When our son Michael was first diagnosed with a brain tumor, my God, was I afraid! I had fear, pure and raw, of the unknown, that my little boy had just lost his childhood and that he might lose his life. I was terrified. We didn’t know what was in store for him, but what we wanted was for him to be cured and resume being a 3 year-old boy. He did indeed lose his childhood and he did lose his life, but as we went through his treatment I came to a point of acceptance where the fear was no longer in control. It didn’t happen until a few weeks before he died (at the age of 4), but thankfully it did happen. Trust me, it wasn’t something I had wanted to face at all. We were perfectly fine and happy doing our thing, taking care of our family, and living life, when suddenly and unexpectedly the rug was pulled out from under us. Then, over the course of his illness, there was a gradual transformation from living solely for this life, to having Hope in the next one.
Imagine having a bone reset. You think your broken leg is healing fine since it looks okay and seems to be working for the moment, and then the Doctor tells you that it doesn’t actually work properly and he has to break it again to put it in proper alignment. I would definitely be afraid of that! I would probably balk and look for any possible alternative, too. Ouch! Ultimately though, despite the fear, I would of course want to do what was best for my limb and for my life. I would endure, and when it was all over, I would move on with life and put that painful experience behind me. Except that every time I used that leg I would remember and probably be thankful that it is in proper working order and allowing me to run and walk and live the way I want. Maybe using it would be sweeter for having gone through such an experience, but certainly there would be peace about choosing pain for the ultimate good.
Shortly before Michael died, my fear was replaced with a tremendous peace. It was a peace that surpasses all understanding because I had not yet grasped that it was for the ultimate good.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Ph 4:7)
Truly, this is what happened for me. It was beyond my ability to understand or reason; it just overcame me. My trust and faith were totally in God, not medicine, or doctors, or any treatments of this world, and God guarded me.
Still, after Michael died, when people would ask me how I was surviving that loss, I really didn’t know. They could not imagine such a thing, and as it was for them, for me, the thought of losing any of my other children was terrifying and unspeakable. Even though I had gone through it and am still ‘going through it,’ I could never have imagined facing that fear again. I had put my trust in God, and was rewarded with Peace and Joy from deep within; He was helping me Trust Him more in every other area of my life, so there was plenty of “fruit.” Surely He would never ask me to face the unthinkable — again.
And then the unthinkable happened again… Losing Anna was terrible, but something amazing has happened. Where I had been an utter slave to fear, God has now freed me. Where my trust had been mostly in Him, it is now solely in Him. By allowing Anna’s death, He has allowed me the opportunity to see and understand what Trusting Him truly means. If I had to lose another child, or every single one of them, I trust in Jesus. When I am asked now how I can go through such losses, I no longer wonder the same thing. I no longer fear that it would be unbearable. God will guard me no matter what life brings. I know that. I know that. It’s liberating. Death has truly lost its sting.
“But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:55)
I didn’t get that before, but I get it now. God did not just help me through two especially difficult and tragic deaths. He helped me to know Him so intimately that death has no hold of fear over me. What we think of as death and loss, I now think of as gain and hope.
It’s kind of like the difference between giving a man a fish and teaching a man to fish. He didn’t accomplish this work in me completely from losing my sweet little Mikey. That little boy so precious to me, like all of my children, a piece of my heart and soul, was ripped out of my grasp and I was forced to experience detachment. Losing Anna has forced me to more fully understand detachment. As I trust more deeply in Christ and Love Him more fully, my earthly self is elevated to Heavenly Joys. It’s the strange and difficult call we have as Christians to be in this world, but not of this world. We are called to love and to love deeply and yet be detached from it all. I think that Loving is precisely how we learn to be detached. It is Perfect Love that accomplishes this; the Love of God that comes in, and through, and with Christ. When we truly have Christ, everything else pales in comparison. The things of this world fade away.
I can tell myself all day long that my children have never belonged to me. That is a bit of a comfort and of course very true, but I think that it is in loving them selflessly and truly that the balance is found. I want for them Eternity. Simple. I want them to be in Eternity with their God, more than I want them to be here with me. I love them that much. I love God that much. Yet I know that my love is very far from perfect. I pray constantly to love more and to love better.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 Jn 4:18)
This doesn’t mean that nothing scares me or hurts me. It does hurt to face days without my children here, but that doesn’t mean that I want them back. I have to keep myself in check all the time when my kids walk out my door.
What if they get hurt?, I ask myself.
Well, what if they do? I trust in Jesus.
What if they get assaulted? Or taken? Or in another accident? I sure don’t want that to happen, and will do everything I can to avoid or prevent it, but ultimately I trust in Jesus. I trust wholeheartedly and completely that if God were to allow any of these things, it is for a sure and certain purpose with the ultimate goal of eternity. I love Him enough to Trust Him with my children.
No one wants difficult circumstances or hardships in life. No one wants that bone to be re-broken. I think that’s very human. We seek pleasures and comforts when, very often, it is sacrifice and difficulties that are good for us. Picture the image of Mary standing before the cross — silently. Didn’t she want to cry out? Or beg, plead, and scream? Imagine her pain at seeing her son tortured. Instead she was silent and accepted the cross — the literal cross happening before her very eyes — of her own son. There is wisdom there. Lent is a beautiful time in our church calendar to practice this. Practice being uncomfortable and sacrificing. Our crosses are good for us.
Christ-followers know and understand that the way to Hope and Joy and Love, and Happiness and Fulfillment and All that we truly Seek, is the way of the cross.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (Jn 16:33)