New Warhorn Media post by Tim Bayly:
New Warhorn Media post by Tim Bayly:
Could you reflect on the phrase ‘God taking’? It seems to portray God as some capricious deity randomly plucking individuals for some evil pleasure or purpose.
You know my wife has Alzheimer’s. I don’t think of God giving this horrible disease to her. Nor will I think of God ‘taking her’.
‘Taking’ can be understood as in Lazarus being gathered to Abrahams’s bosom. Or as Jesus the Good Shepherd guiding us through the valley of death to the great banquet. However, I don’t think this is how ‘taking’ is generally used and understood in our culture. I’m sure you’ve heard people say silly things like ‘I guess God needed her more than I/you did.’ Or you’ve experienced people who are angry at God taking their loved one.
I prefer to look at it as living in a broken, sin-cursed world where children and older people get terrible diseases and die. I’ve had many people tell me about Linda, ‘It’s not fair.’ I ask them why. What are we owed? What do we deserve? What do those in Christ receive? My comfort is summed up in the Heidelberg Catechism Q&A #1.
A few years ago, before my first child was born, I had a dream that when I had two children, the devil would take one. It was vivid, with stark imagery - the devil was a large, scarlet jackal and he bit the head of one of my then non-existent children. Since then, I have lived in constant dread that the dream would become reality, and that if it did, it would be my fault since I knew of it beforehand and had not stopped it.
About a year ago, I finally went and saw a counselor about it. I was so anxious all the time for my children that it was intruding on my ability to function at work or home. The counseling session was like most counseling sessions I’ve had seem to be - worthless. I went home and decided that whatever my issue was, it wasn’t getting solved in that office. The next day, some dear friends told us that the younger of their two children was diagnosed with brain cancer.
It may as well have been my own child. It is stupid, but someone else’s child becoming sick (in a way that seemed to symbolically hearken back to my dream) was confirmation that my fears were valid and that God was waiting for the right moment to “strike” and take a child from me at the moment I was most deserving of it.
What helped was reading the wisdom literature in the Bible, especially Job. The Lord brought to my mind that Job had everything - far more than I ever will - and lost it all, not least of those things being his children. I pored over Job and began reading chapters 38 through 40 almost on repeat - both as chastisement and reproval toward my own sinful worry but also in searching God’s answer in prayers to heal the child of a friend.
Lastly, that “the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:26) and that, “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting, O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Cor. 15:52-56) are the promises Paul relates to us in Christ are a precious reminder of the hope we have in our Lord. These are necessary balms in the face of grief and the fear thereof.
Pastor Tim, I greatly appreciate both this post and your church’s decision to dedicate a graveyard site at your church. If we are not reminded of our own coming death and the deaths of our children, we are mostly engaged in desperate fantasy when we read these passages and those like them.
The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh; blessed by the Name of the Lord. Dad used to say God has placed his sons and daughters on loan with their father and mother and he can call that loan in any time He wishes. I see the problem of some people whose god is capricious and random and evil, but our God is the Only True God and whatever He does is good. Satan is an active moral agent, for sure, and he had a part in what Job responded to above. But Satan’s part passed through God’s permissive hand. His tragedies were under God’s authority, as Scripture makes clear. Hope this clarifies.
We come at this in different ways. I could not bear the thought that it was some dualistic universe we live in where God’s authority and decree is not final, yet in a way that does not make Him the Author of Evil. Some death is evil, some good, and God’s agency in death is everywhere presented in Scripture. We who love Him as our Father trust his difficult dispensations just as much, or more, than we trust his gentle ones.
But again, about God taking loved ones, I think Job’s godly response is a model for us. I hope your loving care for your wife is not discouraged by my words and these Biblical truths, dear brother. It is a great inspiration to us all. Love,
Ah yes. Such wonderful presentation of God’s absolute authority. One of the most wonderful texts of Scripture. It is the answer to the death of our loved ones. As my mother said to me about the death of this child above, “God is God!” Love,
Just a different way of understanding the word, I expect. Taking her out of this body of death and into His everlasting arms has a very different meaning than you got from the words.
I’ve had some terrible dreams concerning our other children since the loss of our little one. So terrible I won’t relate them. I very easily could have become fearful afterwards, and I’m grateful God has protected me from that. Thank you for your testimony.