A week ago Bruno and Ingrid were in a head-on-collision. Subsequently other cars crashed into them from behind. Their two children Karl (6) and Maya (2) were critically injured, and both died in ICU – Karl on Sunday and Maya this morning. Both parents are still in serious physical condition besides suffering from this trauma and loss. Please pray for them, that they don´t lose faith, but continue to trust in the one, who we know as the one, who
will shelter you with his wings; you will find safety under his wings. His faithfulness is like a shield or a protective wall!Psalm 91,4
My parents-in-law lost their youngest son – Martin – when he was but 2 years old. He drowned in the parsonage´s fishpond on Christmas Eve. Their eldest was shot on a lovely autumn day by robbers, who came to steal his truck. They probably felt much like Adam and Eve after Abel was murdered by Cain, or Jacob, when he heard that a wild animal had killed Joseph. King David was quite distraught when his rebellious son Absalom was killed in battle, trying to oust his very father from the throne. He also went through quite some suffering, when his first-born with Batsheba dies. I reckon there´s not much worse to suffer in this world, than to bury your own child. That´s what those parents in Bethlehem went through after the killing of the holy innocents, but Joseph and Mary escaped with baby Jesus to Egypt.
That explains the joy the bereaved experience, when their dead ones are brought back to life: The widow of Sarepta; Jacob gets to see his long lost son Joseph again in Egypt; the widow of Nain; Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue. It´s what the Lord promised through the evangelist. St. John:
God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will not exist any more—or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the former things have ceased to exist.Revelation 21,4
The reformer – Dr. Martin Luther – struggled very much with the premature death of his daughter Magdalena. She was but thirteen years old. It was the 20th September 1542 – four years before he himself would die. He writes to his trusted friend Justus Jonas:
I believe the report has reached you that my dearest daughter Magdalena has been reborn into Christ’s eternal kingdom. I and my wife should joyfully give thanks for such a felicitous departure and blessed end by which Magdalena escaped the power of the flesh, the world, the Turk and the devil; yet the force of our natural love is so great that we are unable to do this without crying and grieving in our hearts, or even without experiencing death ourselves. The features, the words and the movements of the living and dying daughter remain deeply engraved in our hearts. Even the death of Christ… is unable to take this all away as it should. You, therefore, give thanks to God in our stead. For indeed God did a great work of grace when he glorified our flesh in this way. Magdalena had (as you know) a mild and lovely disposition and was loved by all… God grant me and all my loved ones and all my friends such a death – or rather such a life.Martin Luther
P. Paul Gerhardt married Anna Maria on the 11th of February 1655. The first daughter, Maria Elisabeth, was born on the 19th of May 1656, but died half a year later already on the 28th January 1657. She was buried in Mittenwalde. The Gerhardts had four more children. Three of these died in early age: Anna Catharina, Andreas Christian and Andreas). Son Paul Friedrich was the only one, who would outlive his parents. Paul Gerhard, was hard pressed in his office of the minstry too because he wanted to remain faithful to the Lutheran confession – and not follow the unionistic pressures of the calvinistic Prussian king. One of his most beloved hymns is “Geh aus mein Herz und suche Freud...”, by which he exhorts himself to leave his own sorrowful state (curvatus in se) and seek joy in God´s creation, salvation and final consumation is a very strong admonition for us to look up towards Jesus – the only source and final goal of our salvation – and come to Him with all our sorrows, troubles and needs. Catherine Winkworth translated and compressed Paul Gerhardt´s 15 verses into but six stanzas. Try read the original – if You can. It´s worth it.
1 Go forth, my heart, and seek delight,
While summer reigns so fair and bright,
View God’s abundance daily;
The beauty of these gardens see,
Behold how they for me and thee
Have decked themselves so gaily.
2 The trees with spreading leaves are blessed,
The earth her dusty rind has dressed
In green so young and tender.
Narcissus and the tulip fair
Are clothed in raiment far more rare
Than Solomon in splendor.
3 The lark soars upward to the skies,
And from her cote the pigeon flies,
Her way to woodlands winging.
The silver-throated nightingale
Fills mountain, meadow, hill and dale
With her delightful singing.
4 Fast grows the wheat, like waving gold,
And gives delight to young and old;
All nature with thanksgiving
Lauds Him whose mercy measureless
Vouchsafed the soul of man to bless
With goods that grace his living.
5 Thy splendor, Lord, doth brightly shine
And fills my heart with joy divine
While here on earth abiding;
What, then, may be in store for me
And all who heaven’s glory see,
In golden halls residing?
6 O choose me for Thy paradise,Catherine Winkworth
Let soul and body till I rise
Still flourish, tiring never.
With Thee alone will I abide,
Thine honor serve, and none beside,
Both here and there forever.