When we hold desperately to our fear and loss, we can’t heal or grow or be transformed
I have put my hope in the Everlasting to save you, and joy has come to me from the Holy One, because of the mercy which soon will come to you from your everlasting Savior. For I sent you out with sorrow and weeping, but God will give you back to me with joy and gladness forever.
Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.
This week, a friend of mine is taking her son 45 hours away to college. Another friend is commemorating the loss of her youngest seven years ago. I’ve got one friend who stares hungrily at pictures of the son being raised by a new family while a fourth waits to hear the prognosis for the child she can’t wait to hold.
It’s not just mothers, of course, or even just parents. Every one of us is wounded by loss in one way or another. It may be the loss of a job or a marriage or a dream. It might just be the fear of loss. Whatever it is, it leaves us angry and anxious, clinging to what remains as we mourn what was or what might have been.
This is natural. It’s reasonable. But it fits a steel cage around our hearts, barred shut against grace. When we hold desperately to our fear and loss, we can’t heal or grow or be transformed.
I’m happy in that cage. It fits me. So I sit inside, running through my pain again and again, looking for someone to blame.
But Baruch doesn’t. Baruch has seen the destruction of Jerusalem and the deportation of his people. He has witnessed the death of all earthly hope, watched starving people eat human flesh to stay alive, cried out in horror as the remnant left free runs off to Egypt, the land of sin and slavery. But his cry isn’t one of lamentation, much though the book of that name is a fitting response here. He turns instead to the Father and says, with the faith of Job, “You are God and I am not.”
Baruch trusts that the ones he loves will be redeemed. He doesn’t even know the Savior and somehow he trusts that they will be saved, while we who feel the blood of Christ coursing through our veins still can’t fathom his love.
Jesus knew we would be broken this way. He speaks tenderly: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” This is not the end. Distance is not the end. Illness is not the end. Bankruptcy is not the end. Even death is not the end. Because this God of ours even makes death an avenue for grace, a doorway into the place he’s prepared for us.
The night before he suffered, Jesus was concerned not primarily with the pain he would experience or the betrayal that was at hand. He was concerned with speaking his love to his friends. In the face of agony beyond imagining, he wanted only to remind them how much he wanted to be with them.
This is what we need to bear in mind when joy is torn out of our lives. God’s love for you drove him to the Cross, a Cross he embraced because it led him to you. If he loves you like this, he will work all things for good.
Unfortunately for the weak-hearted among us, sometimes God loves like a surgeon, cutting even good things out of our lives because they will go wrong. I don’t mean that God takes the lives of children or curses people with cancer; I just mean that we can’t know what he’s doing when he allows such things. We can’t see how he will bring the exiles back. We can’t look past the Cross when we’re standing at its foot, no matter how many times he promises the Resurrection. What we can know is who he is: he is the lover of our souls, the God who ignores his anguish when our hearts are simply troubled.
God is for you. He loves you more than you can possibly love yourself. Which is why in the face of loss we can say, “Jesus, I trust in you.” We may let go only with sorrow and weeping. We may have to have our clenched hands pried open. But we can choose to trust that God will—whether in this life or the next—give our beloved back to us with joy and gladness forever.
Whatever fear or grief or anger has a hold of you, put your hope in the Everlasting to save you. Give him your troubled heart and ask him to transform it. We can’t take away our own anxiety and pain and we can’t pretend it away by reciting pious platitudes. But we can offer our suffering to the Lord and say with Baruch, “You are God and I am not.” Maybe if we say it often enough, we’ll even find that we mean it.