Aaron’s Birthday

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten…”

Joel 2:25

Today we, as a family, celebrate my brother’s birthday. Aaron died in a sudden and tragic car accident back in August. It was out of the blue. It was unexpected. He was only 47 years old. He left behind a wife and three kids that are in college. One of the dominant feelings about his death was not just grief but the pervasive sense of it being unfair.

Even as a little kid I had a sense that things needed to be fair. I was given a deep sense of justice by the Lord, which reflects His own desire to bring justice into the world. This deep sense of justice would eventually lead me to help start an anti-trafficking organization. But it also causes the lack of fairness in the world to sting a little more.

It’s not fair that Aaron’s kids don’t get to talk to him or see him anymore. It’s not fair that his wife has to wake up every day without him next to her. It’s not fair that his two girls won’t get to walk down the wedding aisle with him at their side. It’s not fair that my parents don’t get to have their oldest child swing by their house just to chat. It’s not fair that my sister and I don’t get to joke with him and laugh with him and ask for his help with stuff around the house. It’s not fair that my kids lost their fun-loving uncle and all the memories they would have made with him as they grew up. It’s not fair that my wife lost her favorite Stephenson. Aaron was everyone’s favorite. There is a sense of deep injustice about his death.

And the reality of this world is that injustice is rampant. It’s everywhere you turn. We cannot be surprised by it because it is everywhere. No one makes it through this life without a story of injustice and suffering. No one. Suffering and grief don’t make us special; they make us normal. Sin has broken this world, and the enemy as exacerbated injustice as much as he is able.

So what do we do? What do we do when a life has been stolen from us? What do we do when years of memories and moments have been taken away without any recourse? What do we do in the face of an injustice like this?

What we are choosing to do is celebrate Aaron’s life and believe in the God who brings redemption to all things. We trust in God who promises to repay us for the years the locusts have eaten. We lean into the God who brings beauty from ashes, who brings life out of death. In the face of this injustice, we remember that God said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay“(Romans 12:19; Deuteronomy 32:35). This is the nature and character of the God we serve. So we leave it to Him to do just that. And, in the meantime, we receive His comfort as we grieve:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

We miss you brother!

Tragedy

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

1 Corinthians 13:12

There was Jesus, a completely innocent man in his thirties hanging on the cross for crimes He didn’t commit. He had brought healing, restoration, and freedom to thousands. He had so much more life to live. More than that, He was the Son of God sent to usher in the Kingdom of God. He was supposed to reign as the messianic king of God’s people. All of those hopes and dreams were now dashed, nailed to an ignoble Roman cross.

It seemed like the enemy had won. Yet, what seemed like the enemy’s greatest victory was his greatest defeat. What seemed like God’s greatest failure was His moment of triumphant victory. If the enemy knew how God would use this moment to save the world, he would have never let it happen. He would have sent his demonic hordes to stop the trial and prevent the crucifixion.

It was a tragedy, no doubt about it. It was tragic in the moment. But God was about to use it to triumph over sin and death. If the disciples had known all the variables, they would have knelt in gratitude at the foot of the cross instead of running in fear. We can’t see all the variables that God sees. We don’t hear all the prayer that He hears. This is especially true in the midst of personal tragedy.

Bad things happen in this world as a result of the brokenness of the world, the sin of humanity, and the work of the evil one. Things happen that God doesn’t want to happen. And while I don’t believe God causes tragedy in this world, I do believe He finds ways to beautifully bring good out of the bad.

Jesus only does that which is most loving. If we perceive that Jesus’s action or inaction is unloving, it only means that we are missing some of the variables. There are things we can’t see, things we can’t know, pieces of the puzzle that are missing. And if we had all the pieces that Jesus has, we would understand. As it is, we must live in mystery, trusting the nature and character of a loving God.

One day it will all become clear. One day it will make sense. One day we will know fully even as, right now, we are fully known by the One who created us. Until then we trust that, “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose“(Romans 8:28).