Oh! I heard surprised delight in his voice. Quick girls, come look! Jeff called, urgent yet tender. We left what we were doing, scrambled into the kitchen, and followed his gaze through the slatted blinds. I picked up our three-year old so he could see the feathered, fuzzy head of a baby sparrow perched on our windowsill.
It sat there unaware of our family huddled over the kitchen sink on the other side of the glass. Then it flitted, first to a nearby tree, then away and beyond our view, off to bear witness elsewhere.
Jesus once taught about sparrows. Not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father, Matthew records him saying. Not one of them is forgotten before God, wrote Luke.
Jesus could’ve phrased it in a universal blanket statement that would be just as true. “Every sparrow is remembered.” But it’s as if he knew there are those who could read, “God loves the world” and think, of course God’s love is for all people— just not me. Or that there would be moments we feel though God’s care never ceases, it kind of has right now.
So he says, No, not ONE sparrow is forgotten. No, not even ONE falls apart from him. And the good news is that you are of more value than many sparrows.
I don’t know if things have felt noisy to you lately, but they have for me. My thoughts fly disordered between how a grieving friend is doing to the theological problem of suffering to NY Times headlines to what prominent Christians are writing to whether or not my faith will endure. So I’ve been asking God to cut through the noise and simply remind me of his love.
His care shown in creation, his gift of breath and life, his burden-bearing on the cross. These all testify to God’s unwavering love for us and those we love. Even the birds beckon, Come and look.
The older saint you love in the nursing home is not forgotten by him.
The prodigal living under your roof— not out of his reach.
Your grieving friend and exhausted health care co-worker— never out of his mind.
Your sick family member— there is not a moment when his care falters.
And you— worth far more than many sparrows.
Full text through link in bio.
I am bristling lately whenever I catch a whiff of someone claiming there is a silver lining to COVID-19.
There are reasons to be thankful in the midst of tragedy. People are writing about less pollution or reprioritizing and learning new skills. Some are enjoying family or time outside. I get it— we have (and need) reasons to smile even now.
Yet in the tougher moments, I chafe at attempts at humor and cheerfulness. Inspiring stories from the hospitals grieve instead of comfort me. Not one of the supposed silver linings can quell my rising anxiety for our loved ones.
I don't need platitudes that we will make it through stronger. I don't need more calls to action. I definitely don't need hints that I should try to find the bright side.
Not as the virus has already claimed over 81,000 lives globally. Not as it ravages my city. Not as family members and friends are in danger working in hospitals. Not as people we know have died and are fighting for their lives.
This is no fluffy ball of cotton set against a picturesque sunset. This is a terror that overtakes the sky, swirling and threatening to touch down and rip buildings out from their foundations.
There is no silver lining here.
But this week the Church walks toward Good Friday, and I'm hopeful that’s where I'll be given what I need.
I need to see Jesus’ tears, to know him as a man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief.
I need to hear the wailing women give me permission to lament. To feel in my gut that death devastates because it entered the world unnaturally through sin.
I need the torn temple curtain reminding me that God is now near. He sees, he knows, he cares, he acts.
I need to sit in the paradox of grief and gratitude, of it being both “good” and the most horrendous event in history.
I need to feel that God’s purposes are not shallow, not the stuff of memes and feeble attempts to lighten the mood. They are mysterious and weighty, good and wise, comprehensive and unsearchable.
I need to recall the one death that defanged death itself and brings hope beyond the grave.
I need the cross because there was no silver lining to it. There was resurrection, and that’s a completely different story.
A few months ago, God said no. I’d been praying he would stop something from happening, something that would harm people I care deeply about but was powerless to control. But what I feared might happen did happen, and it sent me into a funk.
This isn’t my first encounter with unanswered prayer, but this one hit hard. Perhaps because I was weary. Perhaps it was because it seemed like all God had to do was one simple thing and all would be well. Now because he didn’t, people would suffer for it. So, echoing Jesus’ storm-tossed disciples, I leveled my own charge against God, hurling it as a question.
Don’t you care?
Jeff spoke today on the raising of Lazarus, and of Jesus’ lingering when his friends called for him to heal the dying man. Jesus arrives, too late and without apology, and the grieving sister’s words spoken at Jesus’ feet resound with me.
Lord if you had been here my brother wouldn’t have died.
Her words are an indictment. Jesus, you could’ve done something. You say you loved him, but you didn’t answer.
John seems to anticipate this apparent contradiction between Jesus’ love and his purposeful delay. He gives us insight on Jesus’ intentions up front. “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.” Jesus didn’t linger because he didn’t care.
He loved them, so he stayed— and his friend died.
Not but, so.
This difficult word is written for we who wonder if the unanswered prayers to spare us from suffering are a sign of God’s indifference. “So” tells us that our trials aren't due to God’s anger or his cooly calculated plans for his glory. All things in his plan, even our suffering, comes from perfect love.
“Remember this”, Charles Spurgeon once wrote, “had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there.”...// Read full text through link in bio.