Today, our daughter Jill was heading back home to Oklahoma with her son, Drew. We headed to the airport to eat lunch and see them off. After I parked the car, we went in to assist Jill with the suitcases and stroller, etc. I was handed a copy of this morning’s USA Today and there, splashed across the entertainment/life section, was a quote by Maria Shriver, “I’m in Transition.” It seems that she and her husband, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Governor of California, are calling it quits after 25 years of marriage. Their son, undoubtedly in an attempt to minimize the impact to the family, indicated that it was good the family owned Hummers, so they could cruise right over the speed bumps of life. Good luck with that! It seems that Arnold knows exactly what he wants to do – make movies! He has already signed on for three of them after his term is over. But Maria – she really doesn’t know what to do – I guess you could say that she is stuck – and she doesn’t have any peace. And speaking of peace, we found out that Jill’s flight had been cancelled, so she will be with us another day, until she tries tomorrow to get home again. And she is not peaceful about the delay.
And now, about a tough transition that started yesterday…. I received a call this morning that a company needed help for their employees who were dealing with the death of a co-worker. And as this news was filtering through the organization yesterday, little did anyone know that a second co-worker would die last night. That’s right – two unrelated deaths at the same company in two days. Talk about transition. And I was able to re-arrange things to hopefully meet the needs of these suffering co-workers, who are now struggling with two shocking pieces of news so far this week – and it’s only Wednesday. But it did get me to thinking about how quickly our lives can change and how we can enter these uncomfortable transitions – when we need to feel God’s peace.
And as I headed to the south side, where the company is located, I could not help but once again reflect on why I went into ministry. It is for the times like this – when people receive unexpected news that turns their world upside down – that I can offer some semblance of comfort and reassurance; maybe even becoming a conduit for God’s peace.
In fact, as you may recall, my initial entry into seminary was the result of the death of an employee at one of my clients back in 1997. And each time I am called in to deal with suffering and pain, I am reminded of my own journey and all the losses I have suffered. In some small way, as painful as the memories are, it is clear to me that suffering is the price we pay for caring. The more your care, the more you suffer. Simple as that. And if you didn’t care, you wouldn’t suffer – and what a dull world this would be. But many times those sound like hollow words in the moment that a loss is revealed. Because something deep in each of us lets us know that our lives have been forever changed by what just happened – and peace eludes us.
Whether it is Maria and Arnold breaking up, or a family and co-workers dealing with the loss of a loved one, or any other type of transition, the path to suffering starts with the realization that your life will forever be changed by what just happened. But there are things we can do to ease the pain that people are going through. One of those things is to reinforce that God has a plan and that God loves us so much that he will put something in place to help us deal with our loss. I am reminded of Christ’s statement to the Apostles before he ascended to heaven. He said, in John 14:26-27, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
But just what does this mean to us as Christians? That first, God was a Spirit, and when man was ready, He transitioned to actually live among us in bodily form as Jesus Christ, and then again, as Jesus was getting ready to return to the Father, another transition – the Holy Spirit, indwelling us – actually in us. So, you see, God has drawn us closer to Him. First, He was above us and among us, in spirit – then, walking among us as Jesus – and now, even closer, as God in us! And notice that Christ left His peace with us when He departed. And that is what we must cling to in times like these – when we just can’t understand why God let something happen.
So my encouragement tonight is to try and trust God, rather than trying to figure out why something happened. Because God does know all the answers. I am fond of saying that I am on a “need to know” basis with God; and some things I just don’t need to know! And my prayer is that when you are going through the difficult transitions in life, you will feel the presence of God’s peace in your life. I know that is elusive, but it’s there, and adversity is sometimes the vehicle God uses to draw us closer to Himself. And, if you have a moment, I know the folks at this unnamed company would appreciate being covered with prayer support – so let’s really rally around them and lift them up; as well as the families of the deceased co-workers. I know they would be appreciative and also grateful to receive God’s peace.