A seventeen-year-old boy—son, brother, friend—was killed in a car crash Saturday afternoon.
On Sunday morning, after hearing about the tragic and unforeseen death, a room full of people mourned… with prayer and song, layered with drops of painful tears.
This was a group of peculiar people with a response to death that is foreign to most.
What is different about this group of people that allows them to respond to this tragedy in such a way? Do they simply have different theories or ideas in their heads that allow them to process painful mysteries of untimely death with ease? No. There is something more powerful at work here than ideas, and there is certainly little ease.
That which marks these people as different in the midst of their mourning is their relationship with the living God—who sovereignly gives and takes away (Job 1:21)—and who is always working things for the good of those who love Him (Rom. 8:28).
This God is not distant, but He is present. This God is not apathetic, but He is caring.
How do they know this about God? They have experienced His grace firsthand.
All of mankind has sinned against God (Rom. 3:23). We are a wayward and rebellious people, who in our own pride believe that we can live without God. Because God is holy (Is. 6:3, Rev. 4:8), His justice demands a punishment for our sin (Rom. 1:18-21, 2:5). But how could finite humans ever pay for their transgressions against an infinite and holy God? Surely an eternity in hell could be the only just punishment for such rebellion (2 Thess. 1:9).
But God is love (1 John 4:8). He entered creation as a man in order to reconcile the world to Himself (2 Cor. 5:19). Jesus the Messiah received the just wrath of God for our sin on the cross and died in our place (1 Thess. 1:10). By the power of God, He was raised from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father (1 Cor. 15:3-4).
This is where their hope is found. The anchor of their hope is not in this age, lest they be drowned by waves like these (Heb. 6:19-20). Their hope is in a future resurrection of the dead, where those that knew and obeyed their God will be given glorified bodies and dwell with God in a land that knows no sin and death (1 Thess. 4:13-18). Scripture tells us that God Himself “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).
There is a Day coming when God will judge the world in righteousness (Acts 17:31). He will not only resurrect His people from the dead unto eternal life, but He will also resurrect those that never acknowledged Him and died in their sin, unto an eternity in hell (Matt. 25:46).
In John 3:16 we find the oft-quoted, hope-filled truth, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Yet this truth does not stand alone. A few verses later we read, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36).
God does not desire for anyone to perish, but for all to repent (2 Peter 3:9). Like this boy, we all do not know when our day will come (Heb. 9:27). We must turn to God while we are able, repent of our sins, and trust in Him alone.
So what exactly did these peculiar people sing in that grief-stricken moment?
“In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.
In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev’ry sin on Him was laid—
Here in the death of Christ I live.”
“What [the world] needs is to see and feel indomitable joy in Jesus in the midst of suffering and sorrow. ‘Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.’ They need to taste that these church people are not playing games here. They are not using religion as a platform for the same-old, hyped-up self-help that the world offers every day. They need the greatness and the grandeur of God over their heads like galaxies of hope. They need the unfathomable crucified and risen Christ embracing them in love with blood all over his face and hands. And they need the thousand-mile-deep rock of God’s word under their feet.” — John Piper.