Comment Stream

Randy Singleton April 12, 2017

Everyone enjoy their "Feast of First Fruits"  (Some call Easter) Service!

Feast of First Fruits = Third Day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread = 16th of Nisan, 5777 
This day ends at sunset on 13Apr 2017 (sunset = 7:32 PM ET)

Why is that important?

Jn 19:31

31 Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away.

The day before the Sabbath was commonly called the "preparation day" because chores were done on that day to avoid working on God' day of rest. Clearly, we see from Jn 19:31 that Christ was crucified and His body placed in the tomb immediately preceding the Sabbath.

The question to consider is "which Sabbath"?

Most people assume John was speaking of the regular weekly Sabbath day observed from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. From John' clear statement here, most people assume Jesus died and was buried on Friday-- thus the traditional belief that Jesus was crucified and died on "Good Friday."

But is that true?

Most people have no idea that the Bible speaks of TWO KINDS of Sabbath days-- the normal weekly Sabbath on the seventh day of the week. (Friday Sunset to Saturday Sunset. Not Sunday. Sunday is the first day of the week), and seven ANNUAL Sabbath days, listed in Lev 23 and mentioned in various other passages. These annual Sabbath days could fall on ANY day of the week. Once we understand this we see that "Good Friday -- Easter Sunday" never happened that way!

Notice again in Jn 19:31 that the Sabbath Day is referred to as a "high day". That term was used to differentiate a weekly Sabbath from an annual Sabbath.

So what was this "high day" that immediately followed Jesus' hurried entombment?

Mt 26:19 - 20, Mk 14:16 - 17, Lk 22:13 - 15 tells us the evening before Jesus was condemned and crucified, He kept the Passover. This means that He was crucified on the Passover day. Lev 23, which lists God' festivals, tells us that on the day after the Passover, another festival, known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread begins. ( Lev 23:5 - 6). This day is the first of God' annual Sabbaths. 

This is the "high day" of which John wrote on Jn 19:31.

Passover began at sundown and ended the following day at sundown when this annual Sabbath began. 

So this is the correct order of events:

Nisan 13 (Tuesday ends at 6 pm sunset. Nisan 14, Wednesday begins at 6 pm sunset and ends just before sunset the next day.)

1. Jesus kept the Passover with His disciples and then arrested later that night.

2. After daybreak, the next day, He was questioned before Pontius Pilate, crucified, then hurriedly entombed just before the next sunset when the "high day", the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread began.

Jesus gives up His spirit approximately the 9th hour which is 3 pm. So Nisan 14 begins at sunset right after Jesus is placed in the sepulcher. 

Computer programs have demonstrated that Nisan 14, 31 A.D. was a Wednesday, not a Friday.

Nisan 14 ends at 6 pm sunset on Thursday. Nisan 15, the "high day", of the Feast of Unleavened Bread begins at 6 pm sunset on Thursday and ends just before sunset on the next day.)

Jesus has now been "in the Earth" for 24 hours. (One day and one night.)

Nisan 15, the "high day" ends at sunset and the weekly Sabbath, Nisan 16 begin at 6 pm Friday and ends just before sunset the next day.

Jesus has now been "in the Earth" for 48 hours. (Two days and Two nights).

Nisan 16 ends at 6 pm Saturday and Nisan 17, "First Fruits", which is the third day of the 7-day feast of Unleavened Bread that begins at 6 pm Sat and ends at sunset the next day.

At sunset, in the last few minutes of Nisan 16, God, the Father resurrects God, the Son from death! Because it was not possible that death could hold him. He has been "in the Earth" for three days and three nights. (Jonah 1:17, Acts 2:24) 

1 Wed evening - Thu evening (24 hours)
2 Thu evening - Fri evening (24 hours)
3. Fri evening - Sat evening (24 hours)

So, in conclusion when we understand the difference between God' weekly Sabbaths and His annual Sabbaths any confusion about the days of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection go away.

1 Cor 15:20 -23 

20 But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam, all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

So our Lord and Saviour is alive! Risen from the dead and given all honor and all power that can be given. Literally on the day that celebrates the reality that Jesus is the firstfruits of God' Elect!

Patiliai Leqa April 12, 2017

We crowned him King but the crown was of thorns, he mounted a throne, but it was an unadorned cross, yes it was for my sins that he endured all...

Mark Stephenson April 12, 2017

When our daughter Nicole, who has multiple disabilities, still lived with my wife and me, I would sing this blessing to her each evening using Michael Card's Barocha. After I finished, since she cannot use words, she would usually touch my face gently. So thinking about what your wrote about the Lord's name being put on you and Edward, Nicole's touch was her way to put the blessing (and the Lord's name) back on me. Thanks for making these blessed memories even better!

Mark Stephenson April 12, 2017

Beautiful! Thanks John for this message which is especially appropriate for this holy week. 

Laura Meyering April 12, 2017

Thanks for sharing.  Growing up my parents were big Johnny Cash fans.  I think I'll use this as our devotional at Easter this year.  

Kristen VanderBerg April 11, 2017

I love the historic hymns that we sing during Holy Week.  One of my favourites is, "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" written in 1707. That means that Christians have been singing it at Easter for 310 years!  While Easter is deeply personal (Christ died for me) it is also universal.  I love feeling connected to the church of all times and places during this week.

Eric Kas April 11, 2017

Thanks for sharing Monica. :)

So good to hear about ways others, like Lantern Coffee Bar, are creating safe, encouraging and meaningful spaces. This is definitely something that we as the church body can learn from both in other third spaces we are a part of - as well as in our spaces of dedicated worship. 

posted in : You Are Safe Here
Bonnie Nicholas April 11, 2017

This is a great article - thanks Monica. Simple things can mean so much. I love the idea of partnering with a local ribbon campaign, what a simple way to raise awareness and show support! 

posted in : You Are Safe Here
Staci Devries April 11, 2017

One of my favorite songs is How Deep the Father's Love for Us by Stuart Townsend. Every time I listen to this song (and especially during Holy Week) I am struck by the line "It was my sin that held Him there..."

During Holy Week I take some time to reflect on the weight of my sin. Looking at my sin really brings me face to face with the magnitude of Jesus' sacrifice. A grace I could never earn. Following this I am filled with a deep gratitude and hope. Praise God for making ALL things new! 

Sam Huizenga April 11, 2017

Hi Meredith, Have you found your ride? If not, I would like to help! Could you email, I have a couple of questions for you. Here's my email:  shuizenga@crcna.org

Richard Harms April 10, 2017

The question about the longevity of digital records is very real for archivists.  First there is the question of ongoing software changes, after several new generations of softwares, files generally became unreadable.  This problem now is being resolved, but another question is longevity of digital media.  It seems to be accepted that digital files can be stored for about 10 years without degradation, although it may be longer, there is no way to know until the time passes. Copies can of course be made, but with each copy a little bit of the original is lost.  Related to this is that all digital systems rely on mechanical devices, which can physically fail, so backups are necessary.  

In short, paper-based records will last much longer than digital files. But many files now only exist in digital format, so we have to deal with storing digital files, indexing them, and accessing them.  I would not recommend converting existing paper records to digital as a means for preservation.

Staci Devries April 10, 2017

Thank you so much for this comment, Bob. Your insights and references help give a much more accurate and complete picture (and show the trouble with picking and choosing statistics to share). One thing I did appreciate about Hatmaker's article was how she used the lens of a consumer culture to highlight the need for pastors and churches to be equippers, so that each and every person can become a disciple.

Carl Leep April 7, 2017

I helped distribute a retired pastor's library who is from our church. Credo was OK but didn't take much. I found the best price & distribution at the local seminary's used book store. (Multnomah Seminary in Portland). They were glad to receive all the older volumes as well as more recent ones; they had a ready market of fresh seminary students.

Hi Kathy!

We distribute a monthly serving calendar and on the back of it we have a list of those who have a birthday that month, as well as the couples that are celebrating a wedding anniversary. We indicate if it is a milestone number with a happy face next to the date and a note under the list that says ":-) = "Special" Birthdays (1, 5, 18, 21, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100+)" And then the highlighted anniversaries are 1, 10, 25, 50, 75+

Hope that helps!

Bob Loerts April 7, 2017

What I find fascinating is the fact that only 21% of pastors feel as though their employer has unrealistic expectations of them. And the posted information does not consider how many of that 21% deal with the unrealistic expectations with healthy boundaries. The fact is that according to the March 2011 American Psychology Association's survey, 40% of the general workforce feel that their employer has unrealistic expectations of them. So if 79% of the churches have realistic expectations, where does the negative stuff come from? Certainly not the employer.

As I read through the original article I find that it is exceptionally positive and hopeful for people in ministry. It is a great career with exceptionally positive working relationships, support networks and job satisfaction ratings.

Ed Stetzer's article on the misuse of statistics is helpful to blow away the myth that ministry is the worst calling in the world that leads to terrible marriages, resentful children and burned out pastors. see: http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2015/october/that-stat-that-s...

It would be refreshing to hear conversations that focus on helpful facts like the fact that 93% of Protestant pastors strongly agreed with the statement "I feel privileged to be a pastor" and an additional 4% who agreed with that statement (Lifeway Research). Try to find that satisfaction rate in any other career. 

Bill Vis April 6, 2017

Hi, Gil. Remember teaching in Moscow together. Good times.

I offered everything I had to Gary Vander Scaaf at Credo Books: https://www.facebook.com/Credo-Books-Books-for-Believers-Since-1983-1505...

He gave a fair price for what he could use (not as much as I'd like, but fair) and in my case hauled the rest away to donate or recycle. Not sure how that would work in St. Louis. Maybe you can send digital pictures of your library and get a quote on what he can use, and ship them via media mail.

P.S. I'm not quite retired yet. Got a year to go. Bit I did this when i was moving from Michigan to Alaska four years ago. Too much weight to ship that far. Besides, almost everything is available digitally today. 

Staci Devries April 6, 2017

Interesting idea. Does this limit your office hours or just maximize efficiency?

Appreciate the good suggestions for LED lighting.  

Eric Graef April 5, 2017

I'm with Chuck, I love books. I've been blessed to have inherited a few small collections from former pastors. I would suggest finding a young minister who would be blessed by having such resources available.

Chuck Adams April 5, 2017

Hi, Pastor Gil--

No good advice here, except to say that I wish I were closer to St. Louis--I'd drop in and buy some from you!

I'm as much of a bibliophile (or book hoarder!) as my dad was. Not sure what I am going to do if I ever need to downsize. Shalom, and best wishes on your retirement.

One of your former catechism students,

Chuck Adams

Meredith Van Dijk April 5, 2017

I am a Coffee Break Co-ordinator from Neerlandia Alberta and have registered for Inspire.  I would like to fly to London (direct - as there is no direct flight to detriot from edmonton.)  I am wondering if there are any women from London going to inspire that would consider giving me a ride.

Meredith Van Dijk

Barbara Hampton April 5, 2017

www.scripturalreasoning.org.  If you wanted to talk with someone who has done this often, contact Doug Leonard of the RCA,who is part of the two-denomination group planning the pastoral trips to Oman,or else Justin Myers.  They can tell you a lot more than I can.

 

Greg Sinclair April 5, 2017

Hi Barbara. Thanks for sharing. Relationships and love are so important. Can you share with me the link also for the academic based site? I want to do a report on Scriptural Reasoning for our Christian Interfaith Reference Group.

Audrey Kinder April 5, 2017

Dirk, thank you for your honesty and transparency in your prayer request. It was an honor and a  privilege to come together as the body of Christ to pray last week at the Prayer Summit. 

(Prayer)
Audrey Kinder April 5, 2017

Joshua, thank you so much for sharing this prayer request. It was a privilege to come together as the body of Christ to pray last week at the Prayer Summit. 

(Prayer)
Barbara Hampton April 5, 2017

I sure can, Michael.  Scriptural Reasoning (I will find the link and send it) is a model of dialogue that involves a passage from the Qur'an, Hebrew Bible (if Jews are involved as well) and New Testament on an agreed upon topic that is supposed to allow for comments/insights from the participants that not only shed light on the passage but on the faith stance of the other participants (or yourself).  It usually has a facilitator and a time limit.  In my one experience with it (in Oman, at the RCA's Al Amana Centre), I found it to be very much like the beginnings of an inductive Bible study, with observations and questions but not necessarily anything in depth re meanings and application.  I am still hoping to do this with a small group of Muslims from a nearby mosque and our church on the first chapter of the Qur'an and the Lord's Prayer as they are similar in length and are both the primary Scriptural prayer expressions of the two faiths.  I'll post this and then find the link to the academic-based Scriptural Reasoning website.  

http://www.scripturalreasoning.org

 

Audrey Kinder April 5, 2017

Barbara, thank you for sharing this prayer request with us. It was an honor to come together as the body of Christ and pray last week at the Prayer Summit. 

(Prayer)
Audrey Kinder April 5, 2017

Scott, thank you for your trusting us with these prayer requests. It was a privilege to come together as the body of Christ in prayer last week at the Prayer Summit. 

(Prayer)
Kathie Spaeth April 5, 2017

Thanks so much for the information.

(VBS)
Michael Bentley April 5, 2017

Can you give a little background on what “Scriptural Reasoning” with a Christian/Muslim group looks like for you – how gets started, what exactly you do, structure, allowance for expression, questions, etc.? I find that, the more we know about how things are supposed to “work” we can be less intimidated in starting the process. Thanks.

Doug Vande Griend April 4, 2017

Wow!  I have to admit I'm surprised that Calvin would have that particular problem.

Reginald Smith April 4, 2017

Doug, that's a great question. The answer is yes. To bring the sin of racism before the Lord is a wonderful opportunity to lament, repent, pray, and work towards becoming more aware of its effects on all people. Again, thanks for the question.

Staci Devries April 4, 2017

I love this list! Every single suggestion is practical and useful. What a huge difference these small things can make to a volunteer! 

Staci Devries April 4, 2017

Thanks for the thoughtful comment, John. 

When Hatmaker gave statistics on pastors' job satisfaction (or lack thereof), I saw it as a way to highlight the pressure on pastors, not the fact that pastors have problems (as we all do). I saw it as a challenge to narrow the role of pastors so that they can EQUIP disciples instead of bearing the responsibility for the spiritual development of each member of the congregation (which is the Holy Spirit's work anyway). 

I really appreciate your point on God working through our weakness. I completely agree and am reminded of this every single day (thanks be to God!). 

Doug Vande Griend April 4, 2017

Is racism a big enough a problem at Calvin College that there needs to be an annual chapel dedicated to the problem?  Is it the student body?  faculty? administration? constituency?

John Zylstra April 4, 2017

Imagine if all pastors had their lives entirely together.  Would this be success.  Saying that if pastors have problems that this is a failure rate, points to the essence of the problem.  Because if all pastors were pathetic, and had nothing but problems, but yet the church was growing and people were worshipping God in greater and new ways, then it would not be failure.  God works through our weaknesses, through our trials and tribulations, which increase patience, perseverance, hope.   As scripture says.  

Eric Kas April 4, 2017

Hello Dirk,

In addition to the wise and helpful words that Bonnie and Eric shared - I also feel some of your pain that you share as we continue to struggle in this fallen world, which still belongs to God.

One thing that has helped give me some perspective is a simple saying by Rev. Ron Nydam - former professor of Pastoral Care at Calvin Seminary: "You can't give what you never got." We as people are dependent on the common & special grace that God gives to people - and people receive this - sometimes supernaturally, but more often through a remnant (often called His church) that God is preserving through which he continues to give people his grace. Unfortunately, there are many people who have gone through a wide range of circumstances in life that inhibit their capacity to love and be loved. In this case, often people cannot love others because they have not been given a rooted and persistent love. However, God often intervenes and breaks the chains and cycles - and I think your questioning is one means of breaking these chains. 

As Bonnie and Eric mentioned - I too encourage you to do this kind of self-reflection that is present in your post. In addition, finding some key people who you can trust and will continue to give you the things you need to be a person of peace and grace - so that you continue to "get what you want to give."

Keep on keeping on brother!

Eric Kas

posted in : Prayer for Wisdom
(Prayer)
Karen Deboer April 4, 2017

Hi Kathie, 

I'm Karen DeBoer from Faith Formation Ministries. Although I don't have access to the resource you're searching for, I can suggest another place you might post your question. There is a Facebook page for Church Educators and it's a wonderful place for gathering and sharing ideas and for getting to know others in educational ministry---including those who plan and lead VBS. A Facebook search for 'Church Educators' should get you there. Hope that helps!

(VBS)
Eric Van Dyken April 3, 2017

Hi Dirk,

Clearly you have a lot of pain and a lot of complex matters that you are grappling with.  I am sympathetic to your pain and struggle.  Particularly in light of the complexities of your concerns and uncertainty, I would urge you to take these matters up with your pastor and a trusted elder or two.  If you are not currently attending a Bible-believing, gospel preaching church, make that a priority so that you can be ministered to by God's Spirit through the preaching of the word in the fellowship of believers.  It is in the context of this fellowship that you will be able to receive much more specific and  personal attention to your concerns and struggles than anyone in this forum will be able to provide.  

A couple words of encouragement along the way: God's grace is sufficient for you, both unto salvation, and to bring you through life's (often cruel) challenges.  At times this may feel like a distant reality or hard to actually take hold of, but I encourage you to place your trust wholly in Jesus Christ, and he will indeed faithfully shepherd you.   May God bless you and encourage you, even as he uses His Word, His Spirit, and His Body (the church) to heal you.

posted in : Prayer for Wisdom
(Prayer)
Bonnie Nicholas April 3, 2017

Dirk, I'm so sorry to hear about the abuse that you've experienced, it's not the way life is supposed to be, certainly not what we were designed for as people created in God's very image. We are constantly reminded that we live in a very broken world; and there are not easy answers to the questions that you ask - theologians have been debating them for generations. It is important to take "not sinning" seriously - and yet realize that none of us are able to do that. We are completely dependent on God's grace not only for our salvation, but for our life every day as we fulfill our desire to honor God in all that we do. And we are called to extend grace to others as well. In love, we understand that no one is able to live a life holy and pleasing to God, therefore we extend to others the grace that we also have received. All that said, the question of how to navigate through this broken world, which includes abusive relationships, still remains. I believe that God calls us to personal self-reflection. We can't change other people, only God can do that. What we can change is ourselves, with God's help, and also our response to others. Where to draw the line in a relationship that is abusive can be a painful and difficult process of discovery and discernment. We are called to speak the truth in love - Jesus was filled with both grace and truth - we struggle in between justice and mercy - there is a tension that must be maintained, or we don't have the whole picture. I think it's a mistake to resolve that tension in search of a quick fix - better to embrace it and live into it. A Christian in an abusive relationship is not called to maintain that relationship at all costs. The costs may simply become to high. Sometimes the most loving thing to do is to leave the relationship, creating safer separation; this can be what's most loving to self and others, and can be most honoring to God's created purposes. We are created to be loved and to thrive in a safe environment. Creating a safer separation can be live-giving to the person who has been experiencing abuse. And it can also be life-giving to the one who must now face up to the truth of the abusive behavior and the truth about the damage that has been caused.

It's sad when congregations, and other Christian communities sometimes support those who perpetrate abuse, rather than those who are being hurt by it. This can often happen unintentionally, due to a lack of understanding about the dynamics and impacts of abuse. It can also happen because there is often great pressure to maintain the status quo than to enter into the hard work of bringing these hidden issues out into the open and dealing with them honestly. Safe Church Ministry seeks to help congregations respond more effectively by offering resources that can help. Spiritual abuse, or any abuse within a Christian context is especially damaging, because ideas about God are impacted. My prayer is that you will find others who can understand and support you in your journey with God toward healing and wholeness. The important thing is to be on the right path, going the right direction - we'll all get there in the end. Until then, it's good to have those who can walk with us on this journey as we navigate through this broken world.

posted in : Prayer for Wisdom
(Prayer)
Hetty Stok April 2, 2017

This is a very balanced approach. Our church heritage is also God-led, and ought to be acknowledged.

My only concern would be the lengthy explanations and intros. I worry that churches are so wordy that we crowd out the Spirit. But perhaps you addressed that with your 'slowness' comments. Faith grows in silences too.

posted in : Worship That Welcomes
Eric Graef March 30, 2017

Thanks again for the grace. Your intentions were certainly received and there are some really good tips. Keep up the good writing! I read a couple of your previous articles... well done.  I'll message you something related to a past article but perhaps in January of next year, just prior to Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, I'll share it through the Network. Thanks for the encouragement.

Linda Roorda March 30, 2017

Thank you, Angie. One other thought that came to mind this morning was when our daughter was dying, I had asked God, "Why? I don't understand." Not out of anger, but simply at a loss, at a place you've been I'm sure. Later that morning, as we waited in the Rochester NY airport for our other dau to fly in, a plaque above where we sat had the words to Ps.139:13-16 written out. I literally felt a wave of peace come over me as I read them and clung to those verses in my own days of grief, tears and turmoil, with an eventual peace I can only say is from our Lord. My heart goes out to you and your family. It's a long journey, and just know that you will be in my prayers. Blessings to you also!

Angelyn Kuiper March 30, 2017

I should also add that I'd be very interested in attending a GriefShare program. My grandma recently went through the program after my grandpa passed away, and she truly appreciated the program and found it very helpful. I'll have to be on the lookout for these types of programs when we're ready for something like that.

Angelyn Kuiper March 30, 2017

Hi Eric, 

Thanks for your comment. I should clarify that my sole intent for this post was to openly share my personal experience with grief so far, and maybe provide some practical suggestions for how to interact with parents who have lost a child--more specifically those who have recently lost a child.  My post was more directed to the average person struggling to know what to say to their friend, neighbor, fellow church-goer that has lost a child. And I think this post does achieve that based on the overwhelming amount of positive feedback it has received so far (and I'm so grateful for that!)

I confess that my writing comes out a dark place, as I'm still very much in the midst of the early stages of grieving. I'm not yet ready to talk with others about the deep theological questions that death brings up (though that's not to say I haven't thought about them...I do). I most definitely believe that God is sovereign--I'd feel pretty hopeless if I didn't wholeheartedly believe this! Perhaps my wording in the post didn't express that, although I hope that many will see that. My intent for my post was most definitely not to make sweeping statements on the nature of God and his relationship to suffering and sin. I wrote my post on a much shallower level, I admit. :)

I think most reading this post are simply looking for a few tips for comforting their grieving brothers and sisters. Personally, it will be many years before I'm ready to explore the big questions about grief that have been debated by people of faith for hundreds and hundreds of years. But I think that's OK.

Angelyn Kuiper March 30, 2017

Thanks, Linda! And thank you for sharing your story, too. You're so right in that grief changes as time goes on. I've noticed that throughout the past six months. The rawness and shock of the first couple months has given way to a different kind of grief. Still overwhelming and crushing, but there certainly has been healing too. Blessings to your family!

Eric Graef March 29, 2017

BTW, one of the greatest books I've read that helps with some of these big questions is "Trusting God Even When Life Hurts" by the late Jerry Bridges. Soooo good. Blessings in Christ.

Eric Graef March 29, 2017

Angelyn,

Thank you so much for sharing your story and the wisdom you gained from your ongoing experience.  I’m so sorry for your loss.  These are really good thoughts and things to think about for those with good intentions to consider beforehand. It was a gracious reminder of the need for the body of Christ to “weep with those who weep.” Rom 12:15 Because trials will continue until Christ’s return, its helpful to learn how the church can properly come alongside the grieving. Our church recently had a group full of people grieving for a variety of different reasons who went through a study called “GriefShare” (I think its called). While it was primarily geared for people who were currently in the midst of grieving, it would be awesome for everyone to learn how to better provide comfort for the afflicted… to point toward the gospel.  

I can certainly identify with many of the comments you mentioned, but I fall in the category of NOT “knowing how you feel” exactly. Not that it is required in order to come alongside of someone, but I think those in my situation of not having gone through difficult loss are more in need of good advice to help those who grieve. So thank you for providing some good insight.

While I greatly appreciate the majority of what you said, I wonder if you’ll allow the freedom to question a couple of things. I almost feel that this is inappropriate… and if you find it to be so, then please feel free to delete my comments. I mean everything I’m about to say with “gentleness and respect.”  What I would want to challenge is not so much what should or should not be said to someone, but rather what should or should not be believed about God and his sovereignty.

These may not be things that are initially discussed immediately following a tragedy like the one you experienced, (for that is the time to care for, provide comfort, come alongside and weep with, etc.) but these should be things that will provide long-term comfort, hope and confidence in God’s goodness. So while initially comfort it needed, after some time, for some, there may be need for godly confrontation and challenge concerning the false beliefs some have. You see, big questions arise concerning God’s nature and character whenever people experience tragedy. The problem of evil (whether natural in the case of disaster or disease, or in moral evil) raises questions about God’s love, justice, omniscience, omnipotence and so forth. The big “why did this happen” questions come. And as far as the specifics go, we have no definite answer for specifically why. But that does not necessarily mean there is no reason or that our pain is arbitrary and insignificant to God.

To this point, there may be a chance that you have some inaccurate or unbiblical assumptions about God that many do. (If this is not the case, and I am misunderstanding you and I’ve gone on and on needlessly, then I’m truly sorry and this can be deleted) 

Specifically under statement #3 you said  “I know that God did not cause this evil to happen, and I know God can make good come out of tragic experiences.”… and also in a similar way under #5 “…but I know God didn’t cause her death. He didn’t give us this tragedy.” I guess I just wanted to ask, if I may, how do you know this for sure about God?  I totally understand the feeling of not wanting to think that God could be in control of these things, because “why?”  Does he not love?  However, our feelings in submission for the moment, based on God’s Word and how He describes himself, he has revealed the contrary. The two greatest examples we have are in the lives of Joseph and Jesus. (One could also argue for Job as being the greatest example) At the end of Genesis we read of a beautiful testimony of confidence in the sovereignty and providence of God, when Joseph declares “as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” Gen 50:20  That is, God did not merely react and turn a bad situation into a good result, but rather, God intentionally had a purpose to ordain that evil would be done to Joseph that would ultimately serve a greater purpose. All the while we would also affirm the biblical truth that God does not sin nor does he tempt anyone to sin. However, we have to affirm the biblical truth that God ordains that sin be, and for a purpose that serves his greater glory. These are really big things that people have wrestled with for centuries and I in no way am trying to explain them away in a quick post. I do however want to show how the truth of God’s sovereignty (as affirmed by our Reformed confessions) is a beautiful comfort for the afflicted. So often we think that our pain is arbitrary and serves no purpose, its hard to find any hope.

The other example and the greater of the two would be Jesus. In the book of Acts, the disciples pray a beautiful prayer that praises God for his sovereignty. Acts 4:24-30 (beautiful prayer) Within that prayer they also pray these words “for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” This is huge! All the evil that was done to Christ was part of God’s plan and that he “predestined to take place.”  Now, we shouldn’t assume that this was just one of a few things that God ordained, but that he works “all things for good.” We move from the greater to the lesser in that if God did not spare his OWN son, and it was for our good, how much more can we trust him as a good father who provides for his children! He has already given us his very best in Jesus! And at great cost to himself, and by the means of evil men, carrying out their evil desires and yet not knowing it was all part of God’s plan.

Now this does not answer the specific “why” to the tragedies we experience, but we can be confident in God’s love. While I don’t know why a tragedy happened, I DO know that its NOT because God doesn’t love me, because he came and entered our human pain in the person of Jesus and died to demonstrate that love. So while God does not commit any evil, he does have a purpose for it and we have to affirm, based on what we know of him in Scripture, that he does “give us this tragedy” and that he does not merely turn something into good (as if he is responding or adjusting to new knowledge) but that he has reasons (ones we may never know of – we aren’t promised an answer) for ordaining that trials occur to us.

That is why, while I love and agree with most of your suggested list of things we could say, I don’t think we can rightfully say “this shouldn’t have happened.” We can’t put ourselves in God’s place or have him answer to us. He could rightfully say to me so often what he said to Job, “who are you oh man?”  When we say this or that shouldn’t have happened, whether we mean it or not, we are really saying God has no right… or, he did something wrong in allowing or ordaining this event.  

I pray my words are read with as much grace as you gave when you wrote this article! You were incredibly patient with those who said some of those hurtful things. Again, I don’t mean by all of this that one should casually say “just trust God, he has a plan.” Sometimes truth can be said at wrong times and in the wrong way. But over time, as some of those big questions start to surface, we should both allow others to speak truth to us with gentleness and respect and also seek ways that we can comfort others with such truths from God’s Word.

I trust I did not offend in any way. Sorry for the book… and most likely, poor grammar.
Grace and peace to you!

Linda Roorda March 29, 2017

You said this so well, Angie! I am so sorry about the loss of your precious baby. No, nothing can ever replace any child you lose. We understand from our own losses - losing a 6-month pregnancy of twins who didn't separate, almost losing a 16-y.o. son, and then losing a 25-y.o. daughter. Your words speak eloquently to each of us. We, too, continue to grieve after all these yrs, but in a different way now than the immediate pain of loss. God bless you and your family as you travel this journey forward together on a path you never expected. With much love and hugs...

Karen Deboer March 29, 2017

Thank you for sharing your experience in this way, Angie.

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