Our grandson Sully’s tenth birthday was this past Monday. The ninth birthday we celebrated and remembered his life without his physical presence. So much love for Sully, his parents, and his siblings was poured out this year. Many donated toys and money to buy toys for the children of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The love of so many people enabled Sully’s parents and siblings to make the largest donation yet in memory and honor of Sully.
It is difficult to put into words the death of a grandchild. Grief becomes a part of you. Most of the time now it lies quietly in your heart. You know it is there. Yet it does not dominate your life. You remember your grandchild every day. Mostly the thoughts are of that sweet child who brought, still brings, joy to your heart. There are times, unexpected, catching you off guard, when grief awakens. For a moment or for hours, you grieve. You weep. Your heart is sliced open again. Once again you wrestle with your faith. You wrestle with God.
In the mix of the joy and the grief of Sully’s birthday, all this week I have been thinking of two passages of Scripture.
The first is Daniel 3:17-18. Three friends of the prophet Daniel refused to worship an idol built by the king. They faced being burned alive. This text is their response. “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
Yahweh, the God of Israel, did rescue them from the fire, a miraculous outcome. As I heard this story as a child I marveled at God’s deliverance of these men. Sully’s death caused me to look more closely at the words of these three friends. For the first time I paid attention to the full depths of their trust in God. “But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” “Even if he does not!” Even if the flames began to consume their flesh they were determined to continue to trust God.
During his short life of fifteen months, battling leukemia, Sully taught all who knew him. He taught me. People all over the world were praying for God to deliver Sully, to rescue him from his illness and his death. I prayed this prayer, fervently. I trusted that the God I serve was able to save Sully from leukemia and death. When God did not so answer our prayers, my prayers, my faith was challenged. I wrestled with my faith. I wrestled with God. “Even if he does not!” Could I so trust God? With his strength and spirit Sully taught me. The faith of those three men so long ago taught and encouraged me. God did not save our precious Sully. Yet I have learned to trust Him still.