For the sake of transparency, I’ll start by saying that I do not know what unexpected loss feels like. I’ve lost relatives, but never without warning.
It was anticipated and I was blessed with time to prepare for the inevitable.
While every loss we experience is painful and heart wrenching, this is not the kind of heart break that this day in history brings to so many.
Rather, it’s a sudden, unsolicited, unexpected ripping of your heart – a kind of pain that leaves you breathless and paralyzed.
It’s a kind of pain that one feels as they helplessly watch the plane holding their loved one careen straight into a building.
A pain that courses through their soul every year as they remember that horrific day; a day filled with fear.
Perfect Love Casts Out All Fear
When we think of love, we think of the good moments in life; the moments that leave us smiling and hopeful.
Love is a white gown and tux.
Love is laughter and the cry of a newborn child.
Love is found in the comfort of a friend.
Love is extended through the hands of rescuers responding to Hurricane Irma.
Love is experienced when our brothers and sisters in Christ are truly happy.
Love is known in and through Jesus Christ.
Love is the cross.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them (1 John 4:16).
But what about the hard times; the times when we actually feel our hearts breaking inside of us?
I recently watched a movie starring Will Smith (Howard) titled Collateral Beauty.
In this story, after coping for years with the pain of his daughter’s death, Howard writes letters to Love, Death, and Time.
To his surprise, Love, Death, and Time incarnate actually approach him.
The part that stuck out the most to me was when Love (Keira Knightley) approached Howard and passionately tried to remind him that love is the fabric of life; the only reason for anything and that he simply could not live without it.
In his excruciating pain, Howard retaliated, crying – “I felt you [Love] every day when my daughter laughed and you broke my heart.”
With sympathy in her voice, Love responded with words of hope – “I was there in her laugh, but I’m also here now in your pain.”
Scripture tells over and over again that God is Love; that they are one in the same; that whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love (1 John 4:8).
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them (1 John 4:16).
As human beings, we naturally categorize those which are alike together – things such as joy, happiness, life, contentment, peace, love…all of these are considered to be good.
In the same manner, we also categorize all that we believe to be bad into a separate group – pain, hurt, sorrow, destruction, death, hate, etc.
As basic as these constructs may seem to our societal fabric, they are but mere human paradigms and have no bounds against the Love that is God.
If Love is God, then it is not restricted to only that which we consider to be good.
Sometimes pain is the truest form of love because it keeps us from living a life without all the fullness that God offers, because as our hearts break, they are graciously exposed to the love and comfort that God so desires to pour into your life.
It is ‘out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given (John 1:16).’ It is ‘the fullness of Christ that fills everything in every way (Ephesians 1:23), and to know this love that surpasses knowledge is to be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19).
There is complete fullness in God; a fullness that is seen in the life, mission, and purpose of Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:19) and therefore, accessible to us through a love saturated in pain.
Those two words – love and pain – are rarely coupled together, but in all of history, Jesus’ pain is the ultimate expression of love.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…(John 3:16).
When the grip of pain bears down on our hearts – the pain of loss, confusion, loneliness, betrayal, self-loathing, abandonment, a burning hatred for those who stole what we love most – it is hard to recognize the sweet essence of Love.
But just as Love broke the one and only Son, so too does Love break our hearts to put them back together again; to raise to life a man or woman set free in the arms of Grace.
Life is painful and sometimes all that’s good seems so ambiguous and obscure against the smoke and fire of a life crashing down around us.
But as we remember this day 17 years ago, we can turn our eyes from the smoke and fire and instead look into the face of perfect Love.
Human tradition and the basic principles of this world tell us that where there is pain and heartache, love cannot exist.
But this is not true.
Truth – the Gospel – tells us that God is Love and that this Love will go with you; He will not leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6), even when He breaks your heart.