That's just over two days of darkness. Can you imagine how horrible that would be? Nothing but being stuck without relief for days on end.
And then suddenly... light, and people, and care, and nourishment. Your entire world changes in the blink of an eye.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. (Revelation 21:1-3)I was watching video footage from a pastor the other day in Haiti, and he shared how just moments before a boy was shot on the streets. Not even an hour before the pastor had bought all the boy's ice cream - 200+ bars - and given them away to local kids. The boy went away and then came back with more, but was shot on the street and left dead while people walked around. Then the camera panned over and showed the scene... a boy in the street, with blood around him.
I didn't know how to respond.
My 8-year-old son did, though. Granted, I didn't show him the footage I saw that afternoon... but later that night we got on the topic of how hard things have gotten for the community of Haiti as they're trying to survive. I said, "One of the reasons we only drank water last week was to remind us of what is happening over there and that we're responsible to love our neighbor... to think of a way to take care of those who are hurting." He asked a bit about that, and assumed all would be fine since "We've sent help over."
My son began to cry... really, really, cry. I didn't expect that, but it was absolutely appropriate. He asked through his tears, "Is he alright?"
I knew my answer was about to change him. "Actually, no. He... well, he ended up dying." My son's tears began to pour out, and my wife and I tried to comfort him without losing the sobriety of this learning curve. "Joshua, you're absolutely right for crying over that," I said, moving closer. "There's a reason why you feel that way, and it's because God feels the same way about tragedy like this."
Did you know that?
In the second to last chapter of the Bible, we read this description of what the end of things as they currently are will be like before they begin to become something entirely better:
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."” (Revelation 21:4)
The things that cause us suffering now - death, pain, mourning - will one day...
On what basis is this claim made?
The resurrection of Jesus Christ Himself from the dead.
Out of all the things we call "evil" in the world - poverty, war, abuse, relational pain, disease, and ultimately death itself - only one of them is unique... death is the only one that can never be avoided.
- Some are born into poverty, but they can be brought out of it.
- Wars occur when one force attempts to overtake another, but they can be ended.
- Abuses happen when one individual belittles the value of another, but they can be halted.
- Relational pain takes place when one life creates wounds to another life in proximity to it, but they can be held off and reconciled.
- Disease will often ravage a person or a people group, but they can be fought with medicine and hygiene.
He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." (Revelation 21:5)
When a rescue happens in Haiti, people cheer... for we have taken part in the miracle of "defeating death." Truly, though, only Jesus has done this completely in that as God He not only suffered and died on our behalf, He also came to life again and defeated death itself. Which means if He can defeat the strongest of evils, then He can defeat all the rest.
Why does He not do so sooner? Or in a way that minimizes suffering? Or as we would do it if we had His power? The Bible doesn’t say.
Doesn't that suck sometimes?
So since we don't know the answer to this, does this mean there isn't one?
Philosopher William Alston gets at it this way:
Suppose that some of the very best scientists in the world come up with a new theory about quantum physics. Suppose I, as a non-physicist, look at their theory and say, “Because I cannot figure it out, they must be wrong.” It’s possible they might be wrong, but I have no real basis for knowing.
Alston’s point is simply that we are not in a position to assume that if an infinite God has reasons for allowing evil, then we as finite and fallible beings should be able to figure them out. And because we cannot assume this, any argument which does—such as the approach identified above—has not proved anything at all.
What we are certain about, though, is an end of the story that is not rooted in wishful thinking. Rather, it is rooted in a cosmic battle that has already taken place, a battle in which Jesus has defeated the worst of all evils... death itself. He not only comforts us in our present suffering, but who will one day come again and defeat suffering in all its forms. How amazing is that?
This - and nothing less - is the assurance that belongs to those who embrace His embrace, making Jesus their Lord and Savior.
So I'll end all of this discussion on another tragedy of sorts... one that involved the family of singer Steven Curtis Chapman. They've been in the news over the past couple of years specifically regarding the tragic loss of their 5-year-old daughter Maria, their youngest adopted daughter, who had been accidentally struck in the family's driveway by one of her brothers returning home in his truck.
Chapmans new album, entitled "Beauty Will Rise," became his personal testament to Maria's life and the overwhelming assurance that they will be together again one day. It must be nothing short of a miracle to attempt to find and somehow discover redemptive words for such pain. I ache for his ache... and am humbly silent at his praise.
found underneath the rubble.
He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. (Revelation 21:7-8)