Perspective on Death

It isn’t hard to imagine the pain she felt when her only son, not yet a full grown man, died. Grief. Fear. Anger. Confusion. As would any of us, I’m sure she questioned God intensely. “Where were you? Why did you let this happen? Don’t you care?”

Questions that would remain unanswered this side of eternity.

Or so she thought. As the men of the town carried the boy out to his burial, Jesus stepped onto the scene. “His heart was filled with pity for her,” as the King James Version puts it. He saw her grief. He recognized her fear. He felt her anger. He understood her confusion. “Do not weep,” he said. And then he exercised his power over death, and brought the boy back to life. (Luke 7:11-17)

Grief turned to joy. Fear to confidence. Anger to trust. Confusion to clarity. Jesus is Lord. He can do anything. We can trust him completely.

But to anyone who has lost a child, this story might be unsettling. Why that child, and not mine? Why that one, and not this one? Jesus, if you could do that then, why didn’t you do it now? Jesus, if you cared then, do you not now?

A family in our community recently said goodbye to their 8 month old baby girl. Her death was sudden, unexpected, not the result of a long borne illness. Many in our community prayed for a miracle that never came.

It is so very clear that we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. And how do we answer that lingering question, “Why?” What answer can we give to our own hearts when we feel the confusion? We can try and rely on the cliche answers. “She’s in a better place.” “It was just her time.” “God has a plan.” There is, of course, truth behind all those answers, but they feel shallow in the moment.

What answer can we give to our children, who don’t even have the abstract thinking to understand those well-worn responses to tragedy? How can we make clear to them that which we ourselves struggle to understand?

I’d love to be able to say that I’m heading toward a thought that really answers the question, “Why did Jesus raise that one and not this one?” but that wouldn’t be true. I don’t have that answer. I know that when Jesus raised the young man in the village of Nain, the news about Jesus spread and people came to faith. I know that when this daughter of our community died, many people came to the memorial service to hear words of comfort, and Law and Gospel were preached, and the Holy Spirit uses that to bring people to faith.

That’s all I know.

Well, not all. There’s one more thing I know, and it’s the thing that really does bring clarity to the confusion. Replaces anger with trust. Puts confidence in place of fear. Turns grief to joy.

I know that my Redeemer lives.

And I know that he is good.

Jesus died. He paid the price of my sins. He took the punishment I earned. He carried my guilt and buried it in his tomb. And then he beat Death at his own game, coming back to life. He has promised me that none who die in him remain dead, but live forever with him.

So this little girl is not truly dead, nor are any children of any grieving parents. They live on. It’s a change of geography – from this earth to heavenly realms. It’s a change of form – from sinful mortal to glorified saint. This is the answer. This is how I know Jesus is good. If he lets one of his believers – a child, an elder, anyone – pass from this earth, it is only ever good for them. It’ll be good for us, too, when the time comes.

Jesus’ resurrection puts this all into perspective. Jesus has a way of doing that.

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The other side of the story

I’m not usually inclined to pay a lot of attention to the shenanigans that take place on Reddit, a site that, as far as I can tell, is devoted to sharing with anonymous strangers all the things you find interesting, amusing, entertaining, or inappropriate. So, basically like Facebook, only they aren’t people you kinda sorta know/have met once/are related to.

But today someone posted something on Facebook about something that happened on Reddit (how’s that for going down the rabbit hole?) that really caught me. It caught me because I think it is illustrative of a much too common problem in our culture. Several problems, really, but all related, and all have a major impact on marriages.

I’ll explain what I mean in a moment. First, here’s what happened: A woman was on her way to the airport to go on a business trip. While in the taxi she received an email from her husband, a somewhat sarcastic rant about the fact that their sex life had become nearly non-existent, along with a spreadsheet in which he documented 7 weeks worth of his attempts to initiate sex and her response – usually excuses not to do it. The article that explained this presented just the facts, mostly in the form of quotes from the woman. But that is, of course, part of the problem – we have only her perspective on the issue. There’s no clear information about how long he’s been frustrated, how many times he’s brought it up, how she responded to his attempts to talk it through. All we have is the story of his – admittedly – terrible approach to dealing with the issue. So everyone can point the finger at the puerile and inconsiderate man.

I feel like I see this more and more, and it really bothers me – a husband and wife come into conflict, somehow the details become public online, and all we really get is the wife’s perspective on how awful her husband is. And I’ve seen this everywhere from friends posting about their own issues on Facebook to articles posted on sites like Huffington Post. Almost universally, the wife receives all manner of love and support and people join her in bad-mouthing the husband, and meanwhile we never really hear his side of the story.

The thing is, with this Reddit story I’m not sure I need the husband’s side of the story to have some serious questions about the woman’s character.

1. Why is a young wife with no kids withholding sex from her husband? This is actually a significant problem in marriages today. Marriage researchers estimate that about 15-20% of marriages could be defined as “sexless,” where the couple has sex 10 times or fewer in a year. But an anatomist will tell you that the average man needs a sexual release about every 72 hours. Which means that the ideal total for a year should be more like 100+.

2. Why is his frustration and record keeping such a surprise to her? Her husband regularly tried to initiate sex with her. She regularly rebuffed him. It’s one thing for sex to not be on a woman’s radar – for many women sex is only on the radar a few days out of the month unless she makes a conscious effort. It’s one thing for her to not be entirely aware of how infrequent it is – most women believe they make love with their husbands more often than they actually do. But she should have had at least an awareness that him asking for sex and her saying no was becoming a pretty common scenario.

3. Why is she sharing about it on Reddit!? I mean, really? Don’t wait until you can address it with him, just hop online and give everyone you don’t know the scoop? How is this a wise way to address the problem?

4. Why doesn’t she see herself as at least partially responsible? When a person feels they are in the wrong, it is not typical to go and smear the other person. Usually this kind of behavior is reserved for those who are oblivious to their own faults. It seems a little strange that she couldn’t look at something objective like a record of the high incidence in which she has said “no” and say to herself, “Gee, I kinda caused this, didn’t I?”

Here’s where I think all these things tie together: They all are a natural outgrowth of a growing culture that emphasizes female empowerment and female value while simultaneously devaluing male characteristics and roles. As our society lurches away from the traditional like it’s a bad small, it is naturally going to stumble into exactly this kind of problem – a marriage in crisis with a wife unable to see her role in the problem, looking instead to the world around her for validation and affirmation.

The problems with modern feminism and progressivism are points for a different day. But it is important to see how they have a tendency to hamper perspective. They make assumptions about who or what is at fault, and refuse to examine their own motives critically.

What if instead of viewing this through her own lens, and instead of giving it up to the people of the internet to look at it through their lenses, she had instead tried to look at it through her husband’s lens? What if she had made herself consider it all from his perspective? What if she had done so weeks, months before? Wouldn’t that have gone a long way to making this better?

We’re all a little myopic, though. We all have the tendency to only look at our own side of the story. We think we understand the situation perfectly already because we’ve examined it from our own perspective. But this story demonstrates two very important things:

  • We cannot afford to look at things only from our own perspective. Only God is omniscient and truly understands all things. We have to force ourselves to look at it from other ends. When we don’t, we’re likely to not realize that there’s a beam of wood sticking out of our own eye.

 

  • We cannot afford to listen to the world’s doctrine of who we are. In the case of this story, a negative outgrowth of progressive feminism seems to be at the root of the problem. Maybe in another case it is the libertarian approach to sexual activity that poisons a marriage. Or the addiction to entertainment or work or success that pull a couple’s focus from each other and onto other things. Whatever the case, Paul’s instruction remains valid, “Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world.”

How do we avoid these two big problems in our lives and in our marriages? Actually, it’s kinda simple: Gain a deeper understanding of the Gospel. Dive into what it really means that you are a sinner in desperate need of salvation, and that completely out of undeserved love God became that Savior for you. When you understand you are a sinner, you know your perspective cannot be 100% valid. When you know your Savior’s voice, you hear the falseness in the world.

I say this is simple because the Gospel is not a murky thing. The real murky thing is trying to get through life in this world without the Gospel. Am I good enough? Have I done enough? Who is right about what is right? How can that offer any perspective? Life without the Gospel is like, well, only seeing one side of the story – we can only see our failure, but not the solution.

The Gospel – the other side of the story – is crystal clear: Jesus saves you.

Happier Ever After?

A study has found that couples without children are happier than couples with children. The same study also found that women with children are happier by than women without children. And mothers are the happiest demographic overall.

Wait…

You can find the article here, and if you’re like me, those findings probably lifted an eyebrow or two. My first thought was, “This does not compute.” My second thought was to ask what implications and assumptions does this convey. Aren’t children a blessing from God? Isn’t it God’s will that godly couples be open to children? Does this finding suggest that God’s way is not actually the best way?

Continue reading “Happier Ever After?”