My dad is the youngest of five siblings. With 20 years that separate him and his oldest brother, there comes a lot of family in between the two. Growing up, I knew I had a lot of cousins, nieces, and nephews in Korea that I never met or knew too well. Even to this day, I don’t know the exact number of relatives I have back in the motherland. So whenever I get the opportunity to talk to or meet one of these distant family members, the experience is always so foreign and awkward. We’ve lived the majority of our lives halfway across the world from each other, and yet, are somehow connected because of a familial bond.
This past spring I was again confronted with a similar situation. Seong-Sil (Sung-Shil, 성실) was my dad’s niece’s daughter, thereby making her my niece. With aspirations to study English and experience the States on a budget, she ventured out to Iowa to spend a year taking classes. She came to visit us in Connecticut this past May with her mom and cousin after her spring semester was over. Over the handful of Facebook and IM conversations we had beforehand, SS seemed to be a very bright and sociable girl. She proved to be no different in person. Immediately, I could tell that SS was someone with great ambition. She wasn’t afraid to go on an adventure, and would probably want to discover all of Manhattan alone if we let her. She valued family very much. When my aunt was sick and going through chemotherapy treatments, she offered to come back to Connecticut to help my parents with her. I find it amazing to believe that God created each and every single one of us in our own uniqueness, but then I meet a girl like SS and know that He really is that sovereign.
Earlier this evening, that same spunk and spirit went to be with the Lord again. Here on earth, her parents, brother, uncles, grandparents, cousins, friends, classmates, and church community mourn her loss. No one should ever have to leave everything behind at the ripe age of twenty, but that’s what God had in store for her.
Even as someone in full-time ministry, I find myself having a hard time seeing God’s sovereignty in all of this. SS had so much going for her and was so young, why take her away now? Without any seeming reason or foreseeable warning, she was gone in a moment’s notice. I can’t help but glance through her Facebook page and see all the posts on her wall of encouragements, well wishes, and prayers that she would awaken from her coma healthy. In all their earnest and genuine heart, so many of SS’ loved ones prayed diligently for her recovery. How would they now respond after hearing of her passing? Will her parents find healing after having to bury their own child? Did God really leave all those prayers unanswered?
Gospel Connection: We can never comprehend God’s will in its entirety (Rom. 9:14-24). But what we do know is that everything is possible through prayer under the name of Jesus Christ (Matt. 7:7-11; John 14:12-14; 1 John 5:13-15). SS’ friends’ prayers indeed were heard and answered. They prayed that she would awaken, and she was, to the joyful noise of the Savior’s Good News. They prayed for many blessings, and she was met with them in the form of her loving church body during her hour of greatest need. And they prayed that they would get to see her again, and because of what is promised in Scripture, they will on the day our Lord returns.
The only prayer God ever left unanswered was Jesus’ prayer in the garden at Gethsemane. The Father, in full confrontation of His Son’s anguish, chose not to remove that cup from him. Because Jesus’ prayer was rejected on the night of his death, we can now have our’s answered. It is through this very pain and loss do we, as fellow heirs, have a God who suffers with us. A God who answers us. And in the glorious victory of the Resurrection, we see hope for a world that is broken, but going to be restored to the way things should be. This post is dedicated to my loving niece, for giving your inadequate uncle such peace. We love you and miss you.