Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
I know that my God is good. I know that His plans are right and true. I know that all things work for His glory and my good.
But I am confused.
Is it ok to say that? I trust God knows what He is doing and I trust that He has a plan … but it doesn’t make any sense right now.
If mom was going to die, why not just have her on the bus two weeks ago? Why put mom through the pain of grieving the loss of Dad just to have her join him 13 days later? Why put the four of us through planning a second funeral with the ink still wet on our thank you notes from the last one?
And what about the kids? Mom and dad faithfully served for so many years in preteens and Awana. Why put all those kids through the pain of losing Dad … just to rip mom away two weeks later?
Last night I was listening to a sermon from Grace about the stages of faith. He talked about the wall… and how believers will eventually be led into a dark night of the soul so that they can move from knowing about God to knowing God. He was referencing the verse in James that instructs us to count it all joy when we endure trials because we know that the testing of our faith is what perfects us for every good work.
The pastor pulled his illustration from David, who had everything stripped away and was a fugitive for over a decade before his eventual assent to the throne of Israel. He explained that God had to strip away everything from David so that David could find that God was all he needed. This is what prepared him to reign and made him the best king to ever rule over Israel.
As I listened to the sermon, I recognized my own feeling of having everything stripped away from me to leave me with only God to cling to. When Cassie called and told me mom was dead, I had a strange mixture of emotions… sure I was in shock, sad, hurt, and brokenhearted. But the overwhelming emotion today has been confusion.
Maybe downright curiosity.
God, what are you up to? What are you trying to build in me and what great work do you have for me to do that requires a test of such fire?
David endured a decade without his status, wife, family, dignity, and home country because he was destined to rule Israel for 40 years and would be the king to deliver Israel from their enemies. David would make Israel great again and that is exactly what he did, by delivering them from oppression and turning the heart of the people back to God. In all this success, David remained humble because God had taught him that this could all be taken away in an instant.
I am not called to rule a country, conquer an invading force, or return a nation to the Lord. But clearly God has a plan for my life and that plan requires a character in me that must be refined through the fire of pain.
Just as Jonah had no right to complain about the loss of the vine, I cannot bemoan God the loss of such amazing parents. Many are never blessed with such a caliber of parents in the first place and I should count myself blessed to have had Murray and Dianne in my life.
Today was a day of tears, and there will no doubt be more to come in the weeks that follow. It was also a day filled with stressful decisions… adult decisions that I never expected to be making at this stage in my life.
First there will be the week of busyness. I will continue to wonder what God is up to and I will ask for wisdom as we work through the complex legal process to follow. I will write another obituary, we will process another cremation, and we will make another slide show. We will order another set of flowers and each of us will give another speech at another memorial.
Then there will be the week of stillness… the week where reality sets in because both of my parents are gone and my life will never be the same. We will sell the properties and liquidate the estate and divide the inheritance and settle the details. Items will be stored, others sold, and still others tossed out as trash.
Eventually normalcy will return, work will resume, and days will begin to progress with some semblance of order. Somehow all the pieces of life will come back together to form a new picture, a new future, unlike anything I ever imagined.
My hope and prayer is that in a year when I look back on this unimaginable tragedy I will say with confidence that God has shaped me into a stronger woman and prepared me for His great work in my life.
Life is hard. No one makes it out alive. I am glad for community and I am grateful for family.
Above anything else, though, I am glad to know with absolute confidence that my parents are both alive and I will see them again. Hopefully a long time from now… but I know I will see them again.
Someday, millennia from now, from the other side of eternity, I know that I will look back on this time and see the hand of God. I will see how he had shaped myself and my siblings from this experience and I will trace His fingerprints in our lives as we each go on to do amazing things.
A tear will form in the corner of my eye and God will wipe it away. But the tears on that day will be tears of joy and gratitude that in the darkest nights and the hardest moments, God never left me alone. And, more importantly, He did not allow any of the pain to go on in vein because every bit of it will be redeemed, both in this life and the next.
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