Of Pain, Glory, and Apologetics
W.A. Criswell was the pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas for 50 years. He told the story of taking a flight to go and speak at an event on the east coast of the United States. As he boarded the plane he was excited to see that he was seated next to a seminary professor that he admired. As soon as they were underway, Criswell introduced to this man and they began to talk.
The professor told Criswell that he had recently lost his son to a terrible illness. The boy had been at pre-school and had been sent home one day after coming down with a fever. The parents assumed it was just another little cold or flu, but through the evening the boy got worse and worse so they took him off to the hospital. After running tests the doctors came and gave the parents the worst possible news—that the boy had somehow contracted Meningitis and that it had progressed beyond the point that they could help. The disease would run its course and the boy would die. There was nothing they could do.
For a couple of days the parents sat with their boy, praying and hoping. But the boy got worse and worse. Finally, after a few days, they could see that his body was too weak to go in. It was in the middle of the day and the boy’s vision began to fade. He looked up at his father and said, “Daddy, it’s getting dark, isn’t it?”
“Yes, my boy, it’s getting dark.”
“It’s time for me to sleep, isn’t it?”
“Yes, my boy, it’s time for you to sleep.”
The professor explained how his son liked to have his pillow and blankets arranged just so and that he always lay his head on his hands while he slept. So he fixed his son’s pillow and watched while the boy rested his head on his hands. ‘Good night daddy. I’ll see you in the morning.’ The boy closed his eyes and drifted to sleep. His breathing became shallow and just a few moments later his life was over, almost before it began.
That professor stopped talking for a while and looked out the window of the airplane for a good long time. Then he turned to Dr. Criswell and with his voice breaking and with tears spilling onto his cheeks he whispered, ‘I can hardly wait for morning to come.’
Christian, do you know that morning is coming? Do you believe it? This man was a suffering father, a man who missed his little boy, but he had hope, sure hope, hope that was grounded in the gospel. He had hope in the future, that Jesus had been raised and that he, too, would be raised. He wasn’t looking to the future and holding on to a vague promise. He was looking to the future with sure and unshakeable confidence that just as surely as Christ was raised from the dead, he too would be released from all the pain and all the hurt of this life.
In all the pain and weariness and suffering and trauma, in a world of so many trials, it is so easy to be full of despair and to give up. Paul himself was sometimes close to giving up. When he wrote the church at Corinth he spoke of a time where he experienced some kind of trial in Asia. He wrote, “We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. We felt that we had received the sentence of death.” He was fragile. He was afflicted, he was perplexed, he was persecuted and he was struck down. But hold on. He was afflicted but never crushed. He was perplexed, but never driven to the point of despair. He was persecuted, but never forsaken. He was struck down but never destroyed.
Why? Because he trusted in what Christ had done and he kept his gaze fixed on what Christ had promised to do. Even the heaviest blow would some day be deemed a slight and momentary affliction when he experienced the crushing weight of God’s glory in the presence of God. He had no greater hope than that. You and I have no greater hope than that. Hold on to that hope, hold on to God who gives you that hope, and you will endure.”