This week marks two important anniversaries in my life and these two events have brought home to me the tension of life in a fallen world. Ecclesiastes 3 speaks of this tension telling there is a time for everything. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to tear down and a time to build. Verse 4 hits home this week, “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”
These two anniversaries demonstrate the two extremes of life illustrated in this text. One year ago today I woke up to my wife yelling as she came up the stairs to tell me our good friend, Jamison Pals, his wife Kathryne, and their three children died in a tragic car accident on their way to missionary training the day before. It took a good while to process the news. To an extent, I am still processing it in light of this the one year anniversary. This week is a time to mourn for us, our friends, and the families who lost so much that day.
This week also includes the opposite extreme—celebration. The second anniversary for me this week will be the joy of celebrating ten years of marriage with Emily. I am a truly blessed man to have been given by God such a lovely and godly spouse. So this week is also a time for my wife and me to laugh and to dance in joy of the grace God has given us in our marriage. Two extremes found in one verse and in one week for us.
These anniversaries share more than the same week. Ten years ago when got married, Jamison was a groomsman in our wedding. He was a friend of Emily’s from high school and he became a dear friend of mine while we were all at Northwestern. Our joy and sorrow this week are intertwined.
So how are we to handle these two extremes, these two drastically different anniversaries?
Who Can Make Straight What God Has Made Crooked?
Ecclesiastes helps us navigate the tensions of life in a fallen world. This book meets us in the battle of living in a world full of both evil and good. In 7:13 we read this, “Consider the work of God: who can make straight what he has made crooked?” This question addresses the reality that we all live in a world which is bent because of sin. This world is not as it should be, we feel it in every breath we take. It is bent because we sinned, and in response, God has cursed man and creation. There is no power here on earth which can make straight what God has bent (cursed). Who then can make it straight again? God alone. It is not in our ability to redeem ourselves or this world. God alone can bring salvation.
How then do we live in light of a broken world? The next verse helps, “In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.” This world, though cursed and broken, also contains much good. Some days we experience ecstatic joy, other days we are left in the darkness of sorrow. This is how this world is between the fall and the second coming.
Joyful and sorrowful days exist so that we consider the character of God and our own sinfulness. The good days shows us God’s goodness and what this creation was meant to be and will be again one day. The days of sorrow show us the wickedness of sin and its cost to us. When we look at the fullness of death and evil it points us to God for we can do nothing to stop death. He alone can make straight again a world which is crooked. He alone can save and God started to do just that through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus.
So Where Do We Go From Here?
So what will I do this week? I will mourn the tragic loss of my friends. I will mourn the pain experienced by the friends and family of the Jamison, Kathryne, Ezra, Violet, and Calvin. I will cry out to God asking that he no longer tarry and that he may come to make this world straight again. This is a time to weep and mourn and to do so fully. It is a good and right response to the brokenness of such events to truly weep. Too often in Christian circles we do not know how to mourn, we do not want to look death in the face and see it for it is—a great evil and the final enemy to be overthrown. We are pressured to treat death as merely an inconvenience when it is something Christ himself deeply mourned (John 11.33-36).
So I mourn the death of my friends but I do not mourn as one without hope. In my mourning I am comforted that my Savior, the Pals’ Savior, overcame death by death. The sting of death is removed through the resurrection of the indestructible life of Christ. How dear is Christ’s perfect work in these moments of mourning! His gospel is my comfort, and it is a great comfort.
Even in light of this great loss, I will praise God for he has taken this evil and brought about much good. The gospel is going to Japan—people have been mobilized through the suffering of the Pals to support missions to Japan and some are now going themselves to Japan. Through their tragic death, God is working even in the salvation of the truck driver who hit the Pals’ mini-van. God is still sovereign; he wins even over untimely deaths.
Later this week I will turn to rejoice with my wife. We will celebrate ten years of marriage and how God has blessed us in innumerable ways through it. It will be a time to laugh and dance even as we live in a crooked world. God has made both days, and we will respond accordingly in faith to them both
What You Can Do
If you have read this post I thank you. Often when we consider tragedies such as this, we want to know what we can do. I offer three things you can do in responses to the one year anniversary of the death of the Pals family:
- Pray for the family and friends who are mourning the passing of the Pals family. Especially lift up the Pals and Engel families as this year has surely been difficult. Pray that God may comfort them and that his people may be an instrument of that comfort.
- Pray for Japan. The Pals were set on bringing the gospel to Japan because it is one of the most spiritually dark places in the world. Pray that the gospel goes forward in power to Japan and that many may come to salvation through Jesus Christ.
- Give to missions. Support the building of Christ’s Kingdom by actively supporting gospel-centered missionaries. There are many people like the Pals who need financial support to bring the good news around the world. This is the job of the church—to make disciples all around the world. Support missions in your church, in your denomination, and if you feel so led, consider donating to the Pals Family Foundation which will use your donation to bring the gospel to Japan.
Soli Deo Gloria-