But God, being rich in mercy,
because of the great love with which he loved us,
even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive
together with Christ—by grace you have been saved
Practicing pediatrics in the US one can feel like we win all the time. Relatively few children die in the US and it’s a rarity and tragedy to find a mother who’s had to bury a child. In Togo, it’s hard to find a mother who hasn’t buried a child, at least one. In fact, many groups don’t give a name to their infants until the 8th day, or sometimes until the first month, to avoid giving a name to a child that won’t survive.
I’m not sure how many of you have seen a dead person in real life. Not at a funeral when the dead are made to look alive somehow, but someone in the rawness of death. When it takes place in a hospital, it is often not beautiful nor peaceful. There is an ugliness to death that makes the witnesses feel violated and stolen from. After a short time, it is also obvious. There is no confusion whether a person is dead or not.
For there is nothing in common between the dead and living.
The Word of God often describes us as dead. I think it’s a misunderstanding of this death that leads us to believe that we are better than we are, or that Christ’s love and sacrifice for us is somehow not as awesome as it is. We believe that this death He speaks of is actually more like a peaceful, sleeping child whose mother comes in at night to tuck her child’s swooping curls behind her ear, afraid to wake her. This leads us to think, “of course God has great love towards us, who wouldn’t want to swoop up a sleeping child in their arms—especially God!”
But the death that God speaks of is nothing like this. The actual idea is that of being pulled up out of a grave, a grave that we’ve been in for our entire lives. This is the comparison made when Christ looks upon us, loves us anyway, and delivers us—
a rotting, cold, lifeless corpse. And what corpse could bring itself back to life?
One of my jobs here in Togo is to fight against physical death. It’s a losing battle. Even if I win today, I will always lose in the end. No one has ever defeated death—except one. And Christ makes us alive. To fight for physical life without fighting for spiritual life is like pulling a corpse out of the grave and placing him in a tomb. That’s why we’re here—to share a love that brings people from death to life. Not to force or manipulate, but to wait for God to move, for the Lord to pull people out of the grave and praise Him for it.
He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces
PS: I appreciate everyone’s prayers for string of unfortunate events (broken computer, then phone, then computer, then internet, then a bout of malaria). If the Lord is trying to teach me something, I’m trying to listen. And if Satan is trying to discourage me, I’m not, which I’m sure is thanks to all of your prayers. This ministry could not continue without the sustaining prayers of all of you. I’m deeply grateful for all of you.