For brevity, I did not include the following in How I Survived the Worst Day of my Life. But, I believe it bears sharing because it provides greater theological context to how I – and my family – survived.
As I was listening to the voice of Jesus that day assuring me of his presence and comfort, he brought the following truth to mind:
In the Old Testament book of Daniel, most people are familiar with the story of “the fiery furnace.” (The story can be read here.)
Around the turn of the 7th century B.C., Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were sentenced to death by means of being incinerated in a furnace that the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar (who had a horrible temper), had ordered to be heated seven times its normal temperature.
After the three men were thrown into the furnace, Nebuchadnezzar, looked over the edge and asked,
“Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” When his officials replied, “yes,” he asked incredulously, “Look! I see four…!”
Scholars are uncertain as to the identity of the “fourth person”. Perhaps it was an angel, or (I believe) the pre-incarnate Christ. The point God made with me that day was this: God is not waiting on the other side of our pain (a.k.a. our “fiery furnace” ordeals); rather, he’s there with us – in our pain, in our suffering, in our furnace, always present.
In the days and weeks following, Jesus reminded me of a story from John’s gospel. (John wrote one of the four biographies (gospels) of Jesus. He was a disciple and eye-witness of what Jesus said and did.)
I chapter 6 (you can read the story here), we find multitudes of people now following Jesus because he had performed many miracles in their presence i.e. fed them, healed their sick, raised their dead. But now, Jesus is making it clear that following him requires great faith and commitment and that it will not always be easy. Apparently this didn’t sit well with everyone because, as John wrote, “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.“
Because Jesus loves us so much, this broke his heart. So, his humanity now on display, then turns to his inner 12 disciples, his closest friends, and asks, “Do you want to leave me, too?” And Simon Peter replies, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” In other words, “Lord, where would we go? We believe you are who you claim to be. You’re all we’ve got.”
As I considered the recent events in my life, in the face of Satan filling my mind with lies about God, finally, like Simon Peter, I found myself saying, “Lord, where would I go? I believe you are who you claim to be. You’re all I’ve got.”
Through it all, Christ has never abandoned me. He’s been faithful – true to His Word. But, more than that, His love for me gives meaning & purpose in life.
And while this world shifts back & forth, at times seeming it is turning upside down, God’s Word remains a rock solid “true north.”
Lastly, when someone suggests to me that, if God really cared he would’ve prevented my son from being clinically depressed and, consequently, taking his life – I simply respond by saying:
Not only did God care, but twenty centuries ago He “put on skin”, entered into this horrible mess mankind has created on planet earth and, just outside of Jerusalem, gave His life so that we might have (1) meaning & hope now, and (2) life, eternally.
Because of the cross and the empty tomb (to this day, no one can explain away the resurrection of Jesus Christ), I (and my family) have purpose in our pain and will one day join my son, who, right now, is in Paradise with Christ.
Soli Deo Gloria, Nick