Roadkill and Radical Depravity

It’s amazing how quickly we grow accustomed to things. Case in point: Nearly every day, as I make my circuitous drive to work, I encounter the remains of an unfortunate confrontation between a small animal and one ton of barreling steel.

It happens so often that we offer up a quick, insincere prayer thanking God that we avoided getting the mess on our car, and then go about our merry way. Rarely do we ever reflect on the deeper meaning of . . . roadkill. However, this is exactly what I invite us to do.

As I drove past the unfortunate creature, I couldn’t help but think about the implications of what I saw. In what seemed to be an insignificant, every-day occurrence, we see the manifestation of a larger truth: Sin continues to have devastating consequences. It seeks to maim, kill, and destroy everything it touches. It’s a lesson we’re prone to forget, but that we need to frequently remind ourselves.

Genesis teaches us that when God made the heavens, the Earth, and everything that is in the Earth, that He deemed everything to be good. There was no sin; nor was there sickness and death. However, Adam and Eve, in their pursuit to become like God, deliberately ignored God’s warning that moment they eat of the Tree of Knowledge that they will surely die.

Since that first, seemingly “minor” sin, humanity quickly devolved. In just a few short chapters we read about Cain killing his brother Abel out of a jealous heart. Over the course of the remainder of human history, from the fall to the present, we have been exploring and pushing the boundaries of our sinful natures.

Only God knows, precisely, how we inherited Adam’s sin tendency. However, the bible clearly clearly teaches that we inherited his nature nevertheless (Gen. 6:5, Gen. 8:21,Jer. 17:9, Eph. 2:3, Rom. 5:12). Perhaps the clearest case, in my opinion, is Psalm 51:5, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” In our natural state we are not blank canvasses like some would have us believe, but posses an irresistible bent towards sin. In other words, we do not become sinners because we sin; instead, we sin because we are sinners.

Furthermore, sin has produced far reaching consequences. Physical death was not the only consequence of sin entering the world. Consider just a few ramifications:

  1. Physical – Sin has produced real, physical death. We are reminded of it every time we bury a loved one. During the death of loved one – especially if they were particularly young – we experience a rightful sense that there is something wrong in the universe. Because there is something wrong. Physical death is perhaps the most patently obvious consequence of sin.
  2. Eternal – God’s warning to us, “lest you surely die,” was not only referring to a physical death. Because we have been created with eternal souls, and because sin separates us from a Holy God, without Christ we are objects of God’s wrath, destined for hell. (Rev. 20:14b)
  3. Spiritual – Sin has ravaged our relationship with our Creator. Not only are we born with sinful natures, and not only are we subject to both physical and spiritual deaths, but for what little time we have breath it is impossible for us to please God without the transforming power of Christ at work in our lives. (Rom. 8:5-8)
  4. Mental – Despite living in a supposed, “Age of Reason,” even our minds have been corrupted by the fall. In other words, we are unable to think rightly about God, our minds and hearts have been darkened, and we are unable to experience Godly guilt. Our minds are slaves to our sinful natures, constantly using them to dream up new ways of fulfilling our desires. Therefore, Romans teaches us that we must be transformed by the renewing of our minds. This renewing occurs as we expose ourselves to the gospel – and to the whole of scripture – whereby God reveals himself to man. (Romans 12:2)
  5. Relational – Immediately after the fall, we see discord in human relationships. Adam shifts blame for the fall onto Eve. Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery. Jesus teaches that family members will betray one another on account of the Gospel. Lastly, Paul states that as a consequence of the fall, that men and women gave up natural relations for one another, and were inflamed with lust. (Gen. 3:12, Gen. 37:18-36, Rom. 1:18-31)Societal/National – We see the consequences of sin societally and nationally every time we turn on the news. Nations are at war with one another. Cultures devolve into godlessness, and promote every kind of evil imaginable. Homicide and crime rates fluctuate. And, as a general rule, we do not seek to do good to our neighbors. (Prov. 14:34)
  6. Creational – Mankind was not the only being to suffer from the fall. The scripture teaches that all of nature suffered as well. The ground was cursed as a result of our sin, fields produced thorn and thistle, and animals became predatory. Paul confirms this when he writes:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. (Rom. 8:18-22)


The ramifications of sin extend far beyond the short list I have compiled. The truth of the matter is that something big happened at the fall. Something that has affected nearly every faculty and every facet of our lives.

And so we come back to that poor creature lying on the road. Whenever we see the death of a cat, or dog, or squirrel, or some other kind of roadkill, we are witnessing the far reaching and continuing consequences of our sin. We have become too numb to it. Out of the fall we have adapted and  forged a kind of “new normal.” But it is not natural, nor right, nor normal.

How should we respond, then? Let us cry over spilled milk. There is nothing we can do about our new present state. But we can weep over sin and its destructive fruits. Let our weeping move us to prayer. Let us be moved to share the news of a God who will make all things new – both our bodies and the creation. And finally, let us long for the redemption of our bodies in the age to come. Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus!


8 Reflections on Grief

A Grief ObservedMason

Every weekend my wife and I visit my father. Last weekend was no exception. My pregnant wife sat next to me on the picnic table, watching our three-year-old son play on the playground tucked between the apartment buildings where my dad lives. The sizzle of hot dogs wafted through the air as the autumn breeze cooled the shaded pavilion.

As I watched my son play, hearing his boyish shrieks of laughter as the children chased each other, an intense contentment settled over me. I found myself reminiscing over the previous year. The more I reminisced, the more I became profoundly aware of my mother’s absence. My heart wanted nothing more than to see her. I had so many things to say to her:

I wish you were here now. I wish you could see your grandson – he’s grown up so much since you’ve last seen him. He looks and acts just like me when I was his age. We’re having another baby, a daughter. We wish you could be here to see her. We need you. We need your advice and encouragement. It’s hard to make it here without you. I miss you.

I can still vividly remember her passing. My mother had developed acute leukemia. She had tried everything, but nothing took. Last year, in mid-August, she quit the blood transfusions that were keeping her (temporarily) alive. We spent nearly every moment of the remaining weeks of her life together. Our evenings were filled with food, talking, and watching the children play. We laughed, we told stories, she admonished us, and we stayed up way too late watching movies. Through all of it her strong, steel-blue eyes communicated a loving, hopeful sorrow.Mom and Mason

Her last day with us was abruptly bitter sweet. She was no longer able walk or talk. She was propped up in bed, in the back bedroom of her apartment. The day passed like that. No one spoke. Evening fell, and then eventually night came. The hallway light cast a dim glow into the dark bedroom. I sat next to her and spoke gently to her. I held her hand and told her that I loved her – that she had been a good mother. In a moment – a moment that nearly eluded me – her breathing ceased and she passed into eternity. It is a moment I will never forget.



It has been a year since my mother’s passing. Like Lewis, my soul still resounds with the sentiment that, “Her absence, like the sky, is spread over everything . . .” Over the past year I have had the pain and privilege of experiencing all the peaks and valleys that naturally come with the passing of a loved one. And though there are still difficult days, I have made it to the other side.

The American statesman Thomas Jefferson, too, felt his share of loss. Over the course of a short ten year marriage, Jefferson lost not only his wife, but also four of his six children. These losses so shaped him that he was able to offer the following words of comfort and encouragement to a grieving friend:

Tried myself in the school of affliction, by the loss of every form of connection which can rive the human heart, I know well, and feel what you have lost, what you have suffered, are suffering, and have yet to endure. The same trials have taught me that for ills so immeasurable, time and silence are the only medi­cines. I will not, therefore, by useless condolences, open afresh the sluices of your grief, nor, although sincerely mingling my tears with yours, will I say a word more where words are vain, but that it is of some comfort to us both, that the term is not very distant, at which we are to deposit […] our sorrows and suffering bodies, and to ascend in essence to an ecstatic meeting with the friends we have loved and lost, and whom we shall still love and never lose again. God bless you and support you under your heavy affliction.

In the same vein, having been tempered by the school of human affliction myself, I wish to offer some helpful thoughts, reflections, and biblical admonitions regarding loss. It is by no means an exhaustive list, but I hope it proves useful in finding joy and satisfaction in God in the midst of loss.


1. Joy Comes in the Morning

If I could get you to grasp anything, I want to affirm that there will be joy again. Don’t lose sight of it. Even if you don’t feel like believing it, even if you have to coldly preach it to yourself every day, be patient. The Psalms remind us, “weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning” and just a few verses later, “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.”

I like to think of grief like an ocean storm. In the beginning large, daunting, towering waves come – and they come frequently. Many times you struggle to keep afloat in the turmoil of your grief. Just as one wave overtakes you, another one is already building. Be patient. As more time passes, the waves become both less frequent and less intense. There might be the occasional rogue wave that threatens to overtake you on a holiday or anniversary, but eventually life is bearable again.

Even if it is hard for you to believe, hold fast on to the promise that Christ is working everything – even our loss and intense grief – for our delight in God.


2. Weep with those who weep

This advice is mostly geared toward those who are watching and comforting a person who is experiencing a grief. There is a natural temptation to jump in and say something – anything. And I believe that it is a good temptation, because it shows our hearts are in the right place. However, I want to urge caution. Too often, speaking prematurely or speaking without the discernment of the Holy Spirit can actually cause deeper hurt for those who are grieving. Often times, especially in the immediate aftermath of a loss, there are no words that bring comfort. My default advice (unless specifically moved by the Holy Spirit) is to simply empathize with the grieved. Feel their pain. Follow the biblical admonition to “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15).

In other words, be like one of Job’s friends. What!? Didn’t Job’s friends make his problems worse? And didn’t God discipline them because of what they said? Yes. Be one of Job’s friends before they got it wrong. Because, despite their mistakes later in the book, Job’s three friends got one thing right – they suffered in silence with Job:

When Job’s three friends, [Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar], heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. (Job 2:11-13)

3. Blessed is he who perseveres under trial

Grief can be an unpredictable monster. People react differently to loss – some become angry, some live in denial, some stay in periods of prolonged depression. In the midst of their anguish, grieved people can sometimes act hurtfully. It’s not right. In fact, it is sin. However, we are called to “bear with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:13)

Our duty to bear the hurts and sins of others do not stop with only our fellow brothers and sisters. Even when we are insulted or hurt by those who have no hope in the gospel, God admonishes us toDo not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9) Forgiving their outbursts may be hard, and they may not even apologize, but considering the weight of sin from which we have been forgiven, how can we not be moved to forgive them as well?


4. Blessed are those who mourn

God loves the broken. Not in a “I like to kick wounded dogs” kind of way. Consider with me, for a moment, the number of times that God addresses brokenness:

For I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit (Isaiah 57:15)

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted (Matt. 5:4)

The Lord is near the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18)

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit (Psalm 51:17)

Take comfort in this: God loves broken hearts. But why? Does He take delight misery? No. On the contrary! He takes delight when we experience and enjoy him as the only one capable of fixing us. By fixing and filling empty, broken people He shows himself to be glorious. We get the joy, He gets the glory.


5. I will give them mothers and brothers

Sometimes, the promise of reuniting with loved ones can seem “pie in the sky.” One of the things that define the Christian is delayed gratification. After all, the bible admonishes us to “store up for yourself treasures in heaven” because that is where our ultimate joy is.

That said, God is not unaware of our current sufferings. God promises to set things right not only in the next life, but in this life as well:

Consider the words of Jesus: “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, […] and in the age to come” (Mark 10:29-30)

Did you catch that? God sees our losses. He promises to make up for our losses not only in heaven, but now. I understand the objections, “But Jeff, that sounds really prosperity-gospelish. How does he do that? How does he repay me ‘a hundred fold now in this time’ when I’ve just lost my one and only mother!?” I don’t presume to know all of the possible meanings of that verse. I’m certain that in heaven we will see manifestations of that verse that we could never fathom. However, I’m certain of at least two things: First, that God will repay our losses in the age to come; and second, that He repays us now by giving us the church. He gives us a body of believers who become our surrogate homes and families.


6. The Lord gives & the Lord takes

Whenever we suffer a loss, it seems that we often have two gut reactions: We blame, argue, or feel that we have been cheated by God; or we diminish the role of God in taking life. “Oh, well they were old and it was their time to go” or “God only does good, so her tragic death is really the handiwork of Satan.”

A biblical view of loss must acknowledge that God is the sovereign orchestrator of all that happens. Whether He is proactively arranging everything, or whether he is permitting bad things to happen, everything ultimately comes from the sovereign hand of the Lord. As if that weren’t enough, God owns you. He is the sovereign creator of the universe, and all that is in it. If you are a Christian, God double owns you. And as sole owner, he has the right to do with our lives as he pleases – and no one has the rightful authority question his sovereign will. We must reorient our thinking, and accept our positions as created beings. We must realize that in every moment God is up to trillions and trillions of things to accomplish his purposes – most of which we can’t see. But everything, good or “bad” comes from the hand of God, just as Hannah prayed in 1 Samuel:

The Lord kills and makes alive;

   He brings down to Sheol [the grave] and raises up.

The Lord sends poverty and wealth;

   He humbles and He exalts.

(1 Sam. 2:6-7)


7. Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing

What is the purpose of life? Ask one hundred different people and you’ll get one hundred different answers. For a Christian, the answer is clear: We exist to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Notice what is important here: We exist to glorify God. Consider the weight of that statement for a moment: We exist to Glorify God. That should be a huge, life altering statement, and should make your soul tremble.

It’s easy to talk about glorifying God – but what does it mean? What does it look like in action? Take a look at the second half: and enjoy Him forever. These two statements are not at odds. It’s not either/or. We do not either glorify or enjoy. It is rightfully both. We glorify god when we live our lives in such a way that shows that He is our highest treasure. Everything we are given in life – whether food, money, cars, houses, possessions, family, or children – are all given to us so that we can enjoy them in such a way that shows that Christ is more satisfying than any of those things. Because, whether you intend it or not, the world is watching your value system.

How do we show God to be supremely valuable in the midst of a devastating loss? When you are so broken that you can barely pick yourself up? I’m not advocating for trying to assume some kind of mask – some kind of false, superficial joy. We glorify God in the midst of our loss when we grieve in such a way that shows that although we are deeply wounded by the loss of our loved one, Jesus is better. Paul states that one of the markers of a christian life is that we are a people who are “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing”

It makes God look valuable and praise worthy when we can say with the Psalmist, in the face of our loss:

Whom have I in heaven but you?

   And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail,

   but God is the strength of my heart

   and my portion forever.

(Psalm 73:25-26)


8. Behold, I make all things new

I am convinced that grief never truly goes away this side of heaven. It may subside, and it may ebb and flow in decreasing measures, but a kernel of grief will always remain. And that’s ok. It’s what happens when you live in a broken world. The truth is that nobody makes it to the end of their life without bruises and scars.

God cares about the here and now. So yes, take heart that God promises to be all satisfying in this life. But God cares more about the joy he has set before us – unending joy in the life to come, unblemished by sin and death. So let your heart be affirmed by the promise of a magnificent, trustworthy God:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

(Rev. 21:3-4)