Grieving With Hope

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Unbelievable. That is the only word that comes to my mind when I read about Dong Yun Yoon’s terrible loss and his most remarkable response to it [Check out the LA Times story here] .

You see, a day or two ago a Marine F/A-18D Hornet fighter jet came freefalling from the sky after the Marine pilot–who, thankfully, ejected–found himself without any engine power. Sadly, it fell right into Yoon’s San Diego home, instantly killing his wife, his mother-in-law, and his two baby daughters. The felt randomness of it is enough to make one’s heart stop (I say “felt randomness” beause nothing is really random). The idea that my entire family could be gone in a nanosecond makes my heart want to not just stop, but fall right out of my chest onto the floor.

But note Yoon’s response. At the risk of patronizing the man, it is nothing short of amazing: “I believe my wife and two babies and mother-in-law are in heaven with God,” the Christian said at a news conference. “Nobody expected such a horrible thing to happen, especially right here, our house.”

Yoon went on to say that he bore no malice toward the pilot who ejected safely before the jet plunged into the neighborhood two miles west of the runway at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. “I pray for him not to suffer for this action,” Yoon said. Moreover, Yoon added, “I know he’s one of our treasures for our country.”

One of our treasures for our country? Well, of course, as are all military men and women. And to pray the Marine Corp pilot would not suffer for this action? Frankly, that takes nobility to new heights.

Now, granted, it was an accident. Reports are that the fighter jet experienced engine failure that led to the fiery crash. That would not necessarily be something the pilot could help. And yet how easy it would be to immediately point a finger at the pilot or the Marine Corp and call them out as reckless. Instead, a grieving man prays for the pilot’s welfare and characterizes him as a national treasure.

Perhaps it is the “in heaven with God” part that explains Yoon’s unusual response. He clearly has an eternal hope that transcends the raw things of time and space as we know it. As the great Apostle Paul writes: “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14).

Wow. What would my response be? Would I like Yoon grieve with a hope? Or, would I, despite my identity as a follower of Jesus, grieve just like those without a hope? O God . . . that I would offer charity in the midst of life’s losses, facing them with nobility and grace, not stoic indifference, but real and raw trust in the midst of the pain. And . . . that Jesus the Lifegiver would therefore be exalted. Amen.

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