Not exactly new news. But I suppose I’m feeling this reality more today, the day after what would have been my brother Roger’s 45th birthday had he not died three months and two days ago.
At a recent family gathering, this picture was taken of the remaining four of us brothers. Standing there together without him we all felt his presence and, most notably, his absence. That day exactly marked three months since he died.
Roger died after a nearly 14 year battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. During the final six years of his life, I was battling something as well – joblessness. His battle is over but mine is not.
Few would put joblessness and terminal illness on the same plane but our respective challenges presented obstacles that, between us, was a topic of occasional discussion. He was very good and successful in his work while I was not so much good at work as fortunate to enjoy work success until my abrupt exit from it six years ago.
His illness did not define him as much as I have allowed joblessness to define me. Roger was good at and excelled in life whereas I find life somewhat challenging. Ironically, he who would love to continue fending in life has been expelled from it while I who at times desire relief from life am firmly stuck in it.
The prophet Isaiah wrote, “Good people pass away; the godly often die before their time.” (Isaiah 57:1a, NLT) A similar sentiment is expressed in Ecclesiastes. “In this meaningless life, I have seen everything, including the fact that some good people die young and some wicked people live on and on.” (Ecclesiastes 7:15, NLT)
Part of my appreciation for the Bible is that it allows contrary statements like these. Alongside God’s commands and precepts are the journaled sentiments of the writers he commissioned to deliver his messages to the likes of Roger and I.
God is not in the least rebuffed when we complain of how unfair life seems. Rather, unfairness is yet another byproduct of sin that God does allow to cause tension that may draw people to him, which is exactly what he desires. Sin also sets the stage for the redemptive act of Christ that is God’s best response of all to life’s many inequities.
As to Roger’s and my specific plights, I can offer no plausible rationale. But where my understanding falls short, my faith takes up the slack. And while my faith is feeble at times, the One my faith is in is more than sufficient to overcome my inadequacies.
I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4: 12-13, ESV)