I’m grappling with my friend’s death and God speaks to me gently

My heart is heavy because I lost a good friend last week. Her death was completely unexpected and what I want to say is untimely because she was only 39 years old. She loved Jesus with all her heart and so did her family. She leaves behind a husband and three children. Their son Zach went on to heaven even before Katie when he was just 5 years old. Such devastating loss this family has endured.  Katie’s brother passed away in the last few years as well. He was younger than she was.

Katie was a wonderful person. To know Katie is to love her. Her laugh; her heart; her humor. She gave generously and she had a heart of gratitude. She wanted people to know about Jesus and so she went on mission trips and took her kids with her. She held Happy Birthday Jesus parties for neighborhood kids and friends and we brought gifts for charities. Katie had people over for dinner even if her house wasn’t perfectly picked up and she was fine with serving pizza and salad because she was about relationships. She was authentic.

And so I have been turning to the scriptures daily asking God to show me a verse on behalf of Katie and the pain we feel on her family’s behalf and just our own personal pain. I scramble through verse after verse that reminds me that God is our Protecter, our Defender, our Guard. I read verses in Psalms that proclaim God’s goodness and his watch care in a time of trouble. I find comfort.

But I admit that way in the back of my head in a whisper I secretly wonder….. where do these truths fit in with my friend who is no longer here on earth?

Defender. Yes, I believe with all my heart that God is my Defender and Katie’s Defender. But how does this fit right now? She’s gone.

God protects. I know and I am comforted by this but I still have the haunting question of  ” but how is that protection for Katie?”

And then it’s as if  The Holy Spirit nudges me and reminds me that He is protector and He is Sovereign both in the same sentence. He knows our days. They are ordered before we are even born. He knows us that well. And so it’s not that He doesn’t protect or guard. It’s that He is working out a purposeful plan we can’t possibly understand but we choose to trust. God is so powerful that nothing can thwart his plan. Not our own plans and best intentions can interfere with God’s plan. And this is why I must keep trusting and believe that God is good. All the time. Even when I don’t understand and can’t see the plan.

Today I’m clinging to these verses in Psalms 62

Truly my soul finds rest in God;
my salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

Yes, my soul, find rest in God  my hope comes from him.

Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

Would you pray for the Emerson and the Glover family? That the God of all hope and peace will be lifted high in the celebration of Katie’s life on Friday afternoon.

When the unimaginable happens to you

I remember where we were sitting in our house when we got the phone call. The call from our Doctor that our final IVF treatment and pregnancy test was negative.  This came on the heels of several surgeries, treatment plans, a miscarriage and a D&C and lots of prayer for healing. We both knew what this meant for us. We would not be able to get pregnant. It was devastating news at the time. We couldn’t see the whole picture. We knew God was in control and he loved us. But it still hurt like crazy.

We found ourselves fleshing out our faith in the midst of the unimaginable. It’s one thing to counsel others to rest in the sovereignty and goodness of God and it’s another thing to walk in that truth yourself. Up to that point neither Randy or I had experienced any kind of major personal crisis. We had wonderful Christian childhoods with godly families. We had been to Bible college. Had lots of doctrine classes under our belt and could identify terms like trans substantialism. But it wouldn’t be Bible credentials, our great family or Randy’s pastoral position that would get us through the unimaginable.

What got us through our unimaginable was knowing who our God is and choosing to trust that he is good even in the midst of the valley. Especially in the valley.

We didn’t understand why these things were happening but we knew God was good in the midst of it all and we ran to him. We knew this because we had gotten to know Jesus through a personal relationship with him. Through reading his word, talking to him and really believing he cared. Really believing he is who he says he is. This isn’t to say we did everything right or didn’t struggle. We did. But we found our God to be faithful.

All those things we had read about in the Bible, taught others about and truly believed in our hearts about God being in control, being compassionate, merciful, being our provider, and being faithful……we were now getting to experience personally in the classroom of life. It wasn’t easy because what you know to be true doesn’t always feel true. But isn’t this the essence of faith? Believing when you can’t see.

It reminds me of what Job said in the midst of all his suffering, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.”

We can hear about God and read about God all day long and that’s good. We need to be in church and reading the Bible. But Job, who was considered an upright man, didn’t really see God until his suffering. He believed God before the outright attack from satan. But it was through the suffering that he really got to know God. This process wasn’t without questions or grief. Oh, Job had questions alright. And God had answers. Answers that jolted a wallowing, self pitied man into a renewed awareness of who he was in light of a loving yet powerful and Almighty God.  Nothing like reading the real life conversation between God and Job to open our eyes to who God is. If you haven’t read the book of Job in a while go check it out. I love my NIV version but when I’m sitting down for an extended read I pull out my Message Bible. Please, no snippy remarks about the translation. Throw on a pair of big girl panties. Sorry, had to say it.

I feel like God has prompted me to post this week on the topic of suffering. What to do when the unimaginable happens to you. Later this week I’ll post on ways our faith can flourish in the face of pain and suffering and how we can help those who are suffering. I invite your comments and thoughts through this series. I believe we can learn a lot from each other as we seek God through our times of pain.