Thursday, August 27, 2015

When You're Trying to Remember Who God Is

“Remind me who God is.”

These words keep ringing in my ears, a mandate from a grieving friend.

“Remind me who God is.”

She was desperate, hungry, despairing as we stood near the casket of her 26-year-old son. We hugged hard and she grabbed my shoulders, looking me square in the eyes and repeated her edict.

“Remind me who God is.”

That was two weeks ago, and her words keep ringing in my ears, my mind, my heart.

They say nobody should have to bury their child, but as I learned at a very young age the “shoulds” don’t mean much when reality is your only experience. Sure, nobody should have to bury their child, but they do. All the time. My friends just did, and my parents did too.

I’ve been short on words these past couple of weeks. My knees have felt weak. I haven’t slept well. I just keep thinking about the nightmare that our friends are living right now.

And I'm trying so hard to remember for myself who God really is.

Who is God when reality sets in? When real life comes knocking with a blow so forceful that you can’t stand against it? Who is God when everything you’ve planned for and dreamed of is altered, not just slightly but forever?

Death. Divorce. Illness.

Life has changed; it will never look, feel, taste the same as it did before.

And who is God through it all?

It’s OK to wonder—I know this. It’s OK to question and to doubt—examples abound throughout the Bible of people who really wondered about God. I mean, where would we be if we didn’t actually wonder about God? We’d be lemmings running for the edge of a cliff.

Wonder is OK. Wonder may even be good for us.

This morning I came as close as I could to feeling my way toward an answer. An answer that I can live with for now. And it may not even say as much about God as it does about me.

I read the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the book of Daniel. These were Daniel’s buddies who refused to bow down and worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s golden statue. The story in Daniel 3 tells us that the king gives them one more chance to “do the right thing” and bow before his shiny likeness, but still the three refuse.

Here’s their rationale: “The God whom we serve is able to save us.”

That’s it. They believe that their God can do anything, even rescue them from a blazing furnace. It’s simple. It’s direct. It’s pure faith.

“The God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty.”

But that’s not even the end of it. They go on: “But even if he doesn’t we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”

“But even if he doesn’t . . .”

These words, strangely, give me so much hope. They have strengthened my faith in the past and they help today as I process the death of a too-young man.

You see, these words tell me that God can do anything—ANYTHING—but he also sometimes doesn’t intervene. This has to be OK because He is God. A powerful, mighty, all-knowing God who sometimes allows his children to suffer. 

What it also tells me is that we don’t always know why. Sometimes we can’t know, and sometimes we won’t know until a long way down the road, but God always knows His purposes. And while I don’t get it just now, I can trust that He’s got this.

The other good thing I know from this story in Daniel 3 is that God will never take us through that suffering alone. Remember the rest of the story? King N. throws Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the furnace—he’s cruel that way—but he watches from a distance (also cruel if not creepy). What he sees when he looks into the fire is not three men walking around, but four.

He is certain he only threw three men into the fire, so why are there four men walking around unharmed? Because God had provided a rescuer. Some believe that Jesus himself walked through the fire with the three men; others believe it’s an angel. Whatever or Whoever it is, the point is that God did not leave Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He provided a comforter, a rescuer, a way out.

Here’s the thing about grief: it sometimes feels like there will never be a way out of it. Sometimes it feels like a furnace, an actual blazing furnace, and that you will indeed die before you see the other side of it. It feels never-ending.

But here’s what I know about God: He has not left your side. He is there, walking right beside you, weeping with you, feeling the intensity of your pain, mourning your loss. He grieves with you. He does. Because He loves you.

“Remind me who God is.” Words I’ll be pondering for a long time.

Today I’m just beginning to remember.


  1. Truly that story from God's Word is a comfort in so many times of trial. I'm so sorry for the Orris family. What sadness. A family I know lost their 19 month old son who drowned in their backyard swimming pool a couple weeks ago. There are no words for the depths of pain and sorrow they are experiencing. I know your family knows it all too well. Thank you for putting it to words. And how wonderful that your friends called upon you to remind them who God is. We all need friends who will do that for us.

  2. It reminds me of that old hymn - "Many things about tomorrow, I don't seem to understand. But I know Who holds the future, and I know Who holds my hand." In this world there are many many things I can't understand. But I rest in the assurance that I am not alone. And that one day He will make all things new. He will wipe away every tear. And one day I will live with Him forever in heaven. I always thought that I had a lot of questions to ask God when I get to heaven. Now, I don't think those things will even matter. Prayers for the family on their loss of their son. I cannot imagine and yet, as you said, it happens every single day. Praying for God to give you words of comfort to share with your friend. Blessings, Shelly