Faith and TRAGEDY

MY NAME IS Jon—that’s a picture of me below, with my wife Rachel and our youngest daughter Lois. Beautiful, aren’t they? I’m sorry to tell you though—this story has a sad beginning. On the 15 of September last year, just 8 months ago, aged 2½, our precious daughter Lois died from a large brain tumour. She’d kept the tumour as her little secret and we had just 7 days’ notice, from her first symptoms to her last breath.

We miss her more than words can say, Lois was so much fun, cheeky, outgoing and stunningly beautiful. We saw no difference in her development to our other children and I loved everything about her: I loved the way she’d pinch my chair when I left the room; I’d love to come back into the room to see her broad cheeky smile that not even her thumb could hide. I loved the way she’d hide the TV controls and always in the same place, every time. Though I knew they were up her jumper it was still great fun guessing where she’d put them.

How is it possible to have faith in God in the face of such circumstances? How is it possible to believe when the unbelievable is actually happening to you? If there is a God, what kind of God must he be like to put us through what we’ve been through?

When I start to ask these questions, when my eyes fill up with tears and my heart fills up with doubts, there’s a place I go to and find comfort, peace, fulfilment and answers. It sounds strange to say—almost weird—but I look in my mind’s eye to a place on a hill just outside Jerusalem, back some 2,000 years ago, and there I look and I see a man, a real man, and he’s dying too; he’s in agony, he has a crown of thorns pushed into his head, the blood streams down his battered face, he is crying out in pain as he hangs on a cruel Roman cross. But as I look and when I fix my eyes on this bleeding and bruised man, beaten beyond recognition, I start to see something quite clearly. I see something that starts to lift the clouds of doubt and the mists of my fear. I can see something here I see nowhere else, something that makes sense of all that we’ve been through over the past 8 months.

You’re failing to see the connection, aren’t you? Let me explain: this man on the cross was no ordinary man: he was Jesus, God the Son. Just as I asked the question earlier, “What kind of God would let us go through what we’ve been through,” so, when I look at the cross, I have to ask a similar question: “What kind of God would give his only Son to die in such a cruel way for me? What kind of God would be prepared to forgive my rebellion against him and open up a way for me to have a real relationship with him? What kind of God would do such a thing?” I can only conclude: a good God, a loving God, kind, considerate, merciful and gracious. Though the cross was the darkest hour in history, it throws the brightest light onto what God is like! Through what seemed a pointless death, millions of people have been saved from a meaningless life and a hopeless future. God achieved his saving purpose for this world through what seemed a tragedy; God is a purposeful God—he even achieved the greatest good from the greatest act of evil: his Son’s death. If he achieved this, then my life, my death, my future, my Lois are in safe hands. I don’t know why Lois died, but what I do know about God helps me accept the things I don’t. I’m happy to trust God more than I trust my own feelings. Rachel and I have a real faith in a real God, our faith in such a loving, powerful and purposeful God has brought us forgiveness for our past, purpose for our present and a sure hope for our future.

Jon Pearse