I have been reflecting on the tragic death of Tim Bosma. A young man, only 32 with a wife and small child, was taken from his home and brutally murdered. The media coverage has been constant. I have never met him but, I married into Dutch and, as it turns out I know a lot of people who knew him and some who were related to him. For days, my Facebook feed was flooded with nothing but stories, pictures, prayers and thoughts of Tim. The Facebook page dedicated to the search was very active. It still is. People send in their prayers and well wished to the family. Others want to donate.
Yesterday's memorial was a testimony to the power of God and the blessing of Christian fellowship. The message of the gospel and the need for our deliverance from sin was heard by many. God's Name was publicly glorified, and it was beautiful to behold.
However, the cup which glorified God was a bitter one for Sharlene Bosma. No doubt, if she had been given the option, she might have chosen to pass. The death of one's spouse is a bitter cup indeed. It is difficult to say whether it is a harder cup to drink from early in the marriage when the honeymoon is not yet over, or later in the marriage when a spouse has become more familiar than one's own right hand. All of us who are married know that we will one day have to drink from that cup and we fear it. Or at least, I do.
There are other cups too, which might come our way. Some are forced to drink from the cup of infertility. The bitterness of that one, unfortunately, takes a long time to pass. It is especially difficult if one is in a community where there are many babies. The aftertaste returns with each family get together. I will not taste this cup but I know those who have. There is no advice I can give to make the experience sweeter. I can only stand silently by, offering a shoulder or an ear.
Others drink the cup of a degenerate spouse or wandering child. Those to whom this cup is given often have to drink it alone, yet still somehow in full view of their brothers and sisters. Help is rare and so this cup frequently has a partner: the judgment of the ignorant. What many need is someone to shield them from that second cup, someone to take the brutal blows of well-intentioned friends so they can drink in peace.
I am sure I could think of other trials, big and small, to illustrate the point. As Christians, we readily agree that all of these bitter cups are intended to shape our character, to purge us of sin, to bring us closer to God. We rejoice when we see God glorified. We look at the pain of another and are able to objectively see when good is being done. However, it is crucial to keep in mind that we are only objective because, at that moment, it is not our pain. When we have to drink our own bitter cup, it is much harder to say "Thy will be done, Lord." We'd all rather let the cup pass. We all flinch.
And it is hard not to.
To be willing to be purged is a hard thing. It takes many years of sanctification and even at the end of one's life I have no doubt that many of us will wish we could have passed on this cup or that one. It won't be until we stand before God that we see what purpose those trials truly served.