Hugh and Morgan’s twin daughters were just a few weeks old when it became clear something was wrong. Ally and Bailey Grace were soon diagnosed with an extremely rare disorder affecting fewer than 30 people in the world at that time.
Last summer, six-year-old Bailey Grace passed away. A few weeks ago, Ally began a new school year while on hospice. Hugh and Morgan don’t know how much longer Ally has on this earth. As Morgan shares their story on Instagram, she is honest about their grief and how hard this journey has been, but she also clearly points to their hope.
Hope for the future
God promises that all of our suffering has a purpose, and that He will redeem all of our grief for our good.
Like He did for Lazarus.
When Jesus heard that His dear friend was sick, He waited to arrive at Lazarus’ house until after the man had been dead for several days. Lazarus’ sisters, Martha and Mary, watched their brother die, then grieved long before Jesus even showed up. How they must have wondered why He took so long to come. Was He too busy with other problems? Did He not care as much as they had thought?
But then Jesus came and performed the greatest miracle He had done so far: Jesus brought Lazarus back to life. Lazarus’ death was for a purpose, and God brought good out of it — just like He promised.
But there is more to the story. In the middle. Before Mary and Martha knew how things would end.
Comfort for right now
When Jesus finally arrived, both sisters told Him, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Martha affirmed that she knew Jesus could still do anything, but when Jesus hinted that Lazarus would rise again, Martha thought He meant at the end of time, not that day.
Reading the account of Jesus’ conversation with Martha, it is clear she was trying so hard to trust despite knowing that the One who could have stopped her brother’s death didn’t.
Jesus didn’t discourage her tears. He didn’t insist that if she truly had faith she wouldn’t question His late arrival. When He saw more mourners at the grave, He didn’t tell them to stop their wailing and crying. He didn’t point out their lack of faith or lecture them about how this moment in their lives would pale in comparison with eternity.
Instead, the shortest verse in the Bible is also one of the most earthshaking: “Jesus wept.”
The God of the universe — who created everything, upholds everything, and will one day fix every single thing that has ever gone wrong — was crying.
Promises only Jesus makes — and keeps
The Bible is clear that Lazarus’ temporary death had a purpose. Jesus showed His power and His deity to everyone at that tomb, including Mary and Martha.
But Jesus knew that redeeming the pain never took away the pain itself. Even the fact that Jesus knew their grief was temporary — that Lazarus was about to walk out of the tomb — didn’t keep Him from hurting at their hurt.
Jesus also offers us comfort now, promising to never leave us alone in our problems and our grief. No other religion shows us a god who so clearly identifies with his people’s pain. Only Jesus entered our suffering as one of us. Only Jesus walks with us through our pain. Only Jesus cries with us.
No matter what
At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, pastor Tim Keller recorded a series of short devotionals on “Trusting God in Difficult Times.” In one of the videos, Keller, who was diagnosed with cancer in May, points out that there are significant intellectual answers for why God allows suffering. But if someone is suffering, Keller wouldn’t give them an intellectual answer. “I would go to the cross,” he says. “We may not know what the reason for your suffering is, but we know what the reason for your suffering isn’t. It isn’t that God doesn’t love you.”
I don’t know Hugh, Morgan or Ally personally. I don’t want to trivialize their story or give the impression that the facts about suffering take away all pain and doubt and struggle, because they don’t. Jesus never claimed that.
But stories like theirs point the way for the rest of us. They show us what it looks like to trust in the middle of the pain, and they remind us that Jesus is with us in all of it. As Morgan wrote on Instagram:
“When we — when I — am tempted to believe that God has left me alone in it all — the cross screams elsewhere as Jesus cries on our behalf, ‘My God, why have You forsaken me?’ Because Christ took our place, we never walk alone. Because Christ took our place, death has been defeated. Because Christ took our place, we can say it is well. At all times. In all things. No matter what. Tetelestai. To God be the glory.”
Copyright 2020 Lauren Dunn. All rights reserved.