Yesterday our family received the news that two teenagers had committed suicide here in Rogers, Minnesota. Then today I received an e-mail from a family in our church who knows the family of one of the young men. He and his family were deeply grieved by this, as you can imagine, and after praying for some time here is how I responded (I've edited out some portions of the note). I hope these few words will help you in times of grief, as well.
Dear Brother in Christ,
It’s times like this when our belief in God, and our beliefs about God, are put to the test. And for us who believe so strongly in the sovereignty of God one particular question comes to the fore: how can God be good when he has the power and the right to stop things like this but doesn’t? If I could fully and satisfactorily answer this question I would be the most famous pastor/theologian in history. I do not have a full and satisfying answer to this question, but in times like these here are the things I strive to remember:
1. God is holy to the core of his being, and therefore he is faultless in all he does and all he allows (Lev. 11:44, Is. 6:3, Jam. 1:17, 1 Pet. 1:16, 1 John 1:5, Rev. 4:8).
2. God is good to the core of his being and therefore all he does is good, even if it appears to be evil (Ps. 25:8, 34:8, 100:5, 106:1, 107:1, 118:1, 135:3, Nahum 1:7).
3. God is wise, and though we don’t understand his ways, someday we will see and understand and worship him for every single decision he has made—yes, even those who hate him will acknowledge the infinite superiority of his wisdom in every single decision (Ps. 104:24, Pr. 2:6, 3:19, 21:30, Is. 28:29).
As one of my pastors used to tell me, “You can trust the heart of God when you cannot trace his hand.” You can trust the character of God when you cannot understand what he has done, or what he has allowed. Thus, my counsel to you, brother, is to read every one of these texts with your family and drive them deeply into your soul. Suffering is a kind of key that unlocks the depths of our hearts and it gives us, therefore, an opportunity to drive the truth deeper than we otherwise could. Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with grief—in fact, something would be wrong if we did not feel grief. After all, even Jesus wept at the death of Lazurus. But his grief was not a hopeless grief, and if we will allow truth to carry the day neither will our grief be hopeless (1 Thes. 4:13).
Brother, I love you and your family very much, and I hope that my words will be a help and not a hindrance. May the God of all comfort be near you (2 Cor. 1:3-7). Please let me know if there’s anything specific I can do.
With grief and hope in Christ,