Recently I was asked to say a prayer of comfort for the family of the late Brother Leong Oil Ken during the funeral service. It was my first time and I was not sure how different people react to and handle grief. But I had my personal experience to draw upon. About 18 years ago, my mother passed away one month before my wedding. It was a difficult and uncertain time for me. I was even contemplating to call the whole thing off. At that time I struggled with the question of whether I was able to release the grief of my dear mother’s death and embrace the joy of the beginning of a new life with my beloved wife.
When misfortune strikes us unexpectedly, it shatters our image of how life should be. We may have our Christian life all worked out, even all the “good things” we plan to do for God as good faithful Christians. Elisabeth Elliot was someone who experienced loss first hand; her first husband, Jim Elliot, was killed by Indians in the Ecuadorian jungle and she lost her second husband, Addison Leitch, to cancer. She said that “The will of God is never exactly what you expect it to be. It may seem to be much worse, but in the end it’s going to be a lot better and a lot bigger.”
Can we surrender our perception of the “perfect Christian life” that we plan for and trade it for something better and bigger? How do we go through the misfortune and emerge stronger? I would like to suggest a few points to help us on this journey.
Be Still (Psalm 46)
In Psalm 46, we are reminded that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble”. God is always there, strong like a fortress even when the world around us crumbles and our emotions like rough waters “roar and foam”. We are also reminded to take some time to “be still” and acknowledge God for His sovereignty over all the earth. We need time to reflect on the greatness of God, to get the right perspective of the troubles that we face.
Look to the eternal perspective (2 Cor 4:17-18)
The days immediately after a loss or misfortune are the most difficult to go through as our minds are still adjusting to the fact that the thing or person we treasure is no longer there. 2 Cor 4:17-18 reminds us that our earthly afflictions are “light” and “momentary” and can never compare with the “eternal weight of glory”. The sense of loss which weighs upon our spirit is transient and nothing compared to the eternal glory and revelation of promises of God which we hold on to by faith.
Find Strength in God (Hab 3:17-19)
The prophet Habbakuk declared that no matter how dire his circumstances were, he was committed to praising God, taking joy in his salvation.
May we learn from Habbakuk to praise God in the midst of our afflictions, rejoicing in our salvation and drawing strength from God to carry on the journey to and progress to even higher places.
Trust in His everlasting arms (Deut 33:27)
“The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”
We can take comfort that the Lord Himself is our dwelling place/refuge and we can always turn to Him for protection and comfort in times of trouble and grief. Do not despair when we feel that we are falling into the pit of disaster or grief for His everlasting arms are always underneath us, catching us and supporting us.
In 1958, two years after Jim Elliot and his four friends were killed by the Auca Indians, Elisabeth Elliot and her 3-year old daughter moved in to live with the Auca tribe for two years and ministered to them. This eventually led to the conversion of many in the Auca tribe including some of those involved in the killing.
Today, I am glad that I took the step of faith to surrender my personal tragedy to God and submit my life to His will. I was overjoyed to see my maternal grandmother step out of darkness to embrace Jesus Christ as her personal Lord and Saviour just before she passed away. I am glad that I went ahead with the wedding and have a chance to share my life and grow spiritually together with my wife Li Hsing and be blessed with three lovely children. God’s will is indeed a lot better and a lot bigger than what I expected it to be.
By Tay Yong Thai, Elder (YCKC Bulletin 10&11 September 2016)