pain in the offering

Last Friday morning, Tyson Lane Woody (age 2) said goodbye to this world and all of its pain and suffering, brokenness and illness. On Saturday evening, a host of worshippers said goodbye to Tyson, celebrating not only the life of one of the strongest fighters we have ever encountered, but also the God of all comfort, who gives and takes away, who carries us through dark valleys and leads us beside still waters, and by his grace, restores our souls. They don't prepare you for this stuff in college. Nothing prepares you for any of this. The funeral service of a 2-year-old cancer victim just feels out of sorts - something is not right here. And yet it was because God, by His grace and plan had ordained and allowed all the events to occur just as they had, for a purpose yet to be seen. I looked into the broken eyes of one of my closest friends - I saw the pain, I saw the hurt, I saw the mourning and grief, but behind that I saw something deeper, something truer, something at his core that spoke to me that it was indeed well with his soul. His faith in his God has not wavered. His trust in Christ has not diminished. His heart for the glory of God is anything but weakened. In fact, I would surmise that, at this moment, he is closer than ever to God, dependent upon his grace to survive day to day, looking with hopeful expectation to His return.

And there, in the midst of the grief and worship, the joy and the pain, I saw one of the most powerful things I have ever witnessed. The worship team and congregation were singing "How Great is Our God," most of them through heavy tears and with an equally heavy, but expectant heart. The entire Woody/McClure family and extended families were gathered together singing praises to God in the midst of their valley. During the middle of the song, the verse breaks into a powerful refrain: "You give and take away, you give and take away. My heart will choose to say Blessed be Your name." As we were caught up in that moment, singing to the God who gave and who had also taken, I looked down and saw Carson, Jeremy's 5-year old son, playing on the floor staring up wide-eyed as his entire family (and specifically his grandfathers and his daddy) were immersed in worshipping the God that they loved despite the pain. I wept. What an indelible image is forever ingrained in that young man's heart and mind - that in the darkest season of his young life the men and women in his family were rallied around the God of all comfort, lifting their voices as an act of sacrificial worship, even when pain was present in the offering.

I went to VA this past weekend to hold up the faithful arms of a brother in the Lord as he said goodbye to his precious son. I went with the intention to minister. I came home changed because of their testimony of faith, the sustaining grace of the Lord Jesus, and the hope we have in the Resurrection of Christ - that the grave has indeed been swallowed up in victory, and that death has lost its sting because Christ has won the victory for us. Amen.

Today I am praying for sustaining grace for one of the most amazing families I have ever been privileged to know. Please do the same.