So many things have shaped my faith ~ few like grief.
I had loved Tom, cared for him as he died and released him to a loving Heavenly Father who would someday make him well again. As I went on living, I believed God had helped me, at 23, weather the worst storm I would ever encounter. I felt blessed to be used as a testimony to God’s ability to give me a new life.
I was grateful for what God did in my son, Christopher’s life. But when he was killed at 17, I felt pressure to ‘perform’ after his death; acting contrary to the brokenness I felt. We were in the limelight. I felt the weight of thousands watching. People wondered if I asked God, ‘Why?’ I hadn’t wondered this but started to, then. And I felt that, just maybe, I wasn’t a blessed woman but a cursed one …
Then, my dad, my lifelong hero, was killed in an accident.
I dropped to my knees wanting two things: to be a godly example to my children and to bow before a God who must have all the answers. But while I was still on my knees I started to wonder, “Why?”. As I raised myself from the ground I sensed a rumble from deep inside me, stirring, rising to the surface. For a few days I was able to push it down, set it aside. But after the noise of the funeral and the family-reunion-meals were over I started to ask, “Why?”. Well, at first I asked. Then I demanded, shook my hand at heaven and said:
“Why in the hell did you let these things happen to my family?
Why have my children suffered so much?
Why have you allowed so many horrible things to happen to me?
Who do you think you are?
Until you answer that – I am done with you. “
And as I started to walk away from God, no kidding, I sensed him speaking to me. In a gentle voice I didn’t deserve I sensed him saying, “I’m glad you asked.”
“I’m glad you asked?” Really? How tender that response seemed after all my ranting and raving.
How understanding, loving. And I thought, well that’s a good question! “Who are you?”
If you are a God of love, who gives life to the full like I’ve been told you do, then … hmmm.
I started to look into this, wondering what scripture says about the character of Christ and of the enemy. I read things like:
The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give you a rich and satisfying life.
Satan was a murderer from the start. He couldn’t stand the truth because there wasn’t a shred of truth in him.
God’s plans include hope and a future.
Are you tired? Worn out? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
1 Corinthians 15:26
… the very last enemy is death!
That got my attention.
Seeing God as the giver of life to the full and not one who kills, steals and destroys has changed me. It changes everything I ever wondered about the kind of god who would: curse a young husband and father with cancer, slam a car of nice kids into an oncoming truck and crush a godly man in a freak accident. This perspective, only slight in the beginning, has given me a whole new outlook on who God is and who is to blame for evil in the world, in my world.
While processing from why things happen to who God is, I decided to challenge him on something. I felt broken with very little hope for a decent life. In The Wizard of Oz, after the Wizard gives wonderful gifts to the Scarecrow, the Tin-Man and the Lion, they ask,
“What about Dorothy?”
“Oh, I don’t think there’s anything in that black bag for me …” she says, with half a hope catching in her throat.
Was there something for her? Yes.
Like Dorothy, I wanted God to reach into his special bag and bring out something for me. My hopes had been dashed so many times, I didn’t dare hope but … I asked anyway. “Is there something for me?”
I left that thought with him before he had a chance to tell me no. As if God called out over my shoulder (while I walked away) I sensed him telling me, “Wait! I’m glad you asked! I’m going to give you something you could never come up with on your own. Something that, when you have it, you’ll know it’s from me. I’m going to give you joy.”
You could’ve heard me snort with laughter like Sarah did when God said she and Abraham would have a baby in their old age. Impossible!
But I had nothing to lose. With half a hope catching in my throat I watched for it to happen. God did give me something I would never have expected; he gave me joy.
Hardships come and go. There are times when life is so hard I want to lay down and die; times I want to quit and walk away from everything. But, deep in my heart I have a joy that can’t be explained. When it seems to fade and I start to doubt that gift I can turn to Him and ask to be reminded. He is sweet to tell me, again and again, that it’s mine to experience whenever I choose.
I know I am loved by a God who gives life to the full. And I believe he has something special for everyone who asks (Matthew 7:7).
What does he want to give you?