My long-time boss has recently suffered some heavy losses in his life. In one day, the warehouse for his company with over a million dollars worth of equipment burned to the ground; worse, his brother drowned in a lake, leaving a wife and five children – at a family reunion no less. My boss and his brothers are dedicated Christians – if you wanted to find the definition of a ‘good man’ it would be men like these. Generous, hospitable, friendly, excellent fathers, loving husbands. A tragedy like this can ruin your life and question everything. Some would walk away from God. But this family runs toward God – and in doing so, find a meaning, purpose, and hope in the midst of death that others simply cannot find nor understand.
Through it all, I have been impressed with how they’ve handled it. I want to have the same attitude when I come to that point. It was moving to hear how his sister-in-law is managing the loss of her husband.
To give an example: on the drive back from the reunion their younger son, (he’s five I think) would happily chat about this and that (he’s a very talkative child), but soon break down in tears. His mother would comfort and speak softly to him so that he feels better enough to chat away more; only in five or ten minutes to go back to sobbing again, and again mother comforts and loves him. This cycle continued for the drive home. She is determined to keep enough composure to put her children first and love them through the pain. My boss said something very perceptive I will paraphrase (from the best I can remember) here:
“The real test of dying to yourself is looking to help other people first – when you’re the one who had the highest loss.”
It reminds me of Jesus’ powerful words in Mark 8.34: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” In the midst of bearing the cross of suffering and loss, denying yourself to love others and love Jesus must be the essence of meaning and purpose in life.