If you’re like me and reading the news is as much a morning ritual as drinking coffee or combing your hair, you were likely devastated this morning to read, watch, and hear of the South Korean Ferry that capsized and sank off of the coast of Jindo on Wednesday.
Twenty-eight people have been confirmed dead so far and another 268 remain missing. The already devastating news is compounded by the fact that 325 of the total number of passengers on-board were high school students, simply on their way home from an island field trip.
Watching videos of moms and dads and brothers and sisters waiting on the stormy shore for news of their loved ones is almost too much–the tears have been readily flowing today as I’ve imagined myself standing in their soaking sneakers, looking out at the sea that I love so much, and hating everything about life, God, the world, myself. The story of the mother in the video below who encouraged her daughter to go on the trip is incredible: at one point, she says, “I’ll never sleep again.”
As I was crying and trying to pray for these families on my way to work this morning, no words were coming to my mind or heart to say. It was just a deep and bitter pain–an emptiness I couldn’t explain. And I am just an empathizer, not a direct victim of such grief. What would I say to the families? The captain? To anyone who is wondering “Why God” in the midst of such a tragedy?
It was in this moment I heard the Lord whisper to me, “I once lost a child.”
I stopped in my tracks, staring at the stone wall bordering someone’s yard before me, my back to the street.
That’s right, Lord, I spoke inside myself. That’s right. My eyes traced the delicate vines climbing up the cracks, bringing green life to the old, crumbling limestone. My brain turned over. My heart breathed in.
That’s right. You have lost a child. A perfect child. An innocent child. A child you loved more than life itself. You didn’t just watch him drown; you watched him be beaten, and bruised, and spit upon and mocked and shamed and ripped to shards by the very men you’d once created out of nothing more than mud.
Your heart bore the deepest grief of all time; your heart bore the death of Jesus on the cross.
Matthew 27:51 says, “At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart.”
Many people read that verse as some sort of triumphant victory–God’s declaration that we are accepted into the holy place. That he’s conquered the earth. That sin has been defeated.
I read it differently. The resurrection came on Sunday, but today is Friday. Today is the day of grief, and to me nothing better represents the pain of a father’s heart than the very fabric of his dwelling place being ripped apart. When the ground cracked open and the veil was torn, earth was getting a living picture of the very grief happening in the heart of God.
Easter is the best holiday for us, friends. It is the very week of our redemption. But let’s not forget that before the stone was rolled away, our savior died and died poorly. There was darkness. And crying. And wailing. And pain.
And our God entered into it all just to be with us. Just to see us be free. God walked through his own grief so that one day, and for all eternity, he could hold us close and walk through ours.
That’s what I would say to the mom in the video. You are loved dear woman. You are loved and you are right to be devastated. But you are also held dearly and closely and longingly and forever by the only one who has ever felt the weight you are feeling to the Nth degree; he is yours for the taking. His palm is cupped under your shaking bones. His hair will dry your tears. His hands will piece back together your heart.
This is the message of Easter friends.