A member of the community brought to my attention a beautiful message that Bryan Chapell, President of Covenant Theological Seminary, delivered at the funeral of Petros Roukas. Roukas was a pastor who, while suffering from depression, took his life. As I read Chapell’s message, I was struck by his tenderness towards his friend and towards the grieving wife. But most of all, I was struck by the tenderness of our God who gives us hope. Without God we would have no hope. This is something that has been made clear to me in recent days as I have heard from a friend whose husband is suffering in the hospital. They are not believers and it is so clear that there is no hope in their hearts - they are driven to despair, unable to see any meaning in suffering or any hope beyond it.
Here are some quotes from Chappel’s message:
Petros knew what it was to be poor in spirit. But he was not alone. Jesus said these words to a crowd gathered on a mountain. If you have been there, you know that it is one of the most beautiful places on earth. A sloping field of grass and flowers overlooking the deep blue of the Sea of Galilee, but somehow the natural beauty was not enough to counter the spiritual poverty of those Jesus addressed. When he spoke of the poor in spirit, he knew he was not speaking of a hypothetical person somewhere in the world. Jesus was speaking to many before him for whom the beauty did not bring adequate solace. The crowds gathered and listened because they knew they were the poor in spirit. And, the reason that we come here today in numbers is because we are the poor in spirit – we know emptiness, the bankruptcy of our answers and adequacy, helplessness before the wrong in our world and heart.
Willingly succumbing to these entanglements of our corrupted nature is not excusable for the Christian, but it is understandable and forgivable. We do not excuse the sin that is a consequence of yielding to the corruptions of our nature because the Bible says, “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” Our spiritual resources through Christ are sufficient to resist the temptations of our corrupted nature. And, yet, at the same time anyone who has ever snapped at his spouse when he is tired, or been cranky because a meal was late, or blue because the day was rainy, or thought he would never get well again because a cold lasted for more than two weeks – such a person can begin to understand how one who, after months and months of mental anguish that he could not explain or escape, could have let down his guard and plummeted into the shadows that obscured the light of God for a time. And when you begin to understand that, then you know that what is still not excusable can be – must be – forgivable.
How can such a prayer be valid or possible? Because the Gospel is true and therefore, “I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation shall be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Thus, I will grieve, but not as those who have no hope, but rather as those who can say in the face of dark valleys, “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
I highly recommend reading the entire message which you can find here.