Recently our congregation experienced a tragic death.  A dad was driving his son and nephew home from a basketball game when an icy road caused them to collide into a tree.  While the son and nephew survived, unfortunately the dad did not.  This death rattled our whole congregation and much of our community.  Over 1,000 people attended the visitation or funeral.

Walking past the line at the visitation that literally snaked through our entire building I found myself in a state of constant conversation with God.  It ranged from “Is this really happening, God?” to “God, you are awesome!” and everything in between.  A constant theme in these prayers was asking God how to be a leader in the midst of such tragedy and grief. Finally, I felt God was leading me in a certain direction: Lead them to the cross.

At first I wondered “The cross?  Why not the empty tomb, God?”  Brooke Ligertwood wrote a song in 2006 that reminds me why the cross comes first:

Savior I come quiet my soul
Remember, redemption’s hill
Where Your blood was spilled
For my ransom
Everything I once held dear
I count it all as loss
Lead me to the cross
Where Your love poured out

The empty tomb is where the hope of new life is found, an important place as we journey through the toughest moments of life and death.  However, at the cross we see God’s heart of love, a love that poured out and sacrificed EVERYTHING so that our suffering would be temporary in this life.  We see, there at the cross, a God who is with us in our suffering and pain because He understands suffering and pain.  We see at the cross that God can make beautiful things out of the most devastating and horrible situations.

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering… surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows… by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:3-5)

So, as we continue to walk through this painful time of grief in our congregation we keep our eyes on the cross… and yes, the empty tomb, for there we find joy in knowing that this tragic death is not the end of the story for Christopher. Because of Christ’s sacrifice for him and His resurrection from the dead on Easter many years ago, we will see Christopher again!

Easter is coming, but first, the cross.

Gracious God, in the midst of pain and suffering, lead us to the cross.  Lead us there because there we find your heart of love and understanding.  And then, lead us to the empty tomb, restoring our joy and bringing us hope.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.