Pain and Suffering
We’ve been exploring the topic of pain and suffering and one of the worst kinds of pain and suffering is the kind caused by the loss of a child. The following is a quote from Wilma Derkson who lost her daughter at the age of 13. (You can learn more about the Derksens and their remarkable response to their daughter’s murder in this TED Talk video: TEDxManitoba – Wilma Derksen: When Polarity in Forgiveness Happens)
Losing A Child
For six and a half weeks we didn’t know what had happened to Candace. She just disappeared into thin air. But everyone knows that when a 13-year-old girl goes missing then something is terribly wrong. She was a child in a woman’s body, that moment of vulnerability when one minute they’re a child and the next a woman.
Eventually Candace’s body was found in a shack not far from our home – her hands and feet had been tied. Someone had forced her there but we lived with the mystery of not knowing who had done this for the next 22 years.
The day her body was found all our friends came to visit bringing warm food with them. There was so much love in the house that it helped us get through. Then at around 10.30 that evening, when most people had left, there was a knock on the door and this stranger stood there. He told us, “I’m the parent of a murdered child too.” He was saying we now belonged to an exclusive club that no one wants to belong to. We invited him to the kitchen table and for the next two hours he told us in vivid detail everything he’d lost – his health, his relationships, his concentration, his ability to work. He’d even lost all memory of his daughter because now he could only think of the murder, the trauma and the hate that followed. –Wilma Derksen
Losing 10 Children
Losing a son or daughter has to be one of the most devastating things that could happen to a person. I’ve never lost a child, but I have friends who have and man, it is truly horrid. And then there’s Job. All ten of his children died a violent death, simultaneously. And all his servants also died violently. And everything he had built up over his years as a rancher was raided and ripped off. So he lost everything. And then he lost his health. It’s hard to imagine anything more grim than that which fell upon Job. (If you’re interested, you can read more about Job’s trials here: Job Chapter 1)
Deciding On An Attitude
So naturally Job felt overwhelmed by his great loss. And had he succumbed to his horrible circumstances and allowed his attitude to cave in, no one would have blamed him. But neither would anyone have remembered him. And when we look at the great men of God throughout the Bible and throughout history, every one who led a great life for God also suffered greatly. It’s inescapable: without suffering your life can never become a great story.
After Wilma Derksen and her husband Cliff, the parents of the 13 year old girl who was murdered, listened to the man who had also lived through his child’s murder, they were struck by how consumed he was. He had lost any ability to focus on anything but bringing his child’s murderer to justice. It was then that the Derksens, who are Mennonites, decided they would do things differently. They decided they would forgive.
Curiously, they encountered opposition. Wilma tried to join the group Family survivors of Homicide but her attitude of forgiveness wasn’t well received. In fact one woman in the group told her that she was dangerous. The Derksens didn’t care. They were determined. They purposed in their heart to forgive Candace’s killer. Today Wilma Derksen writes and speaks about forgiveness. She’s a leader for the cause.
God And Our Tiny Little Patch On The Space-Time Continuum
Our God is without beginning or end. Our God is the Creator of the universe and everything in it. And what He does is much bigger than my tiny little patch on the time-space continuum. When your perspective concerning your trial is that your trial is about God and not about you, everything can change.
So if you want to be great, while you’re in the midst of your trial ask, “How can God use this?” and “How can I best glorify God in this situation?” Ask over and over again. Ask God in a prayer every day. Ask God in a prayer three times a day, or three times an hour, or every ten minutes. But ask.
Change your thinking and pray, and God will strengthen your heart.
He did that for Job.
He did it for the Derksens.
He’ll do it for you too.
Proverbs Chapter 1
In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.
His sons used to hold feasts in their homes on their birthdays, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would make arrangements for them to be purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom.
One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan[b] also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”
Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”
Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”
“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”
Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.
One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, and the Sabeans attacked and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the heavens and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.”
In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.
Malcolm Gladwell, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, Little, Brown, and Company, 2013
Jim Davis, Why Me? (And Why That’s the Wrong Question), Leafwood, 2014
TEDxManitoba – Wilma Derksen: When Polarity in Forgiveness Happens (Video)
Image by trying2 – Creative Commons