As we, here, have been learning and thinking on Sundays about the big story of all God is doing through history, we have talked about it as the 'upper' story that all our 'lower' stories connect into. Many times our lower stories are painful and confusing, but somehow, even though there may be evil and hurt, God is able to weave all of that into his upper story - which doesn't make suffering any less real, but it does mean that it is possible to trust our loving God, that there is a bigger horizon; that the story is ultimately still heading towards a wonderful conclusion.
What is that conclusion? It's that all God's people will one day be gathered in what the bible describes as a new heaven and earth, where we will live in amazing joy and freedom forever. All sadness, suffering, pain, evil and struggle will be gone, and we will live in peace and happiness with the God who made us and loves us - we will be completely fulfilled and perfectly happy.
And this is something that, actually, we all long for. Whenever we see or experience something that is evil or painful, there is often a sense of anger against it, isn't there? It's a feeling of injustice and outrage. We feel instinctively that it should not be this way. And that's right - it shouldn't be this way.
There are always many questions about why bad things happen, and sometimes answers people try to give can be unhelpful or trite - especially about particular circumstances. But what we can know, as we read the words of Jesus and of others in the Bible, is that it has not always been this way and secondly, that it will not always be this way. There is hope. There is a certain hope that can be ours as we entrust ourselves to our Lord and Maker. Franchesca very clearly had that hope in Jesus and now she is with him.
One of the things that stuck with me this week was a comment that Franchesca's mum made, which was simply this: 'she just got there before us...'. That is an amazing statement of faith and confidence in Jesus Christ; he has made it possible for us to know the reality of eternal life through his death and resurrection. We can all have that hope that one day we will be gathered as God's people in his kingdom. Some of us will have lived til our 80's or 90's before we arrive there, some will have had much shorter lives. Yet in the big scheme of the 'upper story' through eternity, it will not seem as significant, then, whether we lived in this world for 12 years or 112 years; we will experience, together, the joy of God's eternal kingdom forever and ever and ever and ever.
Right now we do mourn, and we cry out 'why?'. Right now the separation hurts. It really does. But we remember this: Franchesca just got there before us.