I accepted Jesus as my Savior at an early age. I was one of those kids who grew up in the church – Wednesday night, Sunday night, Sunday School, GA’s, etc. I never really questioned my faith or God’s existence or that Jesus died for my sins. I didn’t question my faith when as a young wife and mother I was diagnosed with two chronic diseases followed by chemotherapy and many medications to save my life.
I didn’t question my faith when my husband was laid off from a company he had been with for years. I didn’t question my faith when he couldn’t find a position in his field and had to take a job as a car salesman with no guaranteed income or health insurance for our family.
I didn’t question my faith, when a short time later, he was diagnosed with stage 3 stomach cancer and given little hope of recovery. I didn’t question my faith as we traveled the journey through surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation treatment with no income and no health insurance.
Through these struggles, along with just the normal ups and downs of trying to be a good mom to my two teenage daughters, I never questioned my faith even though I had periods of stress, worry, and fear.
However, when my oldest daughter passed away after the worst week of my life, watching her fragile body surrounded by more machines than I had ever seen on the most realistic medical drama on TV, that was when my crisis of faith began. I questioned everything that I had ever believed in. I could not understand how my loving heavenly Father could allow something so beyond my worst fears to happen. I spent the next several years questioning, searching, crying out to a God that I wasn’t even sure I still believed in. But here’s the thing, regardless of how mad I got, how many questions I asked, and how many times I screamed out “WHY”, He was there. And here is the thing that only Christians who have experienced deep loss of some kind can understand, even while I was yelling out and wrestling with my unbelief, in a quiet, still place in my heart, I knew he was there. I knew He loved me. I knew He loved Kristi even more than I did, and I knew where she was. It has taken more than 10 years following our loss for me to fully understand that paradox.
When I look back on the time when my wounds were so fresh, I see His hand on everything, I see His arms holding me, I see His kind eyes watching me. I see him placing just the right people in my path, just the right book in my lap, just the right scripture at my fingertips, all to touch my hurting soul. I have so many stories to share about his presence, both small and miraculous as well as his provisions.
I also see Him preparing me for what is now the passion of my life – to encourage others who are experiencing the same type of pain. The same pain that I still battle with everyday. Through the years I have had moments of clarity and even now, as I still wrestle with the pain and the questions, I know that God is using me. I have come to accept that this is the path he has asked me to walk and I know, YES I KNOW, that there is a reason. When my Mother was recently tortured by dementia, He taught me to trust Him even more and when she finally won the battle and went to live with her Savior, He taught me the truth of what she had always told me, that with Him I am stronger than I think I am.
I don’t know why He has asked me and my family to travel through a journey marked with pain and suffering. I do know that we are not alone. I do know that we are also blessed beyond measure. I do know that our struggles may not compare to my neighbor’s or to the hungry children who suffer around the world. For those who have new pain, I don’t have all the answers, but what I do have and what I can offer to the mom who is sitting alone asking God where he was when her precious child was taken, is the presence of God. My promise from Him is:
“My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14ESV
He carried me through every moment, every tear, and continues to minister to me daily. What I do have and what I can offer to the young wife watching her husband experience the terrors of Cancer, is the hope that is found in Jesus – the gospel – that because He loved me so much, He died and took on my sins so that I could not only see my daughter again someday but that I could see Him face to face and experience eternal life. Because of His great sacrifice, and the grace that is lavished on me daily, I have the freedom to carry on, the freedom to have joy despite my sorrow.
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16ESV
God never promised that this life would be easy for Christ Followers. The earth we live on is not a perfect place, in fact it’s a broken place.
“ I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33ESV
He did promise His presence and the Hope that only comes through Jesus.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:3-7ESV
For a long time I struggled with sharing my testimony because I didn’t have a great conversion story like some who have accepted Christ as a teenager or adult. But this is my testimony and it is my prayer that God will use it not only to encourage those who are struggling with illness and loss, but also for those who are searching and asking what difference God would make in their lives. He does and He will.