Tragedies leave us all speechless. Monday morning’s tragedy has left us all mute. Jonathan Sommerfeld’s unexpected death has left us all profoundly sorrowful. His parents, Marvin and Lori Sommerfeld, thought he was unusually silent early Monday only to find him having passed in his sleep.
I know no words can provide adequate comfort. I don’t expect mine to. All losses are terrible, but of a child, what can anyone really say, except to offer our love and support?
Despite this the scriptures do help. As Jeremiah 31:15 says, “Thus says the Lord: A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted because they are no more.” The scriptures know the grief of losing a child. Then Jesus says in Matthew 18:14: “It is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” Jesus’ “little ones” include young adults, too. So, no death, including Jonathan’s, is God’s will.
Yet, two other things can be said in hopes they might help:
One: “Nothing beautiful is lost to God,” (the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead.)
The point: Whatever was good, noble, excellent, beautiful and wonderful in Jonathan’s life will live on in God and will live on in our memories which time cannot erase.
Two: A story from the famous preacher William Sloan Coffin,
For many years William Sloan Coffin was the chaplain of Yale University. While he was at Yale, his son, just in his twenties, died in a freak accident, after running his car off an icy bridge and into a river. The car sank into the river before Coffin’s son escaped. When Coffin returned to Yale, and to the first chapel service after his son’s death, the congregation sat expectant and anxious. How would Coffin explain what had happened? Why hadn’t God saved his son? Why had this happened? Was this part of some divine plan?
This is how Coffin answered, “When my son’s car went into the river and the waters closed about him, God’s heart was the first to break.”
When the diagnosis comes, It’s terminal…
When the phone rings in the middle of the night, and the voice says, I’m sorry to tell you…
When a pandemic rages and hundreds of thousands die…
God’s heart is the first to break.
So, God weeps before we weep, whenever we weep. God always cries first.
In times of our deepest distress and greatest loss, this is what we have, this promise, this presence—God with us.
More than answers, more than words, more than anything else. We get what we most need—we get God. We get Immanuel, God-with-us, whose heart is the first to break.
“May the peace which passes understanding be with you” Lori, Marvin & family, and with us all!”