The death of an eighteen-year-old brother...

The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently For the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man that he should bear The yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone and be silent Since He has laid it on him. Let him put his mouth in the dust, Perhaps there is hope. Let him give his cheek to the smiter, Let him be filled with reproach. For the Lord will not reject forever, For if He causes grief, Then He will have compassion According to His abundant lovingkindness. (Lamentations 3:25-32)

(NOTE: Since posting this a few hours ago, I've made a couple corrections and added some text at the end.) Back in 1964, my brother, Joe, went off to Swarthmore on a (rare) full ride National Merit Scholarship. He was a philosophy major, ran on the Cross Country team, and loved the Lord. He planned to go on for a Ph.D. and serve in foreign missions.

Meanwhile Dad...

after many years with Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship serving as director of I-V's Eastern region, editor of I-V's "His" magazine, and publisher of Inter-Varsity Press, had just left I-V and spent the next two years doing freelance writing and itinerant preaching. In the previous six years, Dad and Mud (our pet name for Mother) had lost two of their children--Danny to Leukemia and Johny to Cystic Fibrosis. Following Danny and Johny's death, David was born, then Nathan (who also had Cystic Fibrosis and barely lived).

Life was hard. I-V had paid Dad enough for us to live in a small duplex in Havertown. While directing the Eastern region of I-V, Dad also edited "His" magazine, which meant him spending two to three weeks of every month out in Chicago away from his wife and children. Summer vacations were the family driving out to Cedar Campus or Bear Trap Ranch for Dad to speak.

Pay was at a godly level requiring faith so Dad worked to supplement our income by having us take orders for Hoagies at Delaware County Christian School (which he and Mud helped found). Wednesdays he and Mud spent a good part of the night making the Hoagies which we kids delivered to school the next day. Then the Pennsylvania Department of Health shut the Hoagies down because our kitchen didn't meet specs.

When Dad left I-V after twenty-five years, he had no pension. Although The Gospel Blimp sold well and he was busy itinerating, ends didn't meet so Dad took at job as Managing Editor of David C. Cook Publishing Company in Elgin, Illinois. For six months he travelled back and forth between Philly and Chicago. The plan was that right after Christmas we'd leave our beloved fellowship at Delaware County Christian School and Blue Church, and move to Bartlett, Illinois.

Then my older brother Joe died.

Occasionaly I attempt to describe our home after Joe's death and I fail.

Joe had been out sledding Christmas night with Deborah, his (two years) younger sister, and other friends when he fell off his sled. He was a Hemophiliac and started hemorrhaging, dying about a week later. We'd already packed our home up and shipped it out to Bartlett, so our family stayed with the Russ Kents until Joe died. Then a memorial service where Dad spoke, followed by a graveside service at Glenwood Memorial Gardens where the other two sons had already been buried.

Immediately after the graveside service, we said goodbye to all our loved ones and got in the car for the drive to Bartlett and our new home.

Cheap faith knows no difference between summers and winters of a family's life. It's plastic and has abused words like 'grace' and 'sovereignty' and 'providence' to inure itself to filling up the cup of Christ's sufferings and taking up the cross and following our Savior.

Living faith is faithful to do the work of mourning and grieving God has set out before us, and in Dad's case that work took the next ten to fifteen years.

Christmas was awful. Dad was out on the road speaking for D.C. Cook at least half the time and Deborah was gone to U of I (Champaign-Urbana). Mud and I were alone eleven miles from anywhere, out in the country, and our home often was a cross between a dirge and Job talking to his wife. Mud would ocassionally have taken the part of Job's wife, but more often Dad was the heartbroken one. It was his eldest son and the loss of that son is a wound no man can bear.

There were other pressures: Mud's parents came to live with us and died within a few years; shortly after arriving in Bartlett, Deborah and I went tree climbing and she broke her back and was in a full body cast for a number of months; we started attending College Church eleven miles away in Wheaton and there was little to no fellowship there since all the Evangelical muckety-mucks resented Dad's satire, The Gospel Blimp. And shortly after arriving at Cook, Dad overheard the CEO talking to a man and realized he'd only been hired to clean up some problems and no one had intended to keep him on, permanently, when the problems were solved.

Now I don't want to be maudlin. I haven't had anything to drink and it's still the morning as I write. But I wish you, good reader, to understand that, as John Cardinal O'Connor once said, "My theology begins and ends with suffering." Nothing that builds up our immortal souls in our most holy Faith is midwifed through Facebook, Twitter, paying ninety-nine dollars to watch a video conference, or keeping up with the best-seller list of Christian publishers. Sadly though, many of you are going to attend a church tomorrow where you won't suffer and become humble through the preaching of God's awful holiness, your own depravity, and the coming Judgment. You attend a church served by a pastor who thinks a shepherd shouldn't "beat up on" his congregation; that he should "leave the conviction of sin to the Holy Spirit" and preach grace.

So when God calls us to suffer our children being molested by their uncle or one of two of them dying, we find ourselves incapable of grief and mourning. We hide our tears and keep a stiff upper lip Lord's Day mornings so we're not a blight on a church of clean Toyotas and Hondas, bleached blond mothers with all their kids pursuing educational excellence; and fathers who are elders in bondage to pornography.

How has the Reformed church turned into a place where that simple statement of a Roman Catholic Cardinal, "My theology begins and ends with suffering," has become for us incomprehensible?

I often tell our congregation to watch words that become popular and words that die.

When a word dies it often points to a culture's attempt to hide its shame. When speaking of the biological bifurcation of man, no one is allowed to use the word 'sex' today. Rather we must call it 'gender'. And unlike 'sex' which makes us think of certain body parts designed to initiate and receive, 'gender' is an infinitely malleable identity one chooses for himself with ten thousand precious places to stand, not one of which is morally perverted. So no man today is condemned for his "effeminacy."

Across the centuries, church fathers often condemned pastors for being "effeminate" in their shepherding and preaching. But never ever would you hear such an accurate and helpful criticism of any graceful, missional, and perfectly nuanced and contextualized pastor with Reformed street cred today.

And popular words? The words that are in voque point to the shape of our emptiness. For example, have you noticed the explosion of Christians claiming 'passion' these past fifteen years or so? What's that about?

Mass media, the internet, hair coloring, fornication, serial polygamy, custody battles, Prozac, alcohol, happy/clappy/gracey churches, chemical abortions, rock star preachers, and giggling-excitement-over-fashion conferences have left us incapable of passion. We're entirely superficial and our talk is facile.

We have no passion in Church or home or our marriage beds because we've turned to idolatry and that idolatry has destroyed our capacity to feel. I defy you to show me a man claiming Baxter or Calvin as his hero who preaches or shepherds his flock in any way remotely similar to Baxter or Calvin. Our preachers have zeal for nothing. We're dispassionate in our theological dissertations given faithfully each Lord's Day from pulpits which have a bronze plaque on which is written Baxter's description of his own preaching: "As a dying man to dying men."

Like priest, like people.

So when God calls us to suffer our children being molested by their uncle or one of two of them dying, we find ourselves incapable of grief and mourning. We hide our tears and keep a stiff upper lip Lord's Day mornings so we're not a blight on a church of clean Toyotas and Hondas, bleached blond mothers with all their kids pursuing educational excellence; and fathers who are elders in bondage to pornography. But I repeat myself...

The principal blessing God gave David and me in preparation for shepherding His flock was the privilege of growing up in the midst of death and grief and suffering. My favorite liturgical reading of all those I use in our worship is from the graveside service of Cranmer's prayer book. It's been passed down to us from those who grieved and mourned and were comforted by the Holy Spirit and comforted others as they had been comforted:

Man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery. He cometh up, and is cut down, like a flower; he fleeth as it were a shadow, and never continueth in one stay.

In the midst of life we are in death: of whom may we seek for succour, but of thee, O Lord, who for our sins art justly displeased?

Yet, O Lord God most holy, O Lord most mighty, O holy and most merciful Saviour, deliver us not into the bitter pains of eternal death.

Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts; shut not thy merciful ears to our prayer; but spare us, Lord most holy, O God most mighty, O holy and merciful Saviour, thou most worthy Judge eternal, suffer us not, at our last hour, for any pains of death, to fall from thee.

Then, while the earth shall be cast upon the body by some standing by, the Priest shall say,

Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God of his great mercy to take unto himself the soul of our dear brotherhere departed: we therefore commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be like unto his glorious body, according to the mighty working, whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself.

These two lines make me pant after God:

In the midst of life we are in death: and of whom may we seek for succour, but of thee, O Lord, who for our sins art justly displeased?

O Holy and Merciful Lord, most glorious Judge of all the earth, suffer us not at our last hour, for any pains of death, to fall from Thee.

My ninety-two year old mother is living with us for several months just now. She's barely able to walk and lucidity comes and goes. But what a precious gift to have her blessing our home as she grows increasingly feeble and longs for Heaven! (David and Cheryl are blessed by her also since Mud's lived with them most of the past five years.)

Last week, I was going through a box of envelopes she'd saved, one for each of her children. (We sent Nathan's to his widow for sharing with his children.)

One envelope was for my dead brother, Joseph Tate Bayly the Fifth. Inside the envelope I found this scrap of writing from Joe to his college girlfriend, Janie Grossman, written shortly before his death:

“I think that Dad is about as wise a man as I’ll ever meet. He’s in touch with kids my age, knows our problems, feelings and weaknesses, and has an unfailing instinct for communication. (Some men, you know, make fools of themselves when they try to talk to high school and college kids.) He has very strong beliefs on many subjects, most of which I know, and with which I am (in principle and hopefully in practice) in complete accord. Finally he has a sense of propriety in every matter which I am afraid I will never be able to emulate. You can see I respect his opinions very much. As a matter of fact, I don’t know what I should do if I ever could not go to him for advice. I should feel pretty lost. As far as communication between me and Mother and Dad is concerned, their wish is literally my command.”

What greater gift could a father and mother receive from their son? Imagine! "As far as communication between Mother and Dad is concerned, their wish is literally my command."

But Dad and Mud never read this until God had taken their son to Heaven. Then Janie sent it to them and it added to the passion of their grief. It intensified their mourning. 

It built their faith.

Sorry for my absence on Baylyblog this past week, but there have been several who have abandoned the straight and narrow path the past couple of weeks, and grieving over their departures, I've been meditating. Especially on my godly brother, father, and mother who were faithful to walk the valley of the shadow of death and came through with their faith refined and their (still living) children hearing them testify to two things over and over again:

We often felt the death of one of our children was more of a test for the faith of our friends than it was for our faith.

And

We were never as certain of God's love as when we walked away from the fresh dirt piled on our child's casket.

Likely for many of you the path back to passion and zeal and the holiness without which no man will see God lies through taking up the work of feeling and grief and mourning. The work of bearing His yoke in your youth and waiting on Him for His compassion.

If you want to get a letter like my brother's from your own eighteen-year-old son, do the spiritual work God has given you and take no shortcuts. It will be a painful road, but it leads to eternal life.

Here's Dad's confession of faith written when Joe died:

A Psalm on the Death of an Eighteen-Year-Old Son

 What waste Lord

this ointment precious

here outpoured

is treasure great

beyond my mind to think.

For years

until this midnight

it was safe

contained

awaiting careful use

now broken

wasted

lost.

The world is poor

so poor it needs each drop

of such a store.

This treasure spent

might feed a multitude

for all their days

and then yield more.

This world is poor?

It’s poorer now

the treasure’s lost.

I breath its lingering fragrance

soon even that

will cease.

What purpose served?

The act is void of reason

sense

Lord

madmen do such deeds

not sane.

The sane man hoards his treasure

spends with care

if good

to feed the poor

or else to feed himself.

Let me alone Lord

You’ve taken from me

what I’d give Your world.

I cannot see such waste

that You should take

what poor men need.

You have a heaven

full of treasure

could You not wait

to exercise Your claim

on this?

O spare me Lord forgive

that I may see

beyond this world

beyond myself

Your sovereign plan

or seeing not

may trust You

Spoiler of my treasure.

Have mercy Lord

here is my quitclaim.

- Joe Bayly

Back in 1991, I edited a book that's a compilation of Dad's "Out of My Mind" columns that appeared monthly for twenty-five years in Donald Grey Barnhouse's "Eternity" magazine. The articles were accompanied by personal reminiscences about Dad written by a couple of his closest friends. One of those friends was Chick Koop, the doctor who worked on my brothers and me when we lived in Philly. Here's what Chick wrote:

In the economy of God and in His sovereignty He puts certain people among us who will be up to the task He will place before them. Joe Bayly was such a man. He was my friend. He was the father of several of my patients. Three separate times I shared with him the bone-crushing grief when three of his children died. Indeed, as a surgeon I was involved in one way or another with each of these tragic deaths—deaths that to some people seemed as humanly unavoidable as they were tragic.

What was the real Joe Bayly like in the midst of drinking deeply from the cup of sorrow? He was like he always was—concerned for the spiritual welfare of others, available to go the extra mile for a friend (when it should have been the other way around), and apparently unflappable. Yet, entirely human.

No one could have lived through the sorrow of Joe Bayly’s life with such equanimity without an abundant portion of the grace of God—which of course Joe acknowledged. But I said he was human.

Joe reminded me of Jesus praying in the 26th chapter of Matthew. God the Son talking with God the Father, and while mindful of his divine mission, nonetheless talking about the suffering to come in most human terms.

Joe wasn’t a dishrag that said “Thank you, Father” as each new blow was rained down upon him. He was human. He knew it was part of a sovereign plan of God but he hated it—naturally. After all didn’t Joe write Psalms of My Life and like the biblical psalmist run the gamut of emotion from wonder to sorrow to questioning to rebellion. . .finally to acceptance and praise? That was Joe.

Joe’s eldest son always stood out from the crowd. When the boy wrote his essay for the National Merit Scholarship competition, it was about his faith in Christ. When he went to secular college, his testimony was strong and clear, while his winsome personality and personal achievement attracted not only those who shared his faith but also those who didn’t.

When he sustained a minor bump while sledding, his hemophilia allowed uncontrollable internal hemorrhage to threaten his life. When the young man lay dying in a suburban hospital near Philadelphia, Joe called me to ask that I see his son in consultation. It was too late. For the third time in my career I told the same friend that his child was just a step away from heaven.

As I drove home from the hospital, I was terribly burdened, saddened by the apparent unfairness of it all. I was only the surgeon; Joe was the father. What unspeakable thoughts must have been going through his mind. And yet as I left him at the hospital elevator, he was apparently stoic, certainly resigned, at once a figure most pitiable, but among his son's attendants a tower of strength. That was Joe Bayly. No wonder he was the source of so much sage advice to the countless young people who sought his counsel over the years.

The memorial service for that boy in the Blue Church in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, was the most heart-wrenching, yet triumphant, hour I can remember. The church was packed not only with Joe’s friends, but also with all the new friends his son had made at college. These young people felt inexplicably deprived of a truly unique person to whom they had become unusually attached, but whose special view of life—and death—they could not understand.

After few preliminaries, Joe Bayly went to the front of the church. The lump in my throat was so large I could barely swallow. The lump in Joe’s throat was so large he could barely talk. But he did, and his opening words are burned forever in my mind: “I want to speak to you tonight about my earthly son and his Heavenly Father. . .”

Joe poured out his heart. Tears streamed down the faces of almost everyone present. That night, the message Joe brought to his son’s college friends started a large number of them down a path in search of what Joe and his son had—and many of them found it in faith in Jesus Christ. That was Joe Bayly.

C. Everett Koop, M.D.

October, 1991

* * * 

[If you'd like a new copy of the book titled Out of My Mind: the Best of Joe Bayly, just send ClearNote Fellowship $15 and your address and we'll put it in the mail to you. Or, if you'd like, you may order it here. For a copy of a great movie of Dad's satire, The Gospel Blimp, order it here. (TB)]

Comments

Thank you so much for this. It would always be timely yet sometimes things are more timely than others and I'm glad to be pointed to God's promises and truth by you and men I've never known. Thank you brother.

Thank you, Pastor Bayly. Your words are always a voice of clarity for me.

Thanks, Tim, for spurring me on to live by faith in the midst of grief. I needed this.

Choking back tears and getting ready to put an envelope with $15 in the mail to order your dad's book...

Blessings,
Nancy

Brother Tim,

As I related to you some years ago, when we were comparing family notes on this kind of thing, these very particular sorts of sufferings (the deaths of children, deaths of siblings in their youth) is fellowship you and I have from the “inside” so to speak. If I were to catalog all the points of contact, I'd make a comment easily longer than your blog! So, I'll confine myself to a couple of points which those on the “outside” of these kinds of sufferings would find much, much profit in attempting to do so.

“We often felt the death of one of our children was more of a test for the faith of our friends than it was for our faith.”

Boy do these words ever call to mind countless encounters with the members of our parish, with our neighbors, with our extended family! When those who knew us learned what had befallen us in the inexorable decline and death of our nine-year old Cheska from a brain tumor, their reactions were quite close to what you'd expect from dropping an anvil in their laps: shock, gobsmacking surprise (upon hearing about this, a common reaction in strangers we'd meet), dumbfounded consternation producing an anxious, wandering quest for something to say, silence and an averted gaze. Barbara and I came to refer to these kinds of encounters as “anvil dropping moments.”

Was ~our~ faith tested? Well, of course. But still, it always seemed to us – and the testimony of your parents indicates that it must have seemed so to them – that the ~nature~ of the test was very different for we parents than it was for those outside the nest. And, from our vantage point, the test looked to be harder for them than for us.

And this from your parents: “We were never as certain of God's love as when we walked away from the fresh dirt piled on our child's casket.”

Cheska died in our bed at home. The house was crowded with our other children, neighbors, extended family. There were something like 15 or so people around that bed when she died. More descended on the house in the next hour. There was much to do, much do be decided, arrangements to make, so so forth.

We detached ourselves around 8 in the evening and went outside to walk in the dark along the rural road toward the old framed cottage at its end which was Barbara's first home 45 years earlier. We both had the same question on our minds for the other: “Well, now. What do you think?”

We thought the same thing, much akin to your parents' testimony above. Though a funeral lay some days ahead, it was a denouement. The true finish line had been crossed a four hours earlier. The sense of relief was palpable, and the confidence that God loved us was as tangible as it was impossible to account for.

And that feeling persists now fourteen years later, as well as the difficulty in making sense of it ~to someone else~. Some months after Cheska died we ministered in a church where, after lectures we delivered, we both ended up answering many questions from Christians who wished to know things we might tell them about such adventures.

“It is so hard to explain,” Barbara mused privately to me later. “What happened to us was one of the most horrible things they can think of. Yet God did something so wonderful and good for us, and for Cheska. But,to say that sounds crazy. I don't know if I can ever explain it.”

This blog provides some handles on how to explain it, and one of the biggest handles is the one you pointed to from Cardinal O'Conner. Theology most certainly begins with suffering. I hope it doesn't end with suffering but with something better (like redemption), though I sympathize with what makes him say so.

And, I agree with him. And with your parents. And with you.

I love you David, Lauren, Rebecca, Nancy, and Bill. Thank you, Bill, for your testimony. Love to you and Barbara.

Thank you.

May God bless you, Mick, my dear brother.

My faith is strengthened. It is overwhelming to contemplate each one of the losses your family has faced, let alone all of them together. Thank you for using your suffering to point us to Christ.

Thank you, Tim. Thank you also for reading to us in class from your dad's books Heaven and A View From A Hearse. I will never forget that class - lump in my throat the whole time. Thank you also for introducing some of us fishermen to John Donne.

>> the losses your family has faced

Dear Amanda,

I remind myself that Dad and Mud's losses were as nothing compared to any family in prior centuries when infant, maternal, and child mortality were constants in life. Just look at the ages on the headstones of old cemeteries. Still, today it's rare and I rejoice God blessed us burning eternity into our eyeballs.

Love,

Dear David,

The class was a joy, and you...

Love,

What David Baker said. I am thankful that God has been impressing thoughts of death and eternity on me lately. The Psalmist says, “So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom” (Psalms 90:12). Thank you dear pastor. Keep fighting the good fight.

Mom died of cancer within a week after I brought her and Dad to live with us in Illinois (not far from Bartlett). Dad died at the end of last month. This post is a blessing. Thank you.

Dear Paul,

I'm privileged to know you.

And Mark, may the God of all comfort soften your pain and give you compassion for others who suffer as you are suffering.

Love in Christ,

Dear Tim,
Thank you for your words and the heart behind them, which God has so abundantly gifted to serve his children. I recall at one point looking at you and saying I would not have chosen what we had to go through, but I would not turn it away either after seeing what it had accomplished. It is a lesson I hope to impart first to my children and then to my students.

I'm not sure this entirely matches, but a recent article in "Modern Reformation" reminds me that we must take our faith seriously and that this means we accept the suffering that God gives to us and pray that He has his way with us. For the many times you have reminded me of this, whether via the pulpit, a passing word in the hall or times spent counseling me, thank you so very much.

the article may be found, in part, here:
http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var1=ArtRead&var2=1218&var3=main

'Contending for the Faith in America
An Open Letter to North American Churches', by Fletcher Matandika, who says: "Rather, the world (and America included) needs the pure and Christ-centered Christianity that embraces pain and suffering." (pg. 32, Volume 20, number 2, March/April 2011. "Modern Reformation")

Tim,

There is a phrase that runs through my head when I read of times like these. It first occured to me on a day trip I made with a friend between my father's death and the funeral. It was near the top of Trail Ridge Road, above Estes Park at one of those spots that are desolate yet haunting. The phrase is:

A terrible beauty.

I think you'll understand what that means. You are an amazing blessing, dear brother!

Kamilla

Dear Tim,

What a beautifully sad, beautifully helpful post. It makes me wish I had known your father.

Reading it, I'm also struck by conflicting emotions: sorrow, at the burden of griefs given your family by God's hand; joy, for the blessing of steadfast, enduring faith so evident in your parents; gratitude, for the mercies of God that have spared my life these pains, thus far; apprehension, in considering what form of suffering God will bring my way in years to come.

But more than all these—thankfulness, that these sorrows became ministers of life and not death to your family, and that God continues to use your suffering to direct us to the joy found in Jesus Christ. God has more than once used your family's pains to strengthen my faith, and I am grateful.

Tim,

Thank you. This is profoundly helpful.

Matt

Thank you for strengthening me through this post. Just lost a friend this week, and it has been a sweet sorrow as I look toward heaven.

Love,

Now I know why your post sounded so similiar to a book I’d read many years ago. I read A View from a Hearse following the death of our 6 mo old son (our first child) born with a congenital heart defect. That book helped me understand the grieving process from a Christian viewpoint. It helped me understand that what I was feeling was normal. I remember feeling a kinship with the author because we had both experienced the loss of a child. Most people, while they have good intentions, really don’t know what to say to a parent who has lost a child. Many times they feel inadequate to help and uncomfortable around us especially if they also have children. And because of comments like “you are young, you can have another one”, or “you need to get over this”, or “why do you need to talk about him” we never properly grieve or come to terms with it. Instead we just stuff it deep down inside and never deal with it or come to terms with it unto sometime later in life a situation arises where we are made to deal with it and grieve over it. But God is gracious, merciful and full of compassion and never leaves us. Two things I learned were not to fear death and that it was ok to be angry with God and question. Those were the times I felt Him especially near, comforting and holding me close. It is something that I have no words to explain with. He has since blessed us with two beautiful daughters who are believers and 9 soon to be 10 grandchildren. I still have the book and have loaned out it to people who were in need of its message.

Maevza,

Beautiful!

Thank you.

Love,

Alex, Dani, and Jubilee

Tim,

As I witness what may be the last weeks of my beloved's life, though of course God is full of those things that are not dreamed of in the minds of medical doctors, as I continue to live under the shadow of death that follows my special needs little girl behind every halting step I wonder if I will have the strength to join the fellowship of the mourning Your beautiful post reminds me that I won't, but the Founder will and does. All things in Jesus, and nothing anywhere else. You and David are loved, and through you, your father, your brothers and all those they have touched.

rcjr

Thank you.

Love,

Nate

Dear Pastor Tim,

Thank you for this encouragement. In just a few hours my wife and I are going to a Dr. appointment to find out just how complicated the delivery of our child might be. We were praying about it yesterday with Pastor Joseph and Pastor Abu-Sara, and we were comforted to remember two things: 1) That everything that God does is good--whether or not we can understand it--because He is incapable of doing anything except good; and 2) What I remember you saying many times before, that "our children are on loan from God;" He gives them to us, and they are His to take back when He wills. It is a comfort to remember that our child, not yet born, is God's, and He has had a plan for her from eternity past. We pray that He gives us faith to accept His will for our child.

Love,

Abram

Thank you, Pastor Tim.

love,

Jason

Tim, thank you for this post. I knew of your family's situation from reading your Dad's book The View from a Hearse (which I quote in sermons from time to time). I remember your grief when your Dad died, and my heart is deeply refreshed by what you've written 25 years later. Though the flesh fights against it, suffering is one of God's most precious gifts. I still have the tape you gave me of your Dad's last sermon. I think I'll dig it out and listen again- it's been a while.

In Christ,
Marty

Dad, thank you so much for this post. I need the courage to face sorrow and suffering. I find myself trying to insulate myself against suffering by putting stock only in the things I *think* I can control.

Though I was only six months old when he died, I have learned so much from Bapa, and inherited so much from him. May I end well, as he did. O God be merciful to me.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Thank you for your loving encouragement. Would you all please pray for the needs of others commenting above--particularly RCJR and his wife and child and family?

RC, we are praying for you, that your daughter will be carried safely through the valley of the shadow of death so she may be with Jesus where there is exceeding joy forevermore; and that the God of all comfort will guard you and your dear wife and family's hearts, surrounding you with his tender mercies.

We love you and have not stopped thinking of you and your "precious one" since you wrote above. Please let us know when her promotion comes.

With love,

Dear RC,

We're praying here as well and join Tim in sending our love.

May the glory of heaven shine in your lives through your dear daughter.

Love,

David

Thank you, Tim.

Much Love,

De

Dear David and Tim,
I've been a mostly silent reader of your blog for a while. I think in seven years I may have commented twice.
But I thank God, and want to express my appreciation to you as well, for your faithful example in ministry. I am often blessed, whether challenged or comforted, by the way you hold high the biblical standard in worshiping, shepherding and parenting.
Love,
Matthew Carroll

Dear De and Matthew,

Pray for us. God only is good.

Affectionately,

I believe that in addition to concern RC is expressing for his daughter, he also desires prayer for his beloved wife. He recently (Sept 30) said that after two bouts with cancer she is experiencing a relapse of leukemia. And this not long after very hard treatments for it.

Thank you for this, TIm.

Love,
Anna

Thank you for being willing to be used by God to increase my faith.

Love,
Marta

What comfort is there when a loved one is dying but he is not a believer?

God's sovereignty. Without being a stoic masquerading as a Calvinist, and mindful of the words written above, what deep comfort! And the ache and tears that come should drive us to our ever faithful and just Father. Comfort is there.

The pain should also drive us to zeal. What blessing this is. Do my tears and grief inflame my concern for others that are lost? Does it turn my heart more fully to my children? Does it make me grateful for the changed heart I have received? Does it cause me to meditate on my obedience, and drive me to greater obedience still? What comfort to be reminded of so many truths in God's word. All flesh is like the grass. What comfort to be humbled in tears, and know God.

These are some comforts that come from hard Providences.

That is not a time for comfort -- press the claims of the gospel TODAY, and do not rest!

Daniel, agreed, press the claims. I misread that it was someone who had died. Though I think that the things I said are true still.

Hi!

I only have one question-- what do you mean about Nathan barely living? He was one of the most alive people I have ever known- and I still miss him.

Patty Jehle-Christenesen, Mac class of '83, now living in Switzerland

On "passion", this from an evening's reading of Spurgeon's sermon on Hosea 10:12, "Sow to Yourselves":

"Do not even be satisfied with clear knowledge. Ask for living principles growing out of this knowledge. The religion of passion is flimsy. The religion of principle will endure wear and tear. Heat and excitement too often engender a mushroom life which dies as readily as it is produced. We want you to know the Truth of God so as to feel its power till it
dominates your entire nature, sways the scepter of your soul and becomes a resident monarch within you! Then will you be able to stand alone and you will not need a crowd about you, or a flaming orator to hold you in your place—you will know whom you have believed and be persuaded that He is able to keep that which you have committed to Him.

Oh, if our young friends and old friends, too, were well sown in this fashion, so that the Truths they profess to believe had a living foothold in their souls by the Holy Spirit, what Churches we should have and what little injury would the Pope and the infidel be able to do to us! A man may hold a religion—he may hold 50 religions and have a new one every week and be none the better—it is the religion which holds the man which will save him! Your Bibles printed on paper are a blessing, but to have the Scriptures written on the heart is far better! We need not so much the doctrine which has been driven into the brain by argument, but the Truths of God worked into the soul by experience through the teaching of the blessed Spirit! Would to God that living principles were thus sown in all hearts!

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