There is a shadow of grief on Christmas this year. One of my best friends is losing her husband to ALS and my heart aches as I watch her family suffer. It won’t be long now…his kidneys are failing, he’s on morphine for the pain, and his time is running out. My friend is hurting, agonizing over her husband’s suffering, yet agonizing over his leaving as well. She loves him too much to wish his suffering to go on, yet the parting is tearing her apart. She knows that this isn’t the end and that she will be with him again someday, but someday seems so far away.
In the midst of the pain, I think of Christmas. I think of the agony God must have suffered when He decided to send His beloved, only Son down to earth to save a people who would mock him, revile him, crucify him. While the angels were rejoicing at Jesus’ birth, while the shepherds were overcome with joy at the good news, while the wise men journeyed many miles to find this special baby, God was weeping. He knew very well what would become of His precious Son. He knew we would reject him, beat him, and hang him on a cross. He knew there would be a time of separation, followed by a sweet reunion in heaven.
Paul will soon be with his Lord. He will be greeted with joy and with love by the Father who created him and has walked with him through this terrible suffering. Paul will cast off his wheelchair, his pain and his sorrow and walk beside Jesus on streets of gold. He will, at long last, be where he belongs. He will celebrate this Christmas, for the first time, with the One who made it all possible. While we are weeping, and mourning for his loss, he will be experiencing things we can only imagine. While we are celebrating Christmas and longing for the return of Jesus, Paul will be celebrating Christmas with Jesus. And some day, we will get to be there, too, and Paul will be waiting to welcome us home.
I don’t know why terrible things like ALS have to happen, especially to good people like my friend, but I do know that God isn’t absent in all this. He knows our pain, because He experienced it, too, voluntarily. He did this so we could have a home in heaven with him, so we could have peace, and hope, and joy. He is not absent in my friend’s life; He is there with her, sustaining her every day, giving her the strength to face each day and its challenges. He is there, holding her six children in the palm of His hand, storing up every tear that they cry and promising to be their Father. And He will be there, waiting to welcome Paul home as he breathes his last breath. Merry Christmas, Paul…it’s going to be your first REAL Christmas.
“First time to hear the angels sing,
Glory Hallelujah to the Risen King,
and a holy night is what this is,
for this is my first Christmas…”
from “My First Christmas” words and music by Carolyn Arends (c.2000).
A few hours ago, Paul was taken to heaven to meet his Saviour. For him, there is no more suffering or pain or sickness. Please pray for his family during this painful time.
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