For years, Denise referred warmly to her sibling Carolyn as “my little sister.” Carolyn faced significant cognitive challenges, but she loved life and brought joy to everyone who knew her. She loved Jesus too!
A poignant love story was told in an August 2016 New York Times article. The title of the article, “I Have No Choice but to Keep Looking,” reflects the tenacious affections of a Japanese man who was still exploring the ocean floor for the body of his wife who died during a devastating tsunami in 2011. After spending two and a half years looking in and around their home city, he took scuba diving lessons and began searching the ocean floor for Yuko’s remains in 2013. Though the darkness of tragedy had enveloped his life, he continued seeking to find the one he deeply loved.
The death of a king in 2016 elicited deep grief from the people of his nation. The news resounded around the world as citizens wept over the loss of their beloved ruler. One man said the monarch had been a caring leader for every person. Another woman was in such despair that she couldn’t even eat. This king was an able leader who helped bring political stability and economic development to the country for more than seventy years. The loss of his leadership caused many to look with fear toward the future.
In 2013 Dr. Ad Vingerhoets, a social and behavioral scientist from the Netherlands, wrote a book called Why Only Humans Weep. He’s one of only a few scientists who have dedicated their lives to studying why people cry. Vingerhoets states that “tears are of extreme relevance for human nature. We cry because we need other people.”
The old lumberjack always strode with a purpose. But not today. Today the world clawed at his soul. As the gruff Swedish immigrant trudged up the hill to his family farm, tears rolled down his cheeks. The date was December 7, 1941, and Axel Gustafson had just heard the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor. His sons would be going to war.
In the summer of 2016, a two-year-old was snatched by an alligator as he waded into a lagoon at an amusement park resort. His father tried desperately, without success, to rescue the boy from the alligator. A frantic search for the child ensued, but tragically, a few days later, divers recovered the toddler’s lifeless body.
At the outset of World War II, a man—who would eventually rescue 669 children from Nazi slaughter—helped two Jewish boys secure passage on a train escaping Czechoslovakia. After the war, the boys received a final letter from their parents who had died in a concentration camp.
“Do you know what hurts so very much? It’s love. Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked that means pain. There are two things we can do when this happens. We can kill that love so that it stops hurting. But then of course part of us dies, too. Or we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel.” —Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place
A friend died unexpectedly, leaving behind his wife and several children. I talked with his widow (also a dear friend) just a few days after his death. She was heartbroken, but also amazed that God had already used her husband’s death to inspire two individuals to receive salvation in Jesus. She then explained that she had gathered her children together and said something like this: “It’s okay to be angry and to express your emotions to God, but please don’t let this affect your faith in Him. How tragic would it be if you turned away from God even as these people turned to Him?”
In March 2015, a woman in Spain posted some pictures on Facebook of a boy she’d cared for as a foster parent. She’d met the boy nearly 30 years earlier while volunteering at a juvenile daycare. The child had been abandoned, and the woman ended up caring for him until he was 6. Not able to adopt the child, the two were separated. But years later, after 3 days and 50,000 views of her Facebook post, they were reunited.
I read an online obituary for a friend’s father. My heart ached for my friend as I imagined how painful it would be to lose a parent. I sent him an email of condolence and was surprised by his quick response. “It’s been a tough year, but I’m rejoicing in our hope in Christ.” Even as he mourned, he spoke of hope and faith.
Most of us know someone for whom life has been particularly hard. Maybe they live with chronic pain, have faced the loss of a child, or have faced multiple adversities. Perhaps you’ve been in this place too. If so, you’ll know that dealing with these challenges can be spiritually depressing. We want God to intervene, but He hasn’t. And that can leave us feeling sad, lonely, and angry.
Last year I received two pieces of extremely sad news within a few hours. First came the news that a dear friend died of a sudden heart attack. Steve, who was only 60 years old, was a good man who loved Jesus and his family. A few hours later brought the tragic news of a dearly loved couple whose marriage collapsed under the weight of an adulterous affair.
Their faces are wrung with anguish. Bloodied survivors of a terrorist attack stumble out of their Kenyan campus. German families grimly gather at a crash site in the French Alps. Nepalese parents dig through rubble, desperately calling the name of their lost child. As long as we live in a fallen world, humans will have moments when it seems we can’t go on.
A euphemism is “a polite expression used in place of words or phrases that otherwise might be considered harsh or unpleasant to hear.” Instead of saying, “We ended our dog’s life,” we say, “We put our dog to sleep.”