During the week before Christmas I was the on-call chaplain at Morehead Hospital here in Eden. On Sunday morning, just as I was leaving for church I received a page from the ER. When I answered the call I was told that a two-month old baby girl had just died suddenly and I was needed "stat." I arrived to a scene I will never forget. I have been a pastor for over 37 years and I have rarely seen such distraught people over any kind of death. It was very sad and it certainly was a difficult situation in which to minister. What do you say to parents and gran-parents that have just lost their baby after she got a clean bill of health from the doctor three days before? The police were there as a matter of routine and they looked like they felt as awkward as I did. That little child was so beautiful and the family was so upset, I had to silently ask God "why?" We can all come up with explanations both theological and medical but none of them can really speak to a hurting family (or even a very human minister!).
Three days later I received another page that called me back to the hospital. There had been another sudden death but this time it was a 92 year-old woman. I saw joy on the faces of this family (the son and his wife) as they were so grateful for having their mother as long as they did and for her good health right up until the end. They were ready to let her go and they know where she was. It was easy for me to minister in such a situation. Having lost my parents, I could identify with them and feel both their pain and their joy.
In the span of a few days I had seen the contrast of two similar yet different deaths. As we enter into 2012 we know that we will encounter all sorts of painful and joful experiences. In all of these situations the believer in Christ can be sure of at least two things: First of all, we can now that nothing happens to us that does not pass through the hands of God first. It is difficult for me to "blame" God for the death of a little baby but it is even harder for me to accept that this was a random event that God could not prevent. Somehow we all must learn and accept the fact that the Lord knows best. There is much we do not know but we know the One who does know and that is good enough for me.
Secondly, we can know that the end result of all that happens to us will be for our good and for the furtherance of God's kingdom (Romans 8:28). Sometimes we can piece together events and see how they worked for the best. At other times we just have to wait until we "know even as we are also known". (I Corinthians 13:12)
A good way to enter the New Year is to say and live "Jesus is Lord". I am not much for New Year's resolutions but a fresh commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ is a great idea. I hope and pray that you will join me in surrendering once again (or maybe for the first time) to the God who loves us and sent His Son to save us.