This morning’s post is very much influenced by the tragic loss experienced by two families over the weekend. I don’t personally know either the Warren family or the Smedinghoff family, but my heart goes out to both of them because I know the worlds they inhabit so very well.
Anne Smedinghoff is the 25-year old diplomat killed by terrorists while delivering textbooks to schoolchildren in Afghanistan. Anne died bringing education and hope to young people; she was doing what the Taliban fear most.
Matthew Warren is the 27-year old son of The Purpose Driven Life author and mega-church pastor Rick Warren. Matthew, who had struggled with mental illness for years, ended his own life.
I’m referencing Anne Smedinghoff in this post because her spirit of adventure and love for the world reminds me so much of our son Andrew, and our newest family member, Alicia. Not just a love for travel but a compassionate love for the people of the world. While so many people spend their energy complaining about what other people aren’t doing to make their lives easier, people like Andrew Maul, and Alicia Pashby, and Anne Smedinghoff are out there making a difference.
Andrew and Alicia in Italy
Then the Matthew Warren suicide story makes an important point about faith, especially after another joy-filled Sunday with our vital and dynamic church. Matthew was part of a vital, dynamic, joy-filled church too. When we’re not thinking too clearly, Christians tend to try to sell the message that following Jesus makes life easy, that going to church makes us happy all the time, and that a life of faith makes problems disappear.
But that’s not true. Jesus promised neither an easy life nor a trouble-free spirit; what he does promise is the gift of presence: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age“ (Matt 28). I also appreciate the message from Psalm 23, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me….” God doesn’t steer us around the dark valley, but assures us of God’s presence while we go through it.
And that is the promise faith can provide for both the Smedinghoff and the Warren families right now, the promise of the presence of God. “Peace I leave with you;” Jesus said, “my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14).
Naomi, Craig and David in Connecticut
CLOSE TO HOME: Rebekah and I are a pastor’s family; we have young adult children; and we know only too well that there are dark valleys along the road. It’s called “life,” and raising children is both more wonderful and more difficult than I could ever express. And God is there in both the wonderful and the difficult, the abundantly joyful and the excruciatingly painful.
Well I’ve run out of space for words this Monday morning, and I haven’t gone where I intended with this post. So I’ll close with this prayer for peace, not only for the Warren family in California, but also for the Smedinghoff family in Chicago.
PRAYER: “God, please make your love and your presence and your compassion abundantly evident, both to the family of Anne Smedinghoff and to the family of Matthew Warren. Amen.”