Pain and Affliction Are Merciful Gifts

My daily prayer since Sarah passed away last year is that God would not let me forget the life-changing sanctifying things I have learned. He has been faithful in answering that through countless ways. Sometimes it has been when the walls of grief surrounded me threatening to blot out every ray of hope so I had only Him to turn to. Other times it is in the innumerable small joys of everyday life that I instinctively want to turn and share with her. Each moment like those is a gift because of how each one points me to eternal truths.

John Piper writes in “This Momentary Marriage” that “Being married in the moment of death is both a bitter and sweet providence. Sweet because at the precipice of eternity the air is crystal-clear, and you see more plainly than ever the precious things that really matter about your imperfect lover. But being married at death is also bitter, because the suffering is doubled as one watches the other die …. The shadow of covenant-keeping between husband and wife gives way to the reality of covenant-keeping between Christ and His glorified Church. Nothing is lost. The music of every pleasure is transposed into an infinitely higher key.”

Pain and affliction are merciful gifts from God though because of how they help refine me (James 1:2-4), remind me of transcendent eternal truths (Romans 8:18), and restore my wandering focus (Psalm 119:71). Every time I feel the pang of longing for marriage, I can rejoice even through my sorrow of loss! That emotion is calling my attention to the truth that this world isn’t my home. It’s reminding my heart of the greater promise hidden in marriage of the relationship between Christ and the church! Each sigh of desire is but a shimmery foretaste and fleeting glimpse of what we will all experience in eternity as the glorious Bride of Christ. In that longing I have for what Sarah and I shared in marriage is a far greater truth about the longing for Christians as a bride of Christ. In that search for oneness and intimacy between a husband and wife that includes such close friendship yet also transcends it, I have had just a small foretaste of the relationship with Christ I will one day experience perfectly.

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