Dear John:

I am sorry for the death of your good friend. He was way too young to die, and I know your heart is broken. You probably feel like screaming at the universe that life isn’t fair. It isn’t. Such tragedy makes all of us protest that life isn’t fair, and pushes us to question whether God really exists.

Know that such questions are questions that people of faith ask. You are not being unfaithful by protesting against such senseless loss. Rather, you are being honest within yourself and before God.

Ultimately, we face mystery and there are no easy, pat answers to the profound questions of life. Those who say things like, “God needed another angel, so He took your friend,” mean well but trivialize your pain and belittle God. Such comments make me want to scream!

God is not an old man with a long gray beard, John. Rather, God is beyond our understanding, but full of love, truth, goodness, beauty. I know this in my bones and at the ground of my being because of Jesus Christ.

The only way I can begin to make sense out of the depth of human suffering is the crucifixion of the one who was God embodied in human life. His death, and the new life that broke into the world through him, are also the only things that help me make sense out of the greatest joy and wildest love we experience.

On the cross and through the empty tomb, God transformed our deepest pain and our most toxic hatred into love. Note how Jesus never veered from truth and goodness. Look at how he never responded in kind to his accusers and abusers. Note well how the human person, Jesus, was completely in harmony with this godly response. The harmony between Jesus and the Christ enacts the perfect love between God and humankind.

We sometimes call the circle of this perfect harmony Holy Communion. That same giving and receiving move deeply in the mystery of God, whom we call the Trinity.

The love on the cross is affirmed and completed on Easter. Easter demonstrated that God’s love is stronger and more alive than anything else in the cosmos, including death. The cross and empty tomb turned the world upside down. We discovered that all of life is a gift, and the gift of life is hugely bigger than we imagined! True life never ends, but only gets better and better and better.

In all circumstances, including the death of your good friend, John, we are able to give our loss and suffering to God, and God will turn them into love. God incorporates them into the perfect giving and receiving of Jesus on the cross. For life is real—it has guts and sometimes hurts. God does not protect us from the fullness of life by shielding us from pain and defeat. Rather, God enters fully into our loss and suffering, as well as into our most exhilarating joys and victories.

This week, of all weeks, we give thanks to God for having already entered the depth of human experience on the cross. On Easter we will rejoice once again in God’s victory of life upon life.

With love and prayers,

The Rev. Rick Matters
All Saints’, Carmel