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Let me take you back to a possible scenario in the first century church in Jerusalem. The pastor walks into church on a sabbath day worship. He greets the congregation. His heart is full and heavy. He is lost for words. Among the many pale and scared survivors of persecution, there are two women sitting in the pew that he is especially concerned about that day. One grieving the death of her husband James, who was beheaded by Herod and the other rejoicing the miraculous deliverance of her husband Peter from the prison, whom Herod had imprisoned. The Pastor knows that the teaching of the people of “the way” said Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. Romans 12:15.
He did not think he could do both the rejoicing and mourning on the same service, same day, while scanning the faces of both wives sitting on the same pew. If persecution was raging on the outside of those walls, equally gruesome was the bitter sweet atmosphere that morning inside the walls. The pastor had to rejoice and mourn with the same breath. It was bitter and sweet; blissful and brief; grief and gaiety on the soul, and he wondered if the Lion and the Lamb himself would come down to deal with that messy merriment.
Fast forward centuries, last Sunday in church I didn’t think I could have faced this sorrowful ache when Philip and Becky, dear friends who helped us immensely with the slideshow and video in our daughter Hannah’s funeral, shared their testimony of a miraculous protection from a fatal accident. While driving down from a vacation spot in the mountains their truck collided and overturned. As Philip recounted the story on Sunday afternoon, his wife Becky and the kids Isaiah and Hannah on his side, I looked up from the pew, holding my Shalom close to me.
Every account of accidents make me cringe inside as I relive the horror of the fatal one where I, the sole survivor, watched my daughter die in my hands, screaming to her to stay with me, begging to God to spare her and crying out to the streets, from the wreck for help needed.
Philip’s story was still continuing when I gasped out to reality from the recoil, four-month old Shalom still in my hands, her grip tight around my pinkie, her eyes searching my face to absorb the familiar smiles that had turned pale and morbid.
Sometimes when we gasp to reality from the recoil, we discover the great Shalom whose grip was always there, even when we flinched away.
Philip continued to testify how their dog ran away from the site, out of fear. Their daughter Hannah who treasured Savanna their dog, grieved in the next few days for the dog. The family went back and drove around the area every day in the next few days to search for Savanna. Hannah grieved everyday and Philip with tearful eyes recounted the miracle of all miracles when he crumbled to the floor one day to hand over Hannah’s pain, which had now become the family’s pain to Jesus and how at that same hour that night, the dog was coming home from the woods to a family. The families connected the next day and the dog was home.
I saw Hannah by Philip’s side crying silently, moved by her father’s testimony. From the corner of my eye I watched Becky reaching and gathering Hannah, as I gathered what is left of Shalom’s fingers and drew her close to my heart that was cringing. I rejoiced with Philip’s Hannah on her miracle of getting Savanna back from the woods, and I ached with my Shalom who never got to see her big sister Hannah.
The same God who brought the dog back home to Philip and Beck’s Hannah, turned his ears away from my cries to revive my Hannah 7 years ago, this same month. It was my time to rejoice and mourn, it was my time to breathe in the bliss and the brevity, to re-live the grief and embrace the gaiety. I have sat down with a best friend and played baby shower games, and rejoiced in the life within her, days from having suffered a miscarriage and my womb washed clean of the life within.
The scalpels scouring your tissue can cleanse out the remains of life within you , but grasping the sovereignty of God can numb the tissues of your soul to gather the remains of life around you.
That night my husband preached on the sovereignty of God, the attribute of God that helps you withstand and weather the storms of life. When life is snatched away, soul can become alive to the purposes of God. Having walked the shadows of death you realize you have become alive than before. More alive to the purposes of God than ever before.
You can rejoice and mourn at the same time when you let go of what’s being snatched away and embrace the Shalom (peace of God) that grips your soul.
Maybe, Shalom would have never come if Hannah had not been snatched away.