[Slight spoiler alert: This post reveals a plot development in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, but it’s an obvious one that the reader anticipates many chapters earlier. My first post on Stowe’s book reflected on slavery, sin and liberation.]
The child Eva is the center of her father’s life. Augustine St. Clare has grown cynical and flippant over the years, a defense mechanism to the misery he sees around him in the slave-holding South, but Eva, a delight to all who know her, is the one person he himself delights in at all times.
Eva is a character written to reflect what it means to come to God as a little child. Literally a child, she exhibits unwavering and unquestioning faith in Jesus. Her father finds himself unable to share in this faith, though he adores her and aches to have what she has.
She is a sickly child, and her impending death comes hard to all who know her: family, friends, slaves. Her father’s grief at her bedside is not the loudest, but it is the deepest. This scene is taken in her sick-chamber, where her father and his cousin Ophelia attend to her.
“Papa!” said Eva, gently laying her hand on his.
He gave a sudden start and shiver, but made no answer.
“Dear Papa!” said Eva.
“I cannot,” said St. Clare, rising. “I cannot have it so! The Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me!” and St. Clare pronounced these words with a bitter emphasis indeed.
“Augustine! has not God a right to do what he will with his own?” said Miss Ophelia.
“Perhaps so; but that doesn’t make it any easier to bear.”
Yes. Tragedy is never easy to bear.
The Burden Carrier
When tragedy strikes, when grief enters our hearts and marrow, are we to consider ourselves less than faithful to God if we find it hard to bear?
I think not.
The Bible tells us to turn to God with our cares, and promises he will sustain us through it all. (Psalm 55:22.)
Jesus – this same God in the flesh – told his friends that those who are burdened should come to him and find rest. (Matthew 11:28-30.) He didn’t say he would solve all their problems and remove them from life’s tragedies, but that in him there is rest in the midst of it all.
This same Jesus is also the one who experienced tragic loss in his own life, weeping at his friend’s tomb, mourning with those who mourned. (John 11:32-35.)
Our God is one who knows what it is to grieve, tragically grieve. He is able to be with us in our own tragedies and griefs because he knows personally what tragedy and grief are all about.
And he is God.
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1.)
This is the One who bears our burdens with us, for us, alongside us. The One who is ever-present, helping us in our times of trouble.
He is our Savior. He is our burden-carrier.