On Sunday morning my mom called to tell me that my cousin Todd was killed in a motorcycle accident. I received the news with an already heavy heart, as we have just been through a season of grieving. Only six months ago, our dear friend was taken Home in the same way. Since then, we have said goodbye to two grandparents and a handful of close friends. My heart is heavy. It actually feels like sorrow is weighing me down.
In CS Lewis’ book The Weight of Glory, he discusses how the word for glory, Kavod, also carries the meaning of “weighty” or “heavy”. To carry the glory of God in our chest is a heavy thing, a weighty responsibility. And yet Jesus tells us, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light”. When we suffer, Christ suffers with us and shares our burden. God allows us to share in the suffering of Christ so that we may share His glory.
We often do this through repeated goodbyes, the shockingly sudden as well as the torturously slow. Again and again we watch loved ones leave this world to remind us that we too do not belong here. It awakens within us that which Lewis called a longing for a “far-off country.” We have this inconsolable desire that we try to satisfy with earthly pleasures, yet end up disappointed because these things are only “the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”
My brother Christopher, who has Down Syndrome, calls me every day at 4:44. When I told him that a man in our church had died, he asked if he could pray for me. He said something about missing him and then through his broken speech he pleaded with God to “Please come back soon.” It was the clearest part of the prayer and still resonates in my mind. I was struck by two things.
First of all, I have never prayed this prayer. I believe Jesus is returning for His people and I believe I am one of them. And yet I have never asked for Him to return soon. I’ll pray for the family’s peace and comfort or healing or wisdom, but never have I been so bold as to just ask Him to come back.
The second thing that hit me was that his prayer in its simple perfection is the only thing to pray in any situation that will solve every problem instantly. When you are a small child and your parents are away, if things are really awful, do you ask them to give you temporary peace and comfort? Do you ask them to take you with them and leave your brothers and sisters behind? Do you ask them to remove the people who are watching you from power because you think you can do a better job? No. If it is out of control and you cannot bear it any longer, you ask them to come home. And that is the only thing that will make all our suffering go away forever.
One of my aunts remarked that it is amazing how they can go to Connie and Bill’s house to comfort them after the loss of their son and leave feeling like they are the ones who have been encouraged. God’s grace is shining through my aunt in a remarkable way despite her intense pain. My heart is heavy. It is weighed down by sorrow and burdened by the cares of this life. But is also full of glory. God’s glory is being worked out in my life by every loss, every goodbye, every disappointment and every broken heart I will suffer. In reality, my heart is not dragging me down but leading me Home. I know that He will not give me more than I can handle, but at times like these I can only echo my brother’s words. “Please come back soon”.
2 Corinthians 4:17. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.