Monday, January 11, 2010

A Sad Life; A Hard Death

Dick died sometime last week. Nobody really knows when. He was found in his apartment and the assumption is that he had been dead about a week. He drank himself to death. What a sad end to a sad life.

Dick had once been a neighbor of ours on a street full of close, neighborly friends. Dick succumbed to demon rum, however. He got in all sorts of trouble, lost his job, and destroyed his marriage. Yet, when his ex-wife called to tell us of his Dick’s death, the tears were just below the surface. She was thankful for the good years she had with him.

So were we. We enjoyed barbecues, front porch visits, trips to local restaurants, and just hanging out together. Dick could be charming and fun. He could tell stories. But all the stories weren’t charming. Some were the lies he used to cover up his drinking and the increasingly difficult time he was having at work. When he finally lost the job he had had for many years, the house of cards really began to tumble and crumble.

What do we make of all this? What’s the point? How can we reconcile this with the goodness of God? There are a lot of questions to be asked. Not all the answers will be satisfactory to our ears.

There’s a lot of teaching about “trouble” in God’s Word. These verses comes to mind, for instance:

He who is pregnant with evil and conceives trouble gives birth to disillusionment. He who digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit he has made. The trouble he causes recoils on himself; his violence comes down on his own head. (Psalm 7:14-16).

Trouble is often the result of our own actions. We can’t blame God; and we can’t blame the devil. Is alcoholism a disease? I won’t go on that rabbit trail, but I will say that though we may even inherit a tendency toward addiction, the active participation in that addiction begins as sinful behavior, not disease.

God does not walk away, however, and say, “You made your bed, now lie in it.” He cares about the troubled, the oppressed. The Bible is full of promises about help for the troubled. Here are just a few from the book of Psalms:

  • The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. (Psalm 9:9)
  • For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock. (Psalm 27:5)
  • You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. (Psalm 32:7)
  • The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in time of trouble. (Psalm 37:39).

God is in the rescue business. Dick was made in God's image. God offered help. Dick was told the Gospel. He was invited to church. His response was usually along the lines of “Time for church is when 60 Minutes comes on.”

Is all this a glib way to say, “tough luck, Dick,” or to excuse his friends and neighbors for our parts in his demise? No. It’s just a tough, real life story. He had a hard life. He probably had a hard death. If nothing else, let us all learn to turn from our addictions; turn others from beginning in lives of drink, drugs, and promiscuity. Turn to God. Let’s bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Pray for those in your life who are afflicted. Tell them that God WILL help. And expect them to throw up on your shoes. Then pray for them again.

There is no happy ending, here. Dick’s dead. He was (probably) unsaved. There but for the (vast, enormous, eternal) grace of God, go I.