“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 [NASB]
Sharing our focus of looking for redemption for the anguish of Sarah’s departure has become a little bit of a double edged sword. We want to consistently point to the hope and redemption that God so faithfully brings in fulfillment of His promise to work all things together for the good of those who love Him (Rom. 8:28). However, in focusing so much on redemption we have learned there is a risk of some misconstruing that the redemption might somehow make Sarah’s death “worth it”, or even “good”. It can lead to such an excitement in some about what God is doing that sensitivity is lost to the deep loss that precipitated the need for redemption to begin with. Statements about Sarah’s death being “worth it” or “good” are like daggers in the hearts of those grieving her absence.
Almost immediately after the accident our prayer as a family was for God to allow us to see redemption for the unimaginable pain we were experiencing. We knew redemption would in no way eliminate the pain or make the pain “worth it” or “good.” We would never willingly choose this painful journey, but we knew redemption could fuel our perseverance through it. Redemption does not answer the question “Why?”, it answers the question “How?”. When we look for and see redemption, it does not indicate that is “Why” God allowed Sarah’s death, instead it shows us “How” God is faithfully fulfilling the promise to use all things for good to us, even the worst thing, death.
God has been so faithful to answer those prayers for redemption. We have received countless emails, texts, cards and letters all testifying of the impact of Sarah’s life and testimony on them. What a tremendous blessing every single testimony has been to us, each poured over us like a healing balm. God is indeed mightily redeeming the taking of Sarah’s life and he is turning the evil intended for harm to use it for good. God is using the devastation of Sarah’s death for good, but that does not make Sarah’s death good.
Death is not good. Parents having to bury their child is not good. Sisters grieving the absence of their sister is not good. Grandparents mourning the death of their grandchild is not good. Sarah’s death is not good. When God proclaimed creation “good” and “very good” there was no death in it. God’s perfect plan did not include death, death is an enemy introduced through the fall. While we as Christians have the glorious Hope of eternity, that does not remove the pain and anguish death inflicts through the void left in the earthly lives of grieving families.
We do not grieve for Sarah’s future, we grieve for ours here without her. We grieve because there is a massive void in our home where Sarah once was. Our entire family dynamic is forever altered by that wretched thief called death. God did not create us with death in mind, death is worthy of grieving, deep, broken grieving. Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus, knowing He would raise him, so it is certainly acceptable for us as believers to weep at the death of our loved ones. Praise God, though, that as we grieve we do not grieve without Hope (1 Thess. 4:13-14). Though this temporary separation takes our breath away, we know eternity is looming and with it a glorious reunion.
We are so very blessed to have so many faithfully walking alongside us simultaneously grieving our unimaginable loss and rejoicing over stories of redemption with us. Some days grief prevails and they weep with us, and other days stories of redemption prevail and they rejoice with us (Rom. 12:15). Their balancing the two, grief and rejoicing, never losing sight of one for the other, but carrying both together in sensitivity to our broken hearts continues to bless us immensely. What a privilege and blessing it is to be part of the body of Christ, knit together through the love born of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, filled with longing to bear one another’s burdens, overwhelmed with compassion to weep with those who weep, and subject to the selflessness that rejoices with those who rejoice.
Artwork: Sarah Harmening