It was in the black of the night that sickness won and I started throwing up. As I ran to the toilet and heaved deep from within, my head pounded and my body shook. I was sick. While it was still dark outside, and my family was just waking up for the day, I lay in the bed and checked Facebook to try and distract myself from not feeling well. It didn’t take but a few minutes to realize that something was terribly wrong – that tragedy had hit my home church and that it was someone my age. I was panic stricken and desperate to know what had happened.
Before long, we had received word and his death hit so close to home. Sigh. Why Lord? Why. Why.
Sobs began instantly and my mind was a blur. The wounds of my heart that had been mended were ripped right back open in that second, as my mind transported back in time a couple years to the day that I learned of my dad’s death. I know this unique pain so very well – I LIVE this unique sorrow every single day of my life. This pain that is like no other was heaped upon me – I did not choose it and will live with it until the day that I get to enter into eternity and my Savior wipes away my last tear. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, for the magnitude of the grief I felt and the disbelief that had just shocked my system was too much for this tired and achy body to take. As Husband got the children ready for school and they all headed off to class, I laid there in my bed…all alone. I started to wonder if the throwing up had somehow been God’s mercy – it allowed me to stay home all day long and grieve.
Tears soaked my pillow quickly and my hair was dampened as I wallowed in the sorrow.
This is the first time that tragedy has hit at home and we are not there. My heart longs to be home with our brothers and sisters in Christ. I don’t even know what I could do back home, but I want to go back and physically be with this body of believers that have become precious to me. It is a beautiful mystery how God snatches us out of the enemy’s hand and transfers us into the Kingdom of His Son. When this beautiful rescue happens, we become brothers and sisters – as close as biological family, if not closer sometimes. Only God can do this, and my heart knows this miracle well. The family is Christ is one of the greatest joys in my life – when one rejoices, we all rejoice. When one weeps, we all weep. When one is missing, we all know it.
“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.Live in harmony with one another.” ~Romans 12:1-16
“Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters.” ~Hebrews 13:1
“Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it.” ~1 Peter 3:8-9
A brother is gone and a sister is mourning. And so I mourn too. As I laid in bed and recovered from a night of being sick, my mind wandered. I wish I could write a beautiful story of how I immediately went to the Lord, but I didn’t. I was upset that I was away from home and I was upset he had died. We have been taught by our company that this is part of counting the cost of following Jesus. When God calls us forth and sends us to new places, life goes on just fine without you at home. People move on and new friendships form. People are joined in holy matrimony regardless of your presence there, and people walk across the stage with diploma in hand even if you aren’t able to fly back. The hardest part is that our company has told us that people will die will you are on the field and you can’t always come back. I heard their words but kinda brushed them aside. I guess I just didn’t want to think about anyone I know dying. I guess I was in denial that yes, death is promised for us all, and none of us know when our last breath will be. But as always, what God has called us to will be worth it. I want those who will never know the joy of being in the family of Christ to experience this fellowship…..and so I go.
I am torn between two places. My heart’s desire is to run back home to be with church family but I know the Lord has me here. He knew I would be gone when our friend died, for nothing surprises our Sovereign God. As I laid in bed, friends from back home asked me to call them or sent me messages. I was short and I wasn’t exactly too thrilled to talk about it. But God is so faithful. Even in my stubborness to run to Him or to allow the encouragement of sisters back home who had remembered me, He whispered Hebrews 12 in the dark. I am so thankful that I have spent much time reading Hebrews 12 in the more joyful days, because it was during the sorrowful day last week that the Holy Spirit brought back to mind the Life-giving scripture….
“Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us,
Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Just think of Him Who endured from sinners such grievous opposition and bitter hostility against Himself [reckon up and consider it all in comparison with your trials], so that you may not grow weary or exhausted, losing heart and relaxing and fainting in your minds.” ~Hebrew 12:1-3, AMP
As I laid there and fought the urging to get out my Bible and read Hebrews 12, memories of my dad’s death plagued my mind. It is a battle. When I give in to entertaining destructive thoughts instead of going to the Bible and allowing His Words to transform my thinking, I lose. Those memories stir up nothing of Christ-like nature within my spirit but are a vicious trap leading to anger and bitterness and resentment. One of the wisest women I know teaches about the dangers of bitterness, and in those crucial moments of laying in the bed that had become a battlefield, her lessons from scripture prompted me to make the best choice. And so I did. And like always God softened my heart to receive His loving grace that was perfectly sufficient for the moment. His grace is life to my mind and joy to my heart.
As I read the first couple lines of scripture, I was reminded that I am on the appointed course of the race that He has set before me. This is God’s plan for me and for this family of mine. He knew I would be where I am in April of 2013 and He knew what challenges these past couple days would hold. None of this is too big for Him! This trial calls for a response of endurance, and each time I choose to endure with a heart that is firmly set on the future reward and joy that is promised us, I am strengthened. As I was laying here and simply dwelling on the anguish of my past, I was being distracted from Jesus, the very source of my faith. If I look at all Jesus went through for me on the cross so that I can receive God’s love and grace during such grievous trials as this one, it helps protect me from all weariness and exhaustion. Jesus is my hope and when I hope in Him, I am renewed and restored. With my eyes fixed on Jesus, even the most devastating of tragedies will not cause me to lose heart.
To my dearest Church family, I so wish I could be back home with all of you during this difficult time, but that is not God’s path for me. I am praying constantly for all of you and for our pastor as He leads and Shepherds and loves with the tenderness of Christ that so powerfully lives within him. The other missionaries here know what has happened and these new brothers and sisters that I have met and that are just about to be scattered all over the earth are praying as well! I look forward to the day that we all gather together around the throne of God and worship the One who is ever-faithful! May we worship Him in the joyful times, and even more in the sorrowful times. God is always good and always with us! While our family may be gone for this appointed time, just know that we love you and our prayers are always with you!