After my sophomore year in high school (at Gallia Academy in Gallipolis, Ohio), I moved to southern West Virginia where I completed my high school experience at Marsh Fork High School in Montcoal. Those were memorable years for me and I am deeply thankful for the friendships that I made during that time.
Naturally, when I heard about the explosion there last week I was deeply grieved over the pain of those who lost loved ones. When talking with a friend from there who continues to be deeply involved in the healing and grieving process for the families of those who died as well as miners who survived, she shared with me that people are relying heavily on God for comfort and strength (for which I am truly thankful). A similar reaction seemed indicated here locally by the Daily Tribune for the family and friends of Josh Napper who also passed away in the accident.
This unexpected and sorrowful loss for so many is a heart-wrenching reminder of the fragility of life and the fact that at any moment of any day, we might either be breathing our last or may be facing a loss that could forever change our world.
Nevertheless, God, Who gives us life but then also requires it of us again, is not removed from our suffering and unable to sympathize with our pain but He walks with us in times of sorrow and heartache, and through His Son gives us a glimpse of something that goes beyond our days on earth and will outlast even the stars in the sky.
Nor is He dispassionate about our need for hope for eternity; He invites us in the short time that we have on earth to become free from the weight of sin and experience an eternal sense of security that only His forgiveness through Jesus Christ can give us.
So, from an eternal point of view, it matters little whether one is deep in a coal mine in West Virginia, a rubble-ladened street in Haiti, Chile or western China, or is standing by the crumpled form of a beloved child who is breathing her last in a cold and sterile hospital room.
The God Who revealed Himself in the Bible as the One Who sent His Son to die in our place for our sin is the same God Who by His Spirit holds for us purpose for living beyond even our most bitter loss.
The God Who raised His Son from the grave and made Him victorious over death is the same God Who assures us that He accompanies us in our tragedies and will walk with us through the night of heartache to a dawn of new hope and joy.
This is the same God who promises to keep for all those who trust Him as Savior and Lord a reserved place in His presence forever, a place where pain is healed, grief is forgotten, and fear is unknown.
Jesus said, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. In My Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am" (John 14:1-3 NIV).
And what a hope we have in that presence! Nothing on our worn and weary world can compare to the beauty and the bliss that awaits the children of God!
"The dwelling of God (will be) with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. 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…. These words are trustworthy and true" (Revelations 21:3-4, 5b NIV).
Our brief time on planet earth is our window of opportunity to get things settled for eternity. Let us not squander our few and precious moments on pouring ourselves into things that will have no bearing on that future, but let us joyfully walk with God now. Let us celebrate His perfect love by turning to Jesus as Savior and Lord and then allow Him to make Himself known through our lives as we share and care for others with the love He lavishes upon us in all the mercies that we daily receive as well as the flood of grace He has unleashed upon us through the cross of Jesus Christ.
And let us drink deeply from the wellspring of His Word, be encouraged by His promises, and commit ourselves to His keeping as His Holy Spirit works in us the awesome feat of preparing us for an eternity that we each will shortly enter. Let us all be reminded that no matter what loss we have endured, no matter what burdens we have borne, no matter the wounds that we each may have suffered, God is good and offers us each a balm of healing, comfort and hope for the future that calamity, hate, and pain cannot take away from us. God is good… He offers us the gift of Himself. Let us accept and cherish that gift as more precious than wealth or health and let us return to Him the gift of true worship in every sphere of life.
"A voice says, 'Cry out.' And I said, 'What shall I cry?' 'All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of our God stands forever.'…. See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and His arm rules for Him. See, His reward is with Him, and His recompense accompanies Him. He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart" (Isaiah 40:6-8, 10-11a NIV).