Here we are, at the end of the year, and I had great intentions of writing you an inspirational end of the year article. As I sit here staring at this screen, all I can think about is my friend, Kari Bennett, who was sent home this week from the hospital with hospice to live out her last days at home. She goes home to loving parents who have stepped up to help with the needs that come with fighting cancer. She goes home to a devoted loving husband. She goes home to her 3 kids. All I can see when I close my eyes is here rosy cheeks and her beautiful red hair. I can hear her laugh…a laugh that carries across the room, the kind that makes you want to join her conversation. She was so full of joy.
So, I sit here, not ready to see a lesson in all of this yet, I have barely begun to grieve. But, I can’t help but wonder what God has been wanting to teach me these last few years. I can’t help but feel like He is trying to get my attention. These last few years have been stricken with loss and after living most of my life without much experience with death I feel like I’ve been plunged straight into the fire of it all. I look at this situation, knowing that God is just. That His version of love is one that I will never comprehend. That my finite mind will never be able to grasp that this is His perfect way of loving Kari and her family. This is where faith kicks in right? It’s been a lesson He’s been teaching me a lot lately. He’s teaching me to hold things loosely. He’s teaching me to be prepared. He’s showing me that in His perfect plan, He will make things right. That He will be glorified through all of the pain. That His glory is what’s best for all of us. I can’t lie – sometimes I don’t understand and a lot of times my view is clouded by my American upbringing that tells me I have a right to life and prosperity. When really, life and prosperity has long been incorrectly defined by our culture. And, although I’ve learned it hard, and lately I’ve learned it often, that I have to lay things on the altar and let Him decide what to do with it. If given the choice, I never would’ve put Hewitt on that altar when he got sick. But, as long as I clung to Hewitt, the longer I lacked peace, the longer I was in pain, the longer I felt angry. As soon as I hiked that mountain and laid him on that altar, God released me from many of those feelings. Of course it still hurt to watch my child suffer…He didn’t turn me into a robot. But, I was at peace in my soul again. I wouldn’t have chosen to say goodbye to my Grandpa, to watch him die in a depressing nursing home…not knowing where his soul would reside. I sure hope I see him in heaven, but I sincerely don’t know. I wouldn’t have chosen to sit by and watch my friend Troy’s kids learn that he suddenly died of a heart attack on his run at lunch that day. I wouldn’t have ever wanted that to happen. My heart aches as I watch my baby hit his milestones with ease as several friends suffer through infant loss, and special needs children that they never even saw coming. I never would’ve chosen for my sweet husband to have to find his own mother dead on the floor. I ache for him, for the hole it leaves, for the trauma of that experience, for him living the rest of his years motherless. The fact is, we don’t choose these things. We never know what tomorrow brings.
I’m learning that I need to be prepared. So, how do I prepare for pain? I have to know why I believe in God. I must know the character of God. I have to trust that in all of the turmoil of life, God never changes. He is always the same and all of his promises ring true, despite what our circumstances look like day to day. I think one of the most impactful and encouraging things that God has used through a lot of these hard times is scripture I’ve memorized and songs that uplift my soul and point me back to Him. When I am strung out on grief, shaking my fists at Him, living in despair, when hope is out of sight, and I can’t even muster the energy to read; the simple truths of who God is the thing that pulls me out of the darkness. Here are some of those truths that I cling to:
God’s independence or self-existence. He’s not dependent on anything outside Himself. He is life in himself. (John 5:26)
God gives life and breath to everything. (Acts 17:25)
God’s immutability expresses his changelessness. He remains forever the same true God. (Hebrews 13:8)
God’s eternal. He is timeless and everlasting. He has no beginning or end; He does not undergo growth, development, or maturation. (Deuteronomy 33:27, 1 Timothy 1:17, Revelation 22:13, Isaiah 57:15, Psalm 102:27)
God is omnipresent. God fills heaven and earth. (Jeremiah 23:23.24, Psalm 139)
God is omniscience. God knows everything. (1 John 3:20, Psalm 139:4, Psalm 94:11)
God is good. (Psalm 145:9, Mark 10:18, Luke 18:19, Jeremiah 33:11, Matthew 5:45, Luke 6:27-36)
God is love. (John 3:35, 17:24, Exodus 34:6,7, John 3:16)
God is holy. (Acts 3:14, Hebrews 7:26, Psalms 78:41, 89:18, 99:3,9; 11:9, Isaiah 12:6, Jeremiah 51:5)
God is omnipotent. He is without bounds or limit in ability. (Revelation 4:8, Hebrews 1:3, Genesis 18:14, Jeremiah 32:27, Matthew 19:26, Luke 1:37, Hebrews 6:18, 2 Timothy 2:13)
God is sovereign. He is king over all creation and He rules the destiny of human beings and nations. (Matthew 28:18, Ephesians 1:11, 1 Timothy 6:15)
My hope comes from the promises of God. It comes from the truth of His Word. It lives because of the gift of His Son. He tells me “For I know the plans that I have for you, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
I know over the next few weeks and months to come, I will need to cling to these truths. What I seem to be learning so slowly is that I need to cling to them and proclaim when I’m up on the mountain top, not just down in the valley. Kari lived with this confident and infectious joy. She lived with beautiful devotion to Christ and to her family. She loved her kids and the unique ways God gifted them and believed in them fiercely. I am inspired by her life and by her dedication. She unashamedly claimed Christ as her first love. I’m thankful to have been able to call her friend. I look forward to seeing her beautiful face again in heaven.