(April 20) How To Handle Days of Despair, Sadness, and Loss -- a meditation on Hebrews 13:14
Like everyone in Oklahoma, my memories of April 19, 1995, have been relived this week on the 23rd Anniversary of the Murrah Building bombing. As we all do, I remember right where I was when the explosion took place. I had just finished my prayer hour in my church's twenty-four intercessory prayer room. As I was walking back toward my office, I heard the explosion, obviously, having no idea what it was. In the age before I had internet, before Facebook and Twitter, I just went about my business without knowing the details.
It wasn't long before a church member called to tell us what the news was saying. I wheeled a television on a cart into my office and began to watch the coverage. I don't think any of us have words to describe the shock, horror, and fear we all felt that day.
While I have never experienced such a combination of evil and destruction as personal as that day, unfortunately, we have all seen many more examples of such wickedness. We all experienced similar emotions on September 11, 2001. We have felt similar dread, shock, and sadness at shootings that have taken place in schools and concerts as well as other public displays of terrorism.
When these kinds of horrific events take place, my heart immediately goes to Hebrews 13:14: “Here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come.” Now, I need to confess something. I love my life. I have a wife that I am madly in love with, and we have enjoyed nearly 22 years of an imperfect, but exceedingly wonderful marriage. I have two sons that are the joy of my life. My sons are imperfect like the rest of us, but they have brought me so much joy and happiness. They love the Lord, honor their parents, and deal with the obvious struggles that come with being a Pastor’s son. I love my job. I am not exaggerating or just trying to sound noble when I say this; it is simply the truth. If I were given $10 million dollars tonight, I would absolutely be in the office the next morning. And the next morning. And the next.
I say that because I don’t want you to misunderstand what I am about to say. My life is far from perfect, and I live with substantial burdens and pressure. The life of a pastor is all-consuming. The joy is unspeakable, and sometimes so is the weight. However, I want you to know that I love the life God has given me. Having said that, I cannot wait for the Lord to return. I eagerly anticipate being lifted from this world and welcomed into heaven. I am tired of the violence, the hatred, the debauchery, the hypocrisy, and the evil. I am weary of watching the news and learning of the latest ways sinful people have chosen to act out in rebellion against the Lord.
When I hear of school shootings or any similar tragedy, all I could think of is, “Once again, I am reminded that this earth is not my home. I am seeking the city which is to come.” As long as there is life in this fallen world, there will be sinners. And where there are sinners, there will be expressions of hatred. And where there is hatred, there will be senseless displays of crime. It is a sad reality of this fallen planet.
We all long for a day when there will be no more violence. No more crime. No more senseless murders. No more stealing. No more funerals and no more need for jails. That day WILL come. But, simply put, that “city” is not here. Oh, make no mistake, that city will exist and that day will come. But, it is not yet.
Days like April 19, 1995, and September 11, 2001, make me long for that city. I long for it every time I hear a couple I care about is divorcing. I long for it every time I prepare to preach another funeral service. I long for it every time a friend tells me they have been diagnosed with cancer. I long for it every time I feel broken over my own sin. And so, the question must be asked, What do we do until we reach that city?
We live. We hope. We anticipate. We prepare. We live in the moment and do our best to enjoy each day. We hope in the sustaining grace of our Savior. We anticipate the coming of the Lord Jesus. We prepare for eternity by storing up treasures in heaven and holding loosely to the things of this world.
Our world is full of examples of people who have lost so much. But, as believers, we have not lost everything. If we know Christ, we still have hope. While life on this earth may hurt so much it feels like you cannot take another step, you CAN know that there is hope. The hope is in the city which is to come. I am praying the events of this world will not make you paralyzed by fear, but rather will make you long for heaven all the more.
So, I will live on this earth. I will enjoy the blessings the Lord has given me. I will cry when my heart breaks. I will hug my wife and sons daily. I will do my best to laugh with those who laugh and weep with those who weep. But, I will also try to remind myself every day that while I will strive to live an abundant life and live it to the fullest, I will do so only while waiting for my true home and eternal reward. I will live with hope while I also anticipate a new home in that city which is to come!
Come quickly, Lord Jesus!