A Hope to Bank On

969181_10151994368318136_1715203011_nIt was two years ago tonight that Jeremy’s body failed to thrive and we had to say a very difficult goodbye. This remembrance will always be bittersweet as we grieve our loss and his gain, acknowledging what we have missed out on by not having him with us yet realizing how our faithful God has continued to bless us with good things despite his absence. When I let myself soak in the memories of him–the memories of those weeks in the hospital and the many years of life that I shared with him–I still can’t believe this is my story. This isn’t how I would have written it. Jeremy’s death, to me, is a permanent heartache.

Last week I took to listening to the final message that Jeremy ever preached. It was February 2012 at CityLife Church. As I was listening, I was busy doing things around the house. Thirty minutes in to the message I found myself stopped and teary at the weight of his words and the implications for both his life and my own.

These were Jeremy’s words:

“…God is with us. He is with us. He is sad that we’re sad. He knows what it is to hurt and He knows how to redeem it. One could say He specializes in making the pain matter. That He alone truly knows how to best bring good from bad….

So ‘is the heart of God good?’ …Yes, the heart of God is very good.
But ‘is the heart of God good for me?’ That all depends.

431515_10150540468136962_72948461_nBut it only depends on how you answer the next question. And not how you answer it with your words but how you answer it in your bones. It’s how this question is answered deep inside you that counts. You ask, ‘is the heart of God good for me?’ And I ask, ‘Are you His?  Are you His?’ That’s the question. Do you belong to Him? Because if you’re His, you’ve got nothing to worry about. The Good Shepherd can be trusted to shepherd His sheep and His Father can be trusted to care for His own. And His Spirit can be trusted to let you know that you belong to Him. Our passage from Romans 8 speaks of this…..’for you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry “Abba, Father!”‘ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. And if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ’. The spirit of adoption as sons by whom we cry “Abba” –the aramaic word for “daddy”. The Dad who did not spare His own son; who with Him promises to give us all things; who assures us that nothing can separate us from His love.”

And here following are the words that struck me most….

IMG_2982“This is the God we are surprised to find in our pain. Our pain says that we should find a God who thunders and smokes, where men and animals die as they set foot on the mountain. For a God who allows such suffering as we encounter in this life must be scary, indeed. And at first He does scare us. And right He should. For as the prophet asks in Lamentations, ‘What living man should complain when punished for his sins?’ And in suffering we feel the weight of our sinfulness perhaps more strongly than we do when we are well. But when the smoke clears, and instead of finding ourselves alone in the middle of the valley of the shadow of death where we expected to be, we find ourselves mysteriously on top the mountain of God with God Himself. We can’t help but laugh a little when we realize we’re not dead. Much more the fact that the Father Himself holds us in His arms. He has invited us to a banquet. For His Son has made us co-heirs with Him in His kingdom and we are going home. Ours is a fairytale ending. In our flesh we shall see God and we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is. The silver is pure. The coals in the furnace are cold. The crucible is broken and there is no more pain. There are no more tears. There is no more death. And it is just the beginning. ‘We are to consider the sufferings of this present time’–which may be substantial–‘not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed to us’. That is what Paul says. I John 3 says that ‘he who hopes in God in this way purifies himself.’ This hope in Him has a purifying effect. Like the crucible in the flame. This is the kind of hope that I’m banking on….”

The thought of Jeremy speaking these words in anticipation of what would one day be his reality undid me in knowing that it came much sooner than any of us wanted. Yet the timing of his death in no way took away from the fulfillment of that hope in him.

IMG_3694I can hear his laughter at waking up on the other side of the grave and finding himself not dead. I can see and feel his unspeakable joy.
And I rejoice that the hope he had entirely paid off. Ours will, too, friends. It will indeed (though the tears still fall).

“The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a good inheritance.” Psalm 16: 6

[To hear Jeremy’s full message “In Uz With Abba: Is It Worth It?, click here.]