“Why did God take my parents from me?”
This question from a Junior High/Middle School student, asked at a Christian camp just a few short weeks ago.
One of the many things I LOVE about junior highers is the raw emotion that lies just beneath the surface of so much of what they do and say. There is no pretense with these young teens. They haven’t yet perfected the game-playing the characterizes so many of us older people. What you see is more often than not what you get. They are real. And so many of them are really hurting.
I cannot even begin to imagine the wounds behind the 8 words that this one student would ask of God is he or she knew that He would give them an absolutely honest answer.
And while I am a pitifully poor substitute for God, I do have a sense of how I believe God would have answered that question, and will share that answer now as if I am talking directly to the student.
Death is an intruder in the human race. When God first created the world and pronounced it “good,” no one died. No one needed to die. Death was a foreign concept. An unwelcome guest. Not even an entry in the dictionary of human conversation.
When God one day (sooner rather than later, I think) recreates this world, the first thing God will banish from the “New Heaven and the New Earth” is death. Through the pen of the Apostle John, God declared for all the world (and you and me) to hear,
“God will wipe away every tear from (our) eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain. These things of the past are gone forever.” (Revelation 21:4).
I do definitely believe that God would tell you that when your parents died, it was as if a part of His heart died right along with them. Just as Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus, so Jesus wept when your parents tragically left this earth. In fact, the tears that you are now shedding in remembrance of your parents God is storing up in a bottle, and counting every one (Psalm 56:8). No tear is ever shed without God knowing about it, and grieving right along with us. Right along with you.
There is a theme that runs through the Bible. It’s not particularly obvious. We have to dig a little deeper to discover it. But once we do, it’s amazing how often we will see this theme repeated throughout the unfolding biblical story.
The theme is this: Whenever someone loses one or both parents prematurely (through death, or divorce, or some equally painful family tragedy), and is therefore forced to grow up in the absence of one or both parents, it is proof-positive that God has a very special plan and purpose for that individual. A special plan and purpose for you!
I really want you to hear that. So let me repeat this all-important sentence:
Whenever someone loses one or both parents prematurely (through death, or divorce, or some equally painful family tragedy), and is therefore forced to grow up in the absence of one or both parents, it is proof-positive that God has a very special plan and purpose for that individual. A special plan and purpose for you!
Think of the people whom God mightily used in Scripture. Almost without exception, he or she was someone who lost one or both parents at a relatively young age.
Abraham left his homeland and most of his family when he made the move from Ur to Israel. While en route to the Promised Land, his beloved dad died. Abraham settled in Beersheba and started his new life without the benefit of a mom or dad to guide the way. Just think about how much God used Abraham, whom He later referred to as, “the friend of God” (James 2:23). Yes, God certainly had a powerful plan for Abraham, didn’t He? There never would have been a Jesus if there wasn’t first an Abraham.
Joseph’s beloved mom died when he was a younger boy. He was then betrayed by his brothers. As a consequence of that betrayal, as a teen Joseph was removed from his home, taken captive to a foreign land, and forced first to live as a slave, and later as an incarcerated criminal for a crime he never committed. Joseph did nothing to deserve any of this. Just when it seemed like Joseph needed his dad the most, he couldn’t reach him. But he could reach God. And God eventually used Joseph to save his people from the starvation of a famine that threatened to wipe them out. Yes, God certainly had a powerful plan for Joseph, didn’t He? There never would have been a Jesus if there wasn’t first a Joseph.
Moses was forced by circumstances beyond his control to be raised by a woman who was not his mom. He, like Joseph, grew up apart from both his parents. Yet, Moses is the central figure of the Old Testament, the deliverer of God’s people from 400 years of slavery in Egypt, and is considered even today the single most important individual in the minds and hearts of the Jewish people. And for good measure, “There has never been another prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face” (Deuteronomy 34:10). Yes, God certainly had a powerful plan for Moses, didn’t He? There never would have been a Jesus if there wasn’t first a Moses.
Ruth married a young man whose dad had died when he was still living in his home. After their marriage, he died, leaving Ruth a widow. She might have been without a husband, but she was never without God. Ruth adopted the Jewish people as her own people, and their God as her God. And believe it or not, Ruth became the great grandmother of King David, the direct descendant of Jesus. Yes, God certainly had a powerful plan for Ruth, didn’t He? There never would have been a Jesus if there wasn’t first a Ruth.
Esther saved the Jewish people from certain annihilation. Of Esther’s childhood we read, “When her father and mother died, Mordecai adopted her into his family and raised her as his own daughter” (Esther 2:7). To this day, she is a hero of the Jewish people, and rightly so. Every year on Purim, her story is read, and every little Jewish girl dresses up in costume as Queen Esther. Yes, God certainly had a powerful plan for Esther, didn’t He? There never would have been a Jesus if there wasn’t first an Esther.
Are you beginning to see the pattern here? It’s everywhere in the Bible! You are not alone!
Of course, I could go on and on with example after example. But my space and your time is limited. So I’ll give you just one more.
Jesus lost his dad, Joseph, when he was growing up. Joseph is not mentioned again after Jesus was twelve. As Jesus hung on that old rugged cross, He stopped dying long enough to provide for the care of His widowed mom, Mary. He asked His beloved apostle, John, to take her into his home because Joseph had long since died. Yes, God certainly had a powerful plan for Jesus, didn’t He?
And as if all of that wasn’t enough, get this! God has granted to you a very special, precious, and unique relationship with Him that only comes to those who have lost one or both of their natural parents. And just to punctuate this point, God even calls Himself, “A father to the fatherless” (Psalm 68:5).
Oh, and BTW (by the way), FWIW (for what it’s worth), one final thought: You are reading the words of a guy who, as a teenager, lost his dad too (to divorce, abandoning my mom, two younger sisters, and me), and not too long after that, to death. So trust me, I “get it.”