Devotional 5: Facing the Why Questions
(Excerpted from Confessions of a Grieving Christian by Zig Ziglar, pp. 72-84)
**Christiana's name has been substituted for Ziglar's daughter Suzan**
GOD CAN HANDLE OUR ASKING
We Christians have the comfort of knowing that God did not "take" our loved one. I believe Christiana's** time to be with the Lord has come. It has been foreordained. God knew the day He was going to call her home before she was even born. The Bible tells us that God does not take the death of a loved one lightly. Actually, His heart is the first of all hearts to break because He knows the pain that will come to the friends and family of the departed one. No, God did not take your loved one, as we know He did not take Christiana. Rather, He called her life, He now shares in the even greater joys of her presence with Him. Just as the Lord shared in the joys that we knew in our relationship with Christiana on this earth, He shares in the pain that we experience in the aftermath of the death.
God's motive toward us - not only in every moment of our lives but also in death - is love. Love is His very nature, His character, His temperament, His reason for all action. It is out of His love that He creates us and plans our lives. It is by His love that He fulfills each person's purpose and reason for being.
As a Christian, I believe Psalm 139:16 (NLT) as never before: "You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single moment passed." The concept is that God has a departure date for all of us. He knows the exact time we will enter eternity.
You can do many things to increase the quality of your life, but the time of your earthly departure is not yours to determine. What that moment comes, God will not be the least bit surprised. It is part of His plan for you. Let me encourage you to consider that fact, especially if you are wondering whether there is anything you could have done to prolong your loved one's life or if you are feeling guilty that you were in some way neglectful or that you contributed to your loved one's death.
My belief in Psalm 139:16 removes any feelings of guilt as far as Christiana's death is concerned. We loved her as much as any parents can love their child, and we repeatedly expressed their love to her. We provided her with the best medical care available. We prayed without ceasing that God's will would be done, but our fervent hope was that God would work a miracle and return our Christiana to vibrant health. We did everything we could to keep her with us as long as possible. But in the end, God had ordained the number of her days.
As I reflect on our loss, I realize that as much as we loved Christiana, God loves her more. She is His child, and a loving God would not trust His child's eternal well-being even to parents who deeply loved her. Our faith assures us that God said no to our prayers for her life on earth so He could completely heal her and give her the eternal reward He promised to those who believe. God is good.
When we accept this fact about God's sovereignty and God's providence, we will find ourselves relieved of any responsibility we may have placed on ourselves regarding a loved one's death. As far as I know, not once has any member of our family asked the questions or made the statements, "Maybe we should have..." or "If only..." or "Why didn't we...?" or "Maybe we could have..."
To know that God is in control of the number of our days gives us an assurance and a hope, even though we may not receive information or a reason. Given the option of having assurance or information, I'll take assurance any time! With assurance, I can trust God with the information.
GOD DOES NOT PERCEIVE TIME THE WAY WE DO
. . . So often, we focus our attention only on one phase of a loved one's life. To do so is to miss the greater whole.
If we concentrate solely on a loved one's pain and suffering, the physical appearance is the result of an accident or wasting disease, or the loss of function, we will continue to live in a nightmare of gruesome and sad memories. It is wiser and grief-relieving to put this period of the person's life into the perspective of his entire life. Although this season might have lasted for days, weeks, months, or even years, it was only a season of his life. I encourage you to bring up memories that are from seasons in which the loved one's health, appearance, mental state, and emotional state were good, even superior! Recall the person when he lived with vitality, energy, laughter, loving actions toward others, and ongoing praise and worship of the Lord. Concentrate on the good times, the family jokes, the moments of merriment, and the sweet memories of times spent together. Choose to be encouraged that most of the seasons of a loved one's life were very likely good seasons.
And if your loved one never experienced any of the above, take comfort in the fact that he now has a glorified body that will enjoy perfect health, total peace, and absolute joy throughout eternity. All that the loved one experiencedd in this life was experienced in only a fleeting moment against the unending panorama of heaven. Against the length of eternity, our time spent on this earth cannot even be mathematically calculated. This forever season of a loved one's life so far overshadows even his best seasons of life on earth that they cannot be compared.
If our departed ones could come back to us and tell us about their experiences with the Lord in heaven, I feel certain they would tell us three things. First, they would tell us to concentrate on the way they were when they were at their best in this life. Second, they would tell us to enjoy our lives to the fullest and choose to fill them with the best memories and experiences possible. Third, they would tell us to spend more time getting to know Christ better.
This approach is not denying the reality or even the benefit of grief, but it is putting the focus on a person's whole life. While we can do nothing to bring back a loved one, we can bring to our minds and hearts the fond memories of happy occasions so we can continue to produce more such memories for ourselves and our other loved ones who still walk this earth with us.