These are the thoughts I shared on Saturday at Jackie Tisdale’s memorial service.
If I asked you two weeks ago what you would be doing today, none of us would say, “I’ll be at a funeral.” This event was not on my calendar. The death of Jackie Tisdale was sudden and unexpected . . . at least from our perspective. I was stunned when I read the news on Facebook. My first thought was, “No, that can’t be right.”
Perhaps you, like me, have had many thoughts and prayers the past two weeks that started off with “Why?” “Why this?” “Why now?” “God, what are you doing?”
I started wrestling with the question of “Why?” some 35 years ago when my dad died of cancer. I struggled with it 20 years ago when my brother was killed in an industrial accident. I circled back to it again two weeks ago when I learned that Jackie had passed away.
As I thought about that question the past two weeks, I was reminded of a man who had similar questions. He was a wealthy patriarch by the name of Job. He was a man who had it all. He had seven sons and three daughters, and 11,000 head of livestock including sheep, camels, oxen, and donkeys. He was rich by anyone’s standards.
And yet in the space of a few days, he lost everything, including his health. The only thing left was his wife and she had become a bitter woman. Job 2:9 says, “Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.’” In essence she said, “Job, you’re a fool to keep trusting God. All your devotion amounted to this? Curse God and give up.”
Maybe you are feeling like that this morning. You trusted God. You relied on Jackie. And God took her away. If that’s how God treats his children, why bother trusting him?
Job had some well-meaning friends who stopped by to comfort him. Isn’t it strange that when we don’t know what to say, we either say nothing or say the wrong thing? Job’s friends were like that. In fact, they belonged to the “Cliché-of-the-month-Club.”
- Job, you must have done something wrong. I bet God is punishing you.
- Job, if you had only been a better person, you wouldn’t be in this mess.
- Job, just trust God and everything will turn out ok.
- Job, if you only had had more faith, or trusted God more, or been more generous, or . . . or . . . none of this would have happened.
We’ve all heard the clichés. In fact, we’ve probably said a few of them ourselves. Maybe you have heard or thought these statements over the past two weeks.
In his pain and depression, Job cried out and said, “Why?” And you know what God’s reply was? SILENCE.
Despite what people say, despite all the pious sounding clichés, the comforting words, or finding someone to blame . . . despite all the well-meaning efforts, there is no answer to the “Why?” question.
In chapter 38 of the book of Job, God finally answered, sort of. But instead of answering Job’s questions, God asked Job some of his own.
4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. 5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? … 8 “Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, …12 “Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place, … 16 “Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep? … 19 “Where is the way to the dwelling of light, and where is the place of darkness, … 22 “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail, … 24 What is the way to the place where the light is distributed, or where the east wind is scattered upon the earth? … 28 “Has the rain a father, or who has begotten the drops of dew? … 31 “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades or loose the cords of Orion? 32 … can you guide the Bear with its children? 33 Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you establish their rule on the earth? 35 Can you send forth lightnings, that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are’?
After God finished his questions, Job finally understood. He had been asking the wrong question. The question is not “Why?” The real question is “Who?”
At the end of the story, Job finally realized that God was sovereignly in control. He recognized that just because God did not explain everything to him, it didn’t mean that God didn’t have a plan and a purpose. In Job 42:1–2, we read, “Then Job answered the Lord and said: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”
The concept of God’s sovereignty means that God is sitting on his throne, that he has a plan and a purpose that he is moving to accomplish, and nothing will stop him from completing it. God’s sovereignty says that nothing happens by accident and that God is not surprised by any seeming tragedy. Somehow, and we may never understand why, it is all part of his plan and purpose.
Recognizing God’s sovereignty doesn’t answer all the “Why?” questions. But it does answer the “Who?” question. It says that God is in control and that he can be trusted. While we still grieve, we can take comfort in the fact that Jackie’s death was not a random act or an accident. It was all part of God’s plan and purpose.
Jackie had a strong confidence in Who. Like Job, Jackie was confident that God was her redeemer. In Job 19:25–26 we read, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.” Jackie is now in the presence of her redeemer, the one whom she put her faith and trust in.
Some years ago, my wife discovered a saying that said, “God is the Master Weaver—only he knows when the tapestry is complete.” Somehow in God’s plan, Jackie’s tapestry was complete. The final thread was added and he called her home. If I were weaving the tapestry, I would have included a few more threads. But I’m not the Master Weaver.
For some reason God’s tapestry for _________ and for us at First Central includes what looks to us to be some knots and twisted threads. Only time will tell what scene the Master Weaver is trying to weave into our lives. But we can be confident that he is still at work.
God’s sovereignty raises the issue of, “If God is who he says he is, can these events fit into his plan? Can he use these things to accomplish his purpose? If God is who he says he is, does he have the right to do with my life whatever he wants?”
Basically, it comes down to an issue of confidence and trust. Like Job, Jackie knew that God could be trusted. She agreed with the statement in Job 13:15, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him.” Jackie loved Jesus and trusted him completely. We need to trust that God knows what he is doing.