This chapter in our lives began, as every day does, with our morning reading. The day we learned Rachel had been killed began with a reading from the book of Ezra. It is a passage I believe God had prepared especially for us to guide us on our journey:
“When the builders completed the foundation of the Lord’s Temple, the priests put on their robes and took their places to blow their trumpets. And the Levites, descendants of Asaph, clashed their cymbals to praise the Lord, just as king David had prescribed. With praise and thanks, they sang this song to the Lord:
‘He is so good!
His faithful love for Israel endures forever!’
Then all the people gave a great shout, praising the Lord because the foundation of the Lord’s Temple had been laid.
But many of he older priests, Levites, and other leaders who had seen the first Temple wept aloud when they saw the new Temple’s foundation. The others, however, were shouting for joy. The joyful shouting and weeping mingled together in a loud noise that could be heard far in the distance.”
It is an accurate depiction of our conflicting emotions - grieving for what we have lost, rejoicing for what Rachel has gained - the two mingled together in an indistinguishable cry.
But there is a reminder for us in that passage as well, a reminder that is a challenge for us to affirm the goodness and the faithful love of God through the worst circumstances of our lives. In moments of doubt and confusion, we have chosen to embrace the love and goodness of God. God is love. A drunken woman killed Rachel; that woman was not doing God’s will.
Jill and I are a little off in our Bible reading. We came to the passage for February 21st a few days ahead of schedule. I suspected there would be something significant for us there. We were not disappointed. The passage in our Bible that day was from Mark Chapter 5, the story of Jairus’ daughter.
Jairus, the leader of the local synagogue had a daughter who was gravely ill. He put aside whatever objections he may have had to Jesus’ teachings and His claim to be the Son of God, and begged Him to heal his daughter. Jesus agreed to go with Jairus to heal his daughter, but on the way He was delayed by the pressing crowd with their desperate needs, including a hopeless woman afflicted for twelve years with an incurable hemorrhage. She touches the hem of his robe and is healed instantly. A bleeding woman was considered unclean, and she was not to put herself in path of a holy man. To her surprise, when she confessed her presumption, Jesus reassured her: “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. You have been healed.”
Delayed by this encounter, messengers inform Jairus that his daughter has died and that there is no point in troubling the teacher any further. I can imagine that moment. The last hope dashed. Jesus, though, is unfazed by the tragic news, and encourages Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just trust Me.” I don’t know how Jairus felt about those words, but they did continue on to Jairus’ house.
When they get there, the house is fully involved in grief. Jesus cracks the mourners up by telling them they are sadly mistaken: “The child isn’t dead; she is only asleep.”
He tells the scoffers to wait outside. He takes the grieving father and mother and three of his disciples into the little girl’s room. He takes her by the hand and commands her to arise. She does, and the parents are ecstatic. The family is whole again.
I can see how someone would see this as a slap in the face: The story of a daughter brought back to life while our daughter’s ashes sit in an urn on our bedroom dresser. I could look at it that way. But I believe there is a comforting message there for us, a message about faith and hope and love: “Your faith has made you well...Go in peace...Don’t be afraid. Just trust Me...The child isn’t dead; she is only asleep...Little girl, arise!”
Our hope is resurrection. It is a living hope, the hope that gives us strength to go on living.
“If our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world. But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died...The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”
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