Bill stood on the rocky cliff overlooking the river far below. He always came here to be alone, mostly in times like these. These were the moments in his life when he wanted to hear from God the most. The times when life made no sense.
A forest of green trees enveloped his hiding place. Old pines, poplars, oaks, and hickories stood firm around his cliffside perch. The trees strengthened by the test of time and the struggle to survive. Bill looked up at the sky in anguish and anger. “Why do you permit death to destroy the beauty of your creation? Why do you allow mankind to suffer loss, bitterness, anger, and pain? Why do you allow all of these things only to bring us to the bitter end of death?”
The air felt still. Not even a small refreshing breeze was permitted to relieve Bill’s loss or cool his angry mind. Bill was not done with his questions for his Creator. “It isn’t as though my pain is unique. You permit millions to die every week. Sometimes a family has no body which to mourn. Others have no future as they watch their children slaughtered before their very eyes. Why do you allow this cruelty? How can a loving God allow something so horrible?”
Bill sat there in the silence. The blue skies above felt like a ceiling leading to nothing. He picked up some nearby sticks. Without thinking, he slowly broke each one into smaller and smaller pieces. Bill would break all the underbrush down to nothing until he heard God’s answer. There had to be an answer, a response. After all, God did not allow His own Son to remain dead for more than three days. So, how could He expect those left to mourn on the earth to handle the separation of loved ones any better than Himself?
A slight breeze began, and Bill felt a voice. Something in his mind seemed to speak. Who said the dead on earth are the ones who have died? Bill sat quietly and considered the phrase. “This is stupid.” He said to the trees. “Even my own mind mocks me.”
Another breeze brushed across his face. They live with me this day in peace and love. As will you when your time comes.
Bill shook his head. I think I may be going mad, he thought. “No, you aren’t mad.”
Bill jumped, startled by the man who came walking silently along the trail from the trees. Had Bill spoken his thought out loud? The stranger smiled, sat down, and put out his hand. “My friends call me, Amos. What is your name?”
Bill wanted to be alone, but it was clear this man had no intention of leaving soon. “Bill. I came up here to be alone.” He was hoping Amos would catch his subtle hint.
Amos leaned back on his right arm and stretched out his left leg. His voice was deep but comforting. “I know, Bill. I was sent to tell you that you are not going crazy, and you are not alone.”
Tears started to stream down Bill’s face. “But he was my best friend. Heck, he was five years younger than me. Why him, why now?”
Amos lowered his head and shook it. Bill could barely hear Amos’ low response. “I can’t give you those answers, but you know, he really is in a better place.”
Bill snorted in disgust. “That’s what everybody says. So what if it’s even true. That doesn’t help the rest of us.”
Amos nodded and was silent for a moment. He looked up into the sky as he spoke next. “No, it doesn’t help anybody here, but you’re still needed here. If everyone who had hope, if everyone who had faith in grace and salvation was taken along with their family and friends there wouldn’t be anybody left but those who had nothing but hate and hopelessness. The world would literally go to hell in less than a day.”
Bill threw a stick over the cliff. “Sounds fine to me. Why should I have to suffer for those people?”
Amos looked Bill straight in the eye. The light behind his pupils was unmistakable, and Bill knew Amos was not some wandering hiker who had overheard his rants on the mountainside. Amos’ words felt like they cut past Bill’s grief and into the center of his heart. “You suffer because Jesus did it for you. You were just like the people you want to escape from at one point.”
Bill was embarrassed, and then angry. Who Amos really was made no difference. This was not the time for a lecture, it was a time for compassion. Bill made no attempt to hide the annoyed tone of his voice. “Really? This is the best advice you have for a man who has lost his closest friend? My friend is in paradise, but I have to suffer because of reasons?”
Amos sighed. “I won’t pretend this doesn’t suck. Death always sucks. Your life will never be exactly as it was. Every death on this rock causes a shift, a change, both in heaven and on earth. Sometimes you feel that shift directly, and other times it may pass you by momentarily. That is why faith is important. If you believe in the God you claim, then you need to remember that in the end those who are left behind suffering will be comforted, and one day you too will see paradise. Hopefully, not only you but others will come along because of you.”
Bill turned away from Amos and snorted. “Really? When does the comforting start?”
From behind Bill, he heard Amos’ voice pass beyond his body and echo through the valley. “Now.”
Bill was startled and turned around. Amos was gone. In the trees were bluebirds, cardinals, and songbirds of many kinds. They all sang together softly, quietly. A cool breeze gently swayed the feathered chorus on their limbs. Bill closed his eyes and felt his heart soften. Tears begin to flow as their tune ran past his anger and touched the loss of his heart. He bowed his head in thanks to God.
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