By Curtis K. Shelburne: Local columnist
The son of some dear friends of mine lost his battle this week. The family feels defeated.
It had been a long battle. For two decades, this young man had fought a battle with drugs. One night this week his much-abused body gave up. And now his family, long used to dealing with the pain of the battle and a terrible kind of grief, is left to deal with grief of yet another sort.
I ache for them.
It’s hard enough to watch a loved one being torn apart in life. But as long as there is life, there is at least perhaps a glimmer of hope. And now?
Now I long for them to know that there is still hope.
The Psalmist assures us that “weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” At all times of death, tears overtake us for many nights until, one day, the slightest glimmer of light begins to shine through clouds that have seemed impenetrably dark. There will always be an empty place, but after what seems like an eternity, one day we will wake up and our first thought will not be of our loved one’s absence; it will be again of what remains to us that is still good.
Death always hurts. Healing always takes time.
But what is more difficult about a situation such as this, a situation sadly repeated in our world every day, is that people often wonder if there really is any room for ultimate hope.
Yes, there is! Because God is good and because God is love, there is always room for hope.
I’m not a “universalist.” God paid a terrible price to save us. It hurts him more than we can imagine if we refuse to accept his love. Free will is his gift to us, and the choice he gives us is real. Through his tears, God will allow us to make the wrong one.
But just because a person fights a terrible battle with obvious evil for decades does not mean he has turned his back on God. In fact, he may see far more clearly than most of us that his only hope is God’s love and God’s power.
The good news is not that God saves good people. In fact, the more spiritually mature a person is, the more he realizes how bad he is.
We are not saved by how good we are. Certainly, not by how good we look. We who look religious may not be “trying” half as hard as a person who looks far less shiny.
The gospel is not what we often think. It is not that God saves good people and bad people are lost. We are all bad.
The good news of the Gospel is that God saves those who trust his Son. No matter how many times we fall and how terribly we fail. As long as we trust.
We are not good. The best sons in our world can go terribly astray. The very best parents can feel like failures. And any of us who think we can afford to be haughty are blind and headed for a fall.
But God had a perfect Son who paid the price for us all. God is the best Father. For all who trust Him and look up, from a pit or even from a pew, there is always hope, here and hereafter.