As we read this email, the rescue and recovery efforts in Turkey and in Syria for earthquake victims continue. The grueling work is from night to day to night through the winter as frigid temperatures assail, and where the people are without shelter or heat. The death toll has risen to more than 41,000, and the numbers in Syria are not fully within the estimate as rescue efforts there have been constantly hindered by ISIS fighters preventing needed help from arriving in the region.
I have friends who live in Turkey, far enough from where the earthquake had hit to be at peace, but not far enough to share in the grief of friends who lived in the area. They told us that among those lost are families who have loved Christ. They are members of the church that has largely met quietly because of the strong and militant Muslim influences in Turkey, particularly near the Syrian border. And yet as they write, their grief has been tampered by the thought of the resurrection. Christ is our hope in the midst of unspeakable grief. “Have you noticed,” my friend wrote, “that the risen Christ did not circle back to the austere halls of Pilate to show him what He meant by His power over death? Instead, He appeared first to weeping Mary Magdalene. He walked on a dusty road alongside two despondent, discouraged believers – one of whom is not even named. He initiated with uncanny kindness toward Peter who had denied Him, not once but three times. He walked through the barriers to His friends who were paralyzed with fear. In short, the risen Jesus comes to the grieving, the hopeless and the fearful. a woman.” “I realized at that very moment,” she wrote, “that in the darkness of my grief, I qualify!” In what David calls “the valley of the shadow of Death,” there are many places that may conceal doubt, anxiety, fears and trouble – “fears without and fears within”. But Jesus, in Whom is the resurrection and the life, comes to us, and as He did to Mary, He speaks our name. He’s alive! How about that! Let’s pray for those who suffer grief. But beyond that, let’s pray that they will encounter the Lord of life. It is indeed in grief’s dark night that the light of Christ shines brightest.