Losing a Grandma and Struggling with God - This Physical Facade is not Spiritual Reality - Death

I reacted poorly when my Grandma Jessie died. Like most people, I loved my grandma. She used to make the best parched corn, would crack walnuts for me, let me drink out of her old metal cup, pick cherries and raspberries with me, and give me butterscotch mints. Having grown up across the street from her house, I spent a few hours there most everyday. I took many naps on that couch on which this picture was taken. But after a long battle with melanoma, she died. Instead of growing closer to God, which she would have wanted, I hardened my heart toward Him.

I was fifteen when she died. I should have been old enough to handle it properly, but I didn't. Like many people who struggle with God after the death of someone, I had a faith that did not properly understand death and suffering.

My father shared with me a similar story of struggling with God over death. He had prayed for his father to stop drinking, but his father never did. He eventually died of liver problems when my father was twenty-one. From that point until much later in his life, he stopped living his life for God, a God who he felt did not answers his prayers for his father to be delivered from alcoholism.

Death. It's not just a destroyer of life; it can also be a destroyer of faith.

Two Sundays ago, Diane Schuler, 36, of West Babylon, New York, was driving her two children and her three nieces home from a weekend camping trip in Sullivan County when she inexplicably entered the northbound Taconic going south. While we were sitting around enjoying and sharing a meal with friends, tragedy destroyed two families.

The result was the worst accident in Westchester County in 75 years. Killed with Schuler were four children in her car and three men from Yonkers in an SUV. The only survivor was Schuler’s five year old son Bryan. Dead were Emma Hance, 9, Alison Hance, 7, and Kate Hance, 5, along with the driver, 36-year old Diane, and her two-year old daughter, Erin.

In the eulogy, Warren Hance, the mourning father of the three children, stated, “Love your children. Cherish your children. Kiss your children. And do not forget . . .” I cannot fathom his pain, and it’s seems almost shallow to say in his hurt, but Jesus would say the same message to him that he says to us during our struggles: “Stay faithful to me even through the pain.”

When the physical world around us does not equal spiritual truth, we need to never give in to the physical facade. Death will come. Jesus warned that his death would come (John 13: 18-19, John 14:28-29, John 16:1-4). John ended the book with the warning that his death would come (John 21:20-23). They both encouraged people to not lose faith because of death. The physical laws of this world cannot contain God. When Jesus died on the cross, the resurrection was not far behind.

The disciples did not have the hindsight after the crucifixion that the completed Gospel gives. Before the resurrection, physical reality controlled them. They were expecting a physical kingdom that would take over the nations of the world. They were expecting Jesus to be the emperor that united the world under the banner of Israel. They had forgotten that the warnings of Jesus concerning his death and the prayer in which Jesus taught them to pray.

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught them to pray “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). His kingdom is partly here and his will is partly here, but it is trying to break through more and more. Each of us should be about living in the spiritual reality, transforming the physical fa├žade around us into that reality as much as we are able. We need to live in the resurrection where the limitations of this world have no hold.

It took the resurrection and the Holy Spirit to give the apostles the boldness to stand firm and bring about about God’s kingdom and his will. After the crucifixion and before the resurrection, Peter denied Jesus despite faithfully following him and adamantly proclaiming him the Messiah before his death. The physical death of Jesus destroyed all of their dreams of what they thought was going to happen. Those dreams were crushed on Golgotha. But the resurrection gave these guys the strength to stand up for what they knew was right no matter what life threw their way. And tragedy would come their way. Church history teaches that all of them, save John, were crucified just like Jesus. John was exiled to the island of Patmos.

Jesus gives us hope, hope to continue on when life seems to say we need to quit. He warned us that life will not be a bed of roses. We need to live in the promise that “all things” will be worked out for our good (Romans 8:28). Better days are ahead no matter what we are facing.

At my baptism in 1988, my Grandma Jessie gave me a Bible and wrote this in the inside cover.

Dear Grandson Regan,

“Lo – I am with you always.”

With the right attitudes and God’s help you can cope with anything.

Train yourself to think spiritually with hope and optimism and enthusiasm.

Shape your life in His love.

Much Love,

Grandma Snyder