformers, and distribution centers, and wire.
So God sends his presence through things that are less than God. Often we see it and sense it in nature; sometimes we feel it as we worship or take in the Word. Most usually, it comes through people, as frail and sinful as we ourselves are.
It comes through them. And He makes it enough.
Some reading this today are grieving acutely and intensely …either for our own direct loss, or for someone very dear to us.
Some are not in such intense grief, but nevertheless feel stuck or even trapped in a life very, very different from what we want it to be, what we hoped it would be, what we expected it to be.
Many of us here are not so much in grief, but we feel the need for Jesus in the midst of our deep fears about the future, or, perhaps, our deep shame at our own sins and failures.
Or we may just be bewildered by the apparent silence of the God who claims to be our shepherd and Father.
The truth is, on a day-to-day basis, we will not often “feel” Jesus.
But we can bless Him for the gifts He sends.
Another participant in the grief weekend shared how God blessed them in small, little things. We all nodded our heads in recognition. Those little blessings and kindnesses in the midst of our loss and pain did not take away our loss and pain, or somehow make up for them. Of course not. But they were signs that we were not alone; that is where their comfort lay.
That women called them, “little gifts, here and there”. It was another phrase that stuck with me, because it summed up what we also experienced in our grief: “little gifts, here and there”.
And those gifts were so often wrapped up as people.
Look for the gifts. Some of these have been there for years, but just now you see them as gifts.
Thank Him for the gifts. For they are a sign that the great, invisible God is not leaving you alone; that He sees, and He cares.
And, finally, be the gift.
Be the friend that Jesus sends. Let your presence or your actions be the little gift He leaves here and there. You cannot take away the pain; you cannot explain it in such a way that it solves how a good God can allow this much suffering. But you can be the friend He sends, the gift He uses to remind them that they are not alone.