“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
Today marks three years since my earthly father left us to join my heavenly Father after fighting an extremely aggressive brain cancer. Other than those deadly cells growing in his brain, his body was too healthy and young to pass away from natural causes. I will probably always struggle with why someone who brought so much good to the world and shared his faith in every venue of his life died so early. This sentiment is compounded by the fact that my dad would have met my twins if he had lived just over a year longer. It’s tragic. Dad would have said “This sucks!”.
When dad died, it was difficult for me to immediately recognize that others have experienced this type of deep grief in the same way my family experienced it. I guess I am lucky that I didn’t yet have the heart knowledge of what this kind of grief feels like. Many experience it younger than I did. Now in the COVID aftertimes, too many people know what it is like to lose someone suddenly in seemingly unfair circumstances. This kind of grief can consume you whole and cause a crisis of faith.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:2-3)
Like the southern idiom in the title, we put so many stipulations on God, often unconsciously. It’s so easy to imagine him as this benevolent bearded man floating in the clouds protecting and loving us, but in truth he is so much more complex then we can imagine. He can use the darkest, most lonely crisis in our life and turn it into something beautiful. During moments of deep grief and crisis, for me there is often quite a bit of anger and questioning that is mixed in with the “it is well with my soul” sentiments.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
When I was in sixth grade, Dad was presented with the opportunity to co-teach Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God on Wednesday nights to my youth group. He had previously taken the study and was passionate about it. I attended the study and taking this class led by my passionate Dad was formative in my faith and my handling of grief and “crap” the world throws at me. My very brief synopsis of the study (that in no way does it justice) is that God uses “crisis of faith” to speak to us and grow us to be more like Christ on our journey.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11
God gives us the opportunity to grow through a dark crisis, but it is our job to take that opportunity. I am not saying God causes bad things to happen, but He does use all the evil, horrible, and sinful things in this world for His purpose. Our job is to choose to abide in the faith no matter what happens, despite our anger at Him sometimes. Otherwise, our anger will just fester and destroy our faith. We must daily choose to follow Him no matter what. My father, who started this blog years ago, did just that while he was fighting brain cancer and facing death.
“He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Revelation 21:5
I hope my thoughts shared here are a fitting tribute to him on this horrible anniversary and are an encouragement to you reading it if you are going through a similar crisis. Thanks Dad. I can’t wait to see you meet your grandkids someday.