Some of my closest friendships were forged in the fire of grief. When I was nineteen, I arrived home late from a classical concert. Wondering why the light was on downstairs, I went down and was surprised to see my mom. Her eyes were red from crying and I immediately said, “Did Grandpa die?”
“No,” she said, “It’s Sue. She was killed in a car accident.”
In a flash, my world was changed forever. I started screaming out, “Why? Why? Why?” My mom tried to comfort me, but I was in shock. Coming to terms with why God would allow one of my closest high-school friends die so young, with so much life in front of her, would consume me in the days and years to come.
Why does God allow suffering? I haven’t found easy answers, and no doubt never will know fully this side of heaven. But as I queried theologians and wise friends in the faith, I saw that I had to go back to Genesis 3 and the Fall, when Adam and Eve followed the crafty serpent and disobeyed God. With this act, the world was altered and sin entered in. Now bad things would happen to good people. People would die in car accidents and from disease. Unjust rulers would steal from their subjects. Hurricanes and earthquakes would wipe out thousands. Our world is fractured.
But God hasn’t given us up for lost. In his most gracious act, he gave us his son to pay the price for that first act of sin and disobedience. He is ushering in a new kingdom and a new earth. He is redeeming what was lost.
The tragedy of the death of Sue Weavers that night in October 1986 was huge for me and my circle of high-school friends. In our grief we turned to each other, trying to make sense of the gaping hole in our lives. We met up, sometimes laughing and sometimes crying. Over the years the friendships have lasted. Indeed, one of us commented recently that her friend noticed a deep graciousness between us. Borne out of suffering and pain, no doubt.
Two summers ago our friendship witnessed a new level of grief – the pain of a mother whose son, at twenty, was killed in a car accident. It seems surreal that one of us can now say to her son’s friends that she knows what they are feeling. That she has endured the early loss of a friend and mate. That she prays they will find hope in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And that their friendships will last and deepen and bear the fruit that ours have in the years after Sue’s untimely death.
In this life we will have trouble – so said Jesus to his disciples (John 16:33). But as he says, in him we will have peace as well. I so wish Sue hadn’t died in Duluth, Minnesota, all those years ago. But I’m forever grateful for my circle of friends who would jump off Tower Bridge if I asked.
How about you? Can you think of some of your favorite friends? How have they made an impact in your life? Comment below – I’d love to hear.