A Peace That Passes All Understanding…
On 25th December our family celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ. The Bible records that it was a time of great rejoicing, certainly for the involved angels and the ‘heavenly hosts.’
As I read this all-too-familiar story, though, I found myself reflecting on this: Jesus was born with His destiny already mapped. I wondered; what must the Lord God, his Father, have felt being fully aware of the fate awaiting this little baby?
He was born to die.
On Christmas day I visited the grave of one of my sons. Twenty six years ago, Stephen, was born. Three hours later he was dead. The thing that I remember most about that time was that, in the days and weeks up to his birth, inexplicably I somehow ‘knew’ that Stephen was not going to make it.
I remember that, in fear and in anguish I consulted with ministers – the ‘great and good’ of christendom, desperately trying to make sense of my thoughts and feelings. I was haunted, but not one could help ( I did, though, get an offer of a tour of a church! )
I couldn’t discuss this terrible burden with my wife, of course, and so it was with complete dread that I drove her to the hospital on that fateful morning, all the time hoping that I was wrong and that the whole thing was just a figment of my imagination.
But the next morning, as I held the lifeless body of my son in my arms I felt that our world had just disintegrated.
I still look back to that time, and wonder about it: with the thoughts that were then going through my mind then, it just seemed that his death had been inevitable.
He was born to die.
In the succeeding years following Stephen’s demise, we were plunged into a twenty six year living nightmare; not least because of so-called friends and other people who should have known better, who used the opportunity to harm us with unspeakably evil words and deeds.
And of course, twenty six years ago support services were extremely rare with organised counselling being virtually non-existent and with even the ‘church’ proving as inadequate as it was impotent.
It fell to the ordinary men and women of our church to bring comfort and support to us and they really did do their very best despite a lack of experience: no-one appreciated then how to cope with this kind of bereavement.
I had always thought that the natural ‘order’ of things was that our children should outlive us, that no-one really expects to outlive their children, do they?
And it really is remarkable how your life can come to a sudden, juddering halt when an event of this magnitude happens; when you are left with an empty cot and a big hole in your heart; when you are surrounded by questions you can’t answer; when you eventually come to a realisation that life isn’t now worth the living.
Subsequently I came to honestly believe that we were on our own to face the future and that we had been abandoned by God; my feelings, thoughts and actions in those succeeding years betrayed a deep anger towards God for allowing Stephen to die and visiting upon us such suffering as had been previously thought impossible.
In the end, it unleashed years of depression; I was suicidal; it created in me personality disorders; it broke my health. And it didn’t help that to me, ‘God was silent’; something that exacerbated my anger not only towards Him but also everyone around me and to my everlasting shame, I lashed out at those who were dearest to me.
Yet twenty six years later, I can tell you that, although I don’t understand what had happened, nor why, I can now look back and see that God never really left us – I think that it was my perspective that shifted: in my anger, my refusal to accept His love and instead blame Him brought years of abject misery, not only upon me but on others also. Looking back, I think that He actually had been faithful – I just couldn’t see it.
Only now do I realise that His healing power was doing its Divine work in my life ( and that of my wife and family of course ), because it’s only now that I gratefully accept the fact. How do I know this? All I can say is that it must be the work of God’s Holy Spirit. That’s the only explanation that I can find. And the proof? I now feel that I can worship Him and accept His love. And peace grows in me day by day. Believe me, that’s a real change of heart for me.
On the 25th day of December 2016, for the first time in a long, long time, I gained a reason to hope and to find rest.
It just took twenty six years to get there.