1 Kings 17
18 She then said to Elijah, “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to cause the death of my son!”
“Why?” It is the most relentless and agonizing of questions in the face of sudden and unexpected death. I have heard a woman grieve bitterly at the death of her child, though he was 68. “It is not right for a mother to bury her son,” she wept, “The son is supposed to bury the mother.” And then that troubling and persistent cry, “Why?”
Facing that question, the heart trembles at the thought that God might be punishing me. It may be only a fleeting thought, but it haunts the shadows. I push it away from me, but I know it lies in wait.
And so the widow of Zarephath speaks bitterly to Elijah: the prophet’s presence has brought her to God’s attention and for her past sins God has struck down her son. Or so she fears.
Elijah is not a pastor that needs to shepherd her soul away from guilt towards the message of God’s grace, goodness and love. He can take the child and draw down the power of heaven, beseeching God to restore the child’s life. The breath/spirit of God is powerful in Elijah and it breathes upon the unbreathing and he is restored. But I, I am left with the grieving mother – and my own grieving heart.
Faith is not believing so much as trusting. I cannot persuade my head that God is not against me – I can only trust his promise that he is for me. To the grieving widow I can only speak that same promise one more time. These are not empty words designed to silence the grieving, nor mere platitudes of a funeral; they are words of power calling us to live in the promise proclaimed to us in Christ Jesus:
31What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?
33Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.
35Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39)