The last couple of months have been very, very hard for us as a church family. Through the tragic sudden death of two very dear friends, Toby and Milly, it has been a time of grief, of mourning, of suffering, and of sadness. It’s been a struggle for us as a family, each day, to lift our eyes beyond our own sadness.
Today I read John 12:
‘Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.’
I’ve heard this passage so many times but today it was like a light was switched on in my brain. It has revealed so much of my heart to me. And this is what I’ve seen.
Part of the reason the grief of this season has been so intense, long-lasting, and all-consuming is that I liked being a ‘single seed’. I liked the appearance of control I had over my little life, over the circumstances and the choices and the long-term outcomes. The life I had chosen did not involve losing two friends so suddenly and tragically. It did not involve not saying goodbye, or not watching them flourish in future life, or not meeting their future children. It did not involve not knowing what to do with unfinished memories and borrowed books and being robbed of time with them.
My plans for my little life did not involve more grief. Or more loss, or pain, or sadness. My plans involved healing, and hope, packing in as much security and future certainty into my life as possible, until there would be no room for tragedy, or surprise, or sadness. It was all supposed to be okay.
And yet, again, God is the sovereign ruler of my life, and so, for reasons that He knows and I don't, these things have happened. And with Toby and Milly’s death, not only to us, but to hundreds of others who grieve their loss every day.
We did not choose these things. We chose to be a single seed. But here, Jesus himself reveals the absolutely stunning beauty of a worldly life not loved. A worldly life not grasped tightly. A worldly life that is held so loosely that it is lost.
But in losing it, there is so much life to be found.
I liked my little life. Or rather, I liked the life I was working hard to secure. And so when it was taken from me, I jolly well held on. I wasn’t letting go without a fight, living in angry denial. Because I didn’t see the seeds. The little pieces of life and hope being sown in the soil of death and tragedy. I couldn’t see them, and I didn’t want to see them. I didn’t want to be different, or more godly, or more encouraging to others, or more loving. Because I was focussed on loving the world, and my world had just suddenly become a very sad place.
And what Jesus explains here is so counter-cultural, so against my instincts, so selfless, that it has taken this long for my selfish mind to wrap itself around it.
It’s letting go.
It’s letting go of my friends, Toby and Milly. It’s the truth that, though the earthly suffering for those left behind continues and will remain, their life with Christ Jesus is far better, far more joyful, far more real than anything we could imagine now. It’s praying that this faithful brother and sister of ours, in their death, will produce many, many seeds of faithful gospel followers to come. It’s trusting God that He will be glorified in their deaths, as He was in their lives.
And this freedom is found, most beautifully and fully, in Jesus himself. As he teaches these words He speaks about himself, knowing that very soon it will be him falling to the ground in death. And isn’t this the ultimate example? The most tragic, dark end to his life, covered in grief and shame and mess, and yet, it’s only through his death that any new seeds of hope, resurrection, redemption, and restoration could be sown.
This is Jesus himself, who knows this grief so fully that there is no other option but to trust Him through it.
Pray with me for many seeds of new life through grief.