I WAS ONLY SIX YEARS OLD when my paternal grandmother died, so I didn’t learn her story until years later. I discovered she fled communism in Europe, and emigrated to Canada to live with my parents. She had an ulcerated leg that never healed. I remember my mother bandaging it daily, but I eventually heard the rest of the story.
My grandmother had been widowed twice. She had ten children, and buried nine of them. My father (the eldest of her surviving children) died at 48 years old. I was shocked. I don’t know of anyone who suffered more than my grandmother. How did she respond? I remember her sitting by the window with a Bible on her lap. Tears trickled down her face, but she kept a strong faith in the Lord. Somehow, her suffering did not change her trust in God.
Clearly, we don’t understand everything that happens, especially to God’s people. However, our perplexity leads to a series of common, understandable, and complex questions.
Lorraine Yaslowitz was married to Jeffrey, a police officer in St. Petersburg, Florida. One day, Jeffrey was called to apprehend a criminal who was hiding in an attic. During the shootout, Officer Yaslowitz, a Christian, was killed. He left behind a young wife and baby. Can we make any sense of this?
James Dobson once said, “We would all get along better in this world if we realized that we live in a fallen world.” That’s a profound and very true statement. Ever since Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, there has been trouble, suffering, sickness — and death. It impacts everyone. No exceptions. Romans 5:12 reminds us, “Sin entered the world because one man sinned. And death came because of sin. Everyone sinned, so death came to all people” (New International Reader’s Version).
We don’t like to think about death, but it’s real. On January 31, 2005, my wife (Helen) stood on the driveway (blowing me kisses) as I left home. I was going to church to teach a seminary class. Driving down the street, I could see her from my rear view mirror (waving at me) until the car turned the corner. When I returned home, I was surprised to find the front door locked. Helen usually unlocked it in anticipation of my return. “Helen,” I called out. No answer. “HELEN,” I called louder. Still, no answer. When I walked around the corner into the kitchen, I saw Helen lying on the floor. She was in Heaven.
You cannot fathom the emotion and grief that overtook me. Helen and I had a 45-year honeymoon. We didn’t fight. We only loved each other. I never got over the thrill of being married to her. Now I was alone.
Death is real. We live in a fallen world, and we need to face that there is suffering in this world — and it hits everyone; the righteous and the unrighteous alike.