An Even Greater Love

We are all familiar with Christ’s observation, as he foreshadowed His own crucifixion:  “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”  Now, I make it a pretty firm rule never to disagree with anything that Jesus said, and I think that what he was telling the disciples that the greatest love He could show them was the sacrifice of His life.  But I do think that there may be an even greater love that we don’t spend enough time contemplating.

During my almost half-century on this planet (I said “almost”), I have seen and experienced my fair share of tragedies.  I have watched good friends and family members forced to carry burdens that they never imagined would be laid on their backs.  But among all of those trials, none is more tragic than the loss of a child.

It is something I have seen far too often, but thankfully have not endured.  I have seen friends lose infants to illness, toddlers to accidents, and teens to drugs.  I have counseled parents who faced the horror of their children taking their own lives.

The loss of a child is out of the natural order of things.  It turns the world on its head.  It is an affront to our sensibilities.  It is an incomparable loss.

And it is something that our Father in Heaven willingly chose to endure.

I can imagine circumstances under which I would give my life for another person.  While I hope never to be put in such a dilemma, I can conceive of circumstances in which I would sacrifice myself, even for a stranger.  What I cannot imagine is sacrificing my own child for the benefit of someone else.

Yet that very sacrifice was the linchpin of our Heavenly Father’s Plan of Salvation.  That plan could not be successful unless His Only Begotten, His most Beloved Son would be sacrificed on our behalf.  The favored Son, He who had done no wrong, would have to die in order to rescue the rest of us–all of whom have willingly disobeyed the Father.

It is impossible to imagine the agony Christ endured in Gethsemane and Golgotha.  Such infinite suffering is mind-boggling.  But what of the suffering Father, who would willingly stand beside His perfect Son and, because of His love for us, take no action when Jesus pleaded:  “Take this cup from me.”  What must it have taken for the Father, as the final step of Christ’s atoning sacrifice, to withdraw his Spirit from His Son, while Christ cried out, “Why has thou forsaken me?”

I cannot bear to see my children suffer.  When they are in pain, I would willingly take that ache on myself to ease their hurt.  But I don’t have that power.  The Father did, and because of the greatest love imaginable, He did not come to the rescue.

Without direct experience, none of us can truly empathize with the loss of a child.  Less so when that child is sacrificed as part of your own plan, for the benefit of others, millions of who deny your existence or curse your name.

Abraham, perhaps, came closest to this understanding, when he was given a test that we would consider unthinkable.  But even Abraham was spared the actual requirement of the blade falling upon Isaac.  There would be no goat caught in the brambles to serve as a substitute sacrifice.  The salvation of Christ would come only after the sacrifice was complete.

I believe that the Father’s sacrifice merits more of our attention and gratitude.  During the silent moments of the sacrament ordinance, His unparalleled love should play a primary role in our remembrance and be a major motivation for our covenant to obey Him.  God so loved the world that He not only sent His Son, but He sacrificed Him.  Such an inconceivable love should give us all hope that in His eyes, we are too wonderful to give up on.  Too loved to lose.

Advertisements

7 Responses Guaranteed to Shoot the Wheels Off of Your Temple Recommend Interview

Temple recommend interviews can be too quick and formulaic.  Here’s some suggested answers to spice up the interview and panic your Stake Presidency member:

“Do you sustain the General Authorities of the Church?”

Sure….Wait, does that include the German guy?

“Do you sustain the local authorities of the Church?”

All except the Ward Employment Specialist.  I think he’s on the take.

“Are you honest in your dealings with your fellow men?”

We’re just talking about the men, right?

“Do you keep the Word of Wisdom?”

That depends.  Are we all agreed that marijuana is not a “hot drink?”

“Do you keep the Law of Chastity?”

Whoa…hold on second.  That’s a LAW?

“Do you have any problems with pornography?”

No problems at all.  I’ve got broadband and a wicked fast router.

“Is there anything about your relationship with your family that is not in harmony with the teachings of the Church?”

Have you been talking to my parole officer?  ‘Cause I’m telling you now, that dude is a liar.

 

Stay

Because sometimes, we forget that we matter.

 

Stay

Darkness everywhere, and nowhere to run…depression

Stay

Hope is a memory, joy a mirage…

Stay

Every voice an accuser, every look brings shame…

Stay

No place in the world that feels like home…

Stay

Your existence a burden you cannot bear…

Stay

 

Stay…

Your eyes are blind.  They cannot see love.

Stay…

Your ears are deaf.  They cannot hear words of mercy.

 

Stay…

Your mouth lies.  It shouts down any hope or happiness.

 

Stay….

Your heart has shielded itself from touch.

 

 

Stay…

Open your eyes.

Unstop your ears.

Quiet your tongue.

Soften your heart.

 

 

Stay…

You are needed more than you know.

Stay…

You are loved more than you can imagine.

 

Stay…

Darkness does not last forever.

 

R.S. Ghio

5 Principles to Guide Us through Grief

A little advice from a guy who is closer to the finish line than the starting gate…

I was eighteen years old before I had to deal the with death of someone close to me. My grandmother died suddenly of a stroke just a few weeks after my high school graduation. I stumbled through that process in shock, and oddly enough, no one made an effort to talk me through the process of loss and grief. I made as much sense of the situation as I could, and it left me sad, confused and frustrated.

Three decades later, I have weathered many more losses. Accidents, illnesses, and suicide have claimed family, friends, clients and students. No loss is remotely easy, but thirty years of experience in grieving and supporting those who suffer in their own grief have taught me a few things that help me to endure dark trials. In particular, there are five principles that, prayerfully applied, can guide us through the pain of mourning.

1. God is Real
I can think of no more stark reality than the finality of death. The resurrection is a wonderful doctrine, but when we lose someone we love, it tests our faith in Christ and His victory over death in a way that nothing else can. Without Christ, there is no hope of being reunited with our families. We cannot have hope in a vacuum. We have to hope in something.

Therefore, choose to believe. Trust that there is more to our existence than the here and now. Choose to believe that there is a then and there to which your love one has moved, and that the darkness of death has been overcome by the light of Christ.

2. God Loves us
Because God loves us, we can enjoy the assurance that He is not arbitrary in dealing with us. He does not reach out and take our fathers, mothers, or children in order to “test” us like lab mice. He takes no pleasure in our pain. He wants us to be happy, despite the hardships that come with mortality. Therefore, there is a way through this.

3. God “Gets” It
One of the greatest messages of the Bible and the Book of Mormon is the doctrine that Christ suffered for all of our pains–whether caused by sin, stupidity, the evil of others, or the mere experience of mortality– precisely so that He would understand our hurt. His perfect understanding of our broken hearts is essential to His ability to mend them, and thus, in a way beyond our understanding, he chose to experience all that anyone could be called upon to endure. When we cry out in anguish, we are heard by One who knows better than anyone else what we are going through and whose perfect grace can make us whole.

4. God Has a Plan
I will admit that I have a problem with some of the platitudes we hear or share when we lose a loved one. I remember when my father died in a work accident, more than one person talked to me about the Lord “needing” my father for a mission on the other side of the veil. Really? With billions of people having died, including no small number of prophets, apostles and other spiritual luminaries, God can’t manage to get things done over there without killing my dad?

I think what these well-intentioned sentiments reflect is the hope that God is still in control of things and, from an eternal perspective, will turn all things to our good. To borrow from Buddhist teachings, we want to know that a lotus flower actually can bloom from the mud in which we currently are mired.

It can. Our decision to believe in God includes the decision to believe that He is not an absent manager. He has a plan for us, and it is a plan of happiness. We are not meant to spend our loves moving from tragedy to tragedy, living at the whim of a random, impersonal universe. Our Father is on top of things.

5. No Matter How Hard We Try, We Will Not Understand Today’s Tragedies
The problem with our faith in God’s plan is that we do not know its details, and we will not fully understand our losses while in mortality. We do not have the knowledge or perspective to be able to see into God’s heart as He sees into ours. I cannot think of any death I have witnessed where my reaction was, “Well, that made perfect sense!” I wish none of them ever had happened, and I cannot help but think that I would be happier if all those I have loved were still here with me.

But that isn’t the way mortality works. Our earthly journey includes necessary detours through the valley of the shadow of death, and nothing there seems to make any sense at all. But if we believe in the reality of a loving, omniscient Father in Heaven, who has a plan for our joy and happiness, then we trust that the plan will work. In the Stygian darkness of sorrow and mourning. We reach for his hand and let Him lead us to safety. We might never see clearly through our sorrows, so we surrender our vision to Him.

We choose to believe, to trust and to be healed.

Light and Life

For some dear friends in a dark hour…

Light and Life

When close-knit hearts are torn apart
No gentle words suffice
To ease the pain, nor help explain
Why warmth’s been turned to ice

You cannot think, a weight this great,
To carry it alone
To understand reach for the Hand
That called your loved one home

Our mortal view, forever skewed
Can never understand
In darkest hour our only power
Is drawn from the Master’s hand

Our pain so deep, it’s He who weeps
And waits behind the veil
He’s paid the cost for every loss
To know, and then to heal

The Prince of Peace is not a thief
Each loss will be restored
From darkness light, from stillness life
In tears we trust the Lord.

R.S. Ghio