I hope that we all had a blessed CHRISTmas!
I think I began using the term “blessed” instead of “merry” after my grandmother died only a few days after Christmas many years ago. If not for my personal relationship with Jesus Christ, which began only two years before she died, and for the love of my spiritual parents and brothers in Japan, where I had to return to finish my Ph.D., I’m sure I could not have emerged from that devastation with even greater faith in, and love for, Christ.
My paternal grandparents were the ones who raised me. It’s a long story; suffice it to say that I loved my grandmother more than anyone else in the world.
And so I remember how I continually wept on her bedside while carolers sang Christmas medleys outside. I remember how crushed I was to see my grandmother suffer physically, and how inutile I felt, despite being an adopted son of God through Jesus Christ and therefore wielder of the power of the Holy Spirit, in the face of my grandmother’s acute pain and imminent death. I remember how intense yet subtle (strange isn’t it) the spiritual battle that had to be fought was, and how, in the end, when all seemed doomed, our Lord Jesus Christ emerged victorious (that one’s another long story)!
I remember how, only a few months before my grandmother’s death, a prophet visited our church in Tokyo and gave me this message:
“My son, I have already gone before you. You’re going to experience a few trials. But the grace is there to bring you safely through without being hurt in any way. I have peace, and this peace is your peace. With this peace there is victory in every turn of the road.”
I remember how I clung to that message, not only during my grandmother’s painful ordeal, but up to around three months after my grandmother’s physical death.
I remember how, every morning for those three or so months, I vigorously threw aside my grief in order to finish the final and most crucial requirements of my Ph.D. (at the Tokyo Institute of Technology). I also remember how, every evening for those three months, my tears would fall unbidden the moment I entered the solitude of my bedroom.
This year’s Christmas day will be another one I won’t forget, for it is when the mother of a former FORMDEV student faci and head passed away. As we spoke yesterday at his mom’s wake, I could see in his face and hear in his voice the same devastation that I felt so many years ago. However, I also had the quiet confidence that, because of his personal relationship with Jesus, and because his spiritual family will be with him through all this, he, too, will emerge with greater faith in, and love for, Jesus.
So many years ago, I used to ask myself why God allowed his children to suffer. I stopped asking the question when I realized that God Himself suffered for all our sake. If Almighty God, who is also my loving Father and my merciful Savior, is no stranger to suffering, it should be the same with me. I only pray that I and all God’s children under my care won’t suffer unnecessarily (as when one suffers because of one’s sins). I also pray that as we go through necessary trials, we will emerge stronger in faith, zeal, and love for Christ and for others.