Saturday night, we gathered together with family and friends to celebrate my cousin Lisa’s 25th
birthday. As we sat enjoying Tutta Bella’s delicious pizza and drinks, Lisa’s boyfriend, Owen, anxiously anticipated news about his dear friend Luke who had not reported back after a climbing trip. Luke was an avid and experienced climber and Owen fully expected to hear that Luke had made it safely down the mountain. During the meal, Owen’s cell phone rang and he quietly slipped away to take the call. Minutes later, Owen returned to the table—the anguish on his face was unmistakable. The tears flowed freely down his face and he was barely able to speak. He had received stunning and unbelievable news. Searchers had recovered the body of his dear friend, 26 year-old Luke Gullberg. Owen was utterly broken with grief over the loss of his friend. Our hearts broke too as we heard the story of this young man and as we witnessed the deep pain of Owen’s loss.
I’ve never met Luke Gullberg, but according to Owen, he was a remarkable friend. News reports suggest that Luke may have died in a sacrificial effort to get help for the other two friends who were climbing with him that day—one of whom may have been injured. Ever since we heard about Luke and his two friends who are still missing, we have been praying—for the family and friends who are grieving the loss of Luke, for Katie Nolan and Anthony Vietti who are still missing, for the family and friends who are desperately longing to hear news about Katie and Anthony, and for all who were tirelessly working to rescue the stranded climbers. At this point, there is little hope that Katie and Anthony are still alive even though they have yet to be found. From all accounts, Luke, Katie, and Anthony loved Jesus, loved people, and just made this world a little better.
I was so moved to hear the accounts of these three climbers’ families. Luke’s family suffered the loss of Luke’s mom to cancer last year. And yet, the families have hope in God—a God who is in COMPLETE control and who is ALWAYS working for the good of His people. The confounding enormity of the pain and loss of these three precious lives points to the unfathomable enormity of what is to come…the hope of glory…the inexpressible and glorious joy of the life ahead for all who follow Jesus, a life lived in unfettered and perfect communion with our Magnificent God, the eternal weight of glory. The incomprehensible claim to which Scripture bids us to cling is that this real, raw, and wretched suffering is actually part of God's sovereign, wise, and good plan to bring about the glorious end for which we long. Somehow that awaited life makes even the most real, the most raw, and the most wretched suffering in this life pale in comparison.
Only this eternal and inestimable hope would allow a heartbroken father to say:
"This has not shaken our faith," said John Vietti, Anthony Vietti's father. "This has strengthened our faith." (quoted from: http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/12/16/oregon.mssing.hikers/index.html )
John Vietti’s stunning words echo the heart of another devastated father who lost his beloved children and all that he had:
Job 1:20-21 “Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”
They also bring to mind the powerful words of Habakkuk as he anticipated great calamity:
Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. 19 GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places.
What an incredible testimony to the supreme worth of our God.
Though many of us have never met them, the lives and deaths of Luke Gullberg, Anthony Vietti, Katie Nolan, and the faith of their families and friends have left their impact on this world—strengthening our feeble faith and increasing our sheer awe of God. And still, our hearts sincerely grieve for the loss and weep for the very real and very intense pain of those who knew and loved these three. As Job tore his robe, shaved his head, and fell on the ground in anguish, we deeply grieve. Please join me in praying for the Gullbergs, the Viettis, the Nolans, and all the family and friends who are missing these three beloved ones.
Romans 5:1-5 “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
2 Corinthians 4:7-18 “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you. 13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. 16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
1 Peter 1:3-9 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ... 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”