The summer after I graduated from college I was invited to a church to hear a woman speak. She had been a missionary during the Vietnam War, and had ended up in a prisoner of war camp for three years during the worst of the fighting. I don’t remember her name, or her ministry, or any other significant aspect of her story, but I do remember vividly one thing she said that day.
She was several months into her imprisonment and feeling deeply discouraged about her new reality. One day, she just couldn’t take it anymore and broke down weeping. She was sitting on the ground next to her husband…dirty, disheveled, broken, and weary. In that moment she turned to him and said, “We have to get through this horror somehow!” And he replied, “No. Not somehow, but triumphantly.”
I’ve been thinking about those words a lot today as we continue to walk through the deep sorrow and suffering of burying a baby. I’ve also been thinking about the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, and I empathize with them deeply. I know what it feels like to be happy one moment, and a moment later…the bomb goes off and you enter a life of permanent pain. Births, marathons, birthdays, weddings, these are all “supposed” to be happy moments in our lives. And the shock of joy suddenly turned to agony is incredibly debilitating. The victims of this tragedy need the Lord in this moment desperately. It is so very hard when you are sitting in the dust of despair to see any hope past your pain. You can’t imagine even surviving your suffering…let alone triumphantly.
And yet, this missionary couple who were prisoners of a heinous war in a horrible place…did that very thing. They walked with Jesus through the pain…not just barely, but triumphantly. How did they do such a thing? Honestly, I don’t remember the details really. This was all pre-iPhone and I don’t have the notes I took from the day I heard this woman speak.
But I’ll tell you what I am certain about…it was Jesus every step of the way.
The missionaries words make me think of what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 2:14, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.”
As a Roman citizen, Paul was probably envisioning a “Roman triumph”- the religious rite in ancient Rome where the victor would get to publicaly declare his triumph on a foreign battlefield. A victory lap for all the world to see. The battle had been horrible beyond belief, but still the victor had won ultimately. And now it was time to party.
This verse gives me great hope for today.
I’m still sitting in the dust, broken and weary. I miss baby Charlie desperately, and wonder constantly why God chose this for our story. We can make battles seem so glorious, but the real battles of life are devastatingly painful and there is nothing glorious about being broken and bleeding. Most days I feel a lot closer to the battlefield, than to the Roman victory party.
But I truly believe that the party will come Someday. One day, we who are in Christ, will finally see with sight, what we once had to take by faith. That through every one of these painful sufferings of life we were being led by a loving God…
Not just somehow, but Triumphantly.
And in doing so…He spread the life-giving fragrance of Christ, revealing the glorious knowledge of Him along the way.