Does Time Really Heal All Wounds?

“Time heals all wounds.”

“This year of firsts is always the hardest.”

“Hang in there, it will only get easier.”

“At least this isn’t your first holiday without her.”

People mean well. We really do. Desiring to offer comfort, we oftentimes reach into our pocket of go-to phrases. Bits of advice that feel like a reassuring pat on the back. A slick balm to hopefully ease a stab of pain. We want to make it better. We yearn to help each other move to a brighter side of life. Let’s face it – grief is a downer! For the past couple of years I have often felt like the sad one. The downtrodden sour puss. The weary raindrop among the happy parade. There have been times I believed I should not be THIS sad anymore.

Does grief really get easier with time?

Today marks two solid years since I held my mom, witnessing her say goodbye to this world and hello to heaven. 730 days since I saw her face, whispered encouragement into her ear, prayed for her healing. The first year was a blur in some respects. Cleaning out her house was arduous, but occupied my mind. Putting her affairs in order was taxing, but a distraction. Through the busyness, holidays came and went. Her void was palpable. Her lack of presence a sharp pang of reality. Among the demands jockeying for my time, I forced myself to feel the emotions. I gave myself space to mourn her loss. Denial frequently looked like a better companion, but reality made its way into the depths of my heart. Year one was hard. Really hard.

After honoring her first anniversary, I believed the second year would dawn brighter. At least that is what I had told myself, along with dozens of other hurting people before me. Believing that, like my pocket-full-of-wisdom, time could soften my pain. Years gone by would become less intense. Even that the passage of time could heal my brokenness.

But the truth is…

No amount of time can heal my heart. Only Jesus can.

In the midst of my mourning, God has reminded me:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

“[I] heal the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

“Cast all your anxiety on [me] because [I] care for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

God alone will carry my burdens. Rest will come from Him. My brokenness will be bound back together by His loving hands. My fear and anxiety are cast away. His right hand will hold me. I don’t have to be dismayed in His presence. Where my burden can feel heavy, His is light. I am not forgotten. And He alone is what can make my heart whole again.

Just as July 20th will always be a day of remembrance, other holidays will continue to be hard. Mother’s Day will forever be a day I ache to be with Mom. Not only next year, but in five, ten, or even fifty years. Celebrations will forever be sprinkled with the dream she were beside us. Does the pain get less intense over time? Perhaps. Does the reality of her death get easier to grasp? Maybe. Will everyone who experiences loss feel this exact same way? I don’t think so. Grieving looks different for every person ever created.

Let us free one another by recognizing that, just as God specially created each one of us, our mourning will be just as unique. No two people will walk through loss exactly the same way or on exactly the same timeline. Our family is a testimony to that truth. If you still feel the sting of death today, even years after your loss, that is okay. If you still cry walking into a place that brings back memories, there is nothing wrong with you. If you find yourself pausing during celebrations, wishing your loved one was with you, you are not alone. It is okay to still feel the loss, to wish things had turned out different, to desire to see your loved one’s face again. But just remember…God is there in the midst of that sorrow, waiting to lift you out of the despair. He has not forgotten your grief.

And that He alone can, and wants to, carry you through.

Today we remember my spunky, fun-loving, full-of-life Mom.  It is a hard day but a special one. I remember the things that I loved most about her, especially the way she cared for other people going through hard seasons. I think of you today too, those who have loss in your past and pain in your heart. No matter how you feel in this moment, know you are seen. You are known. You are loved. And you are carried by our good, good Father.

Learning to be Thankful When Life Hurts

I had a breakdown outside of Safeway the day before Thanksgiving. Running to my car in the rain, I slammed the door behind me to endure my ugly cry in solitude. The trip should have been painless; I just needed to pick up a few last minute items. Yet, stopping by the florist department on my way to the checkout counter, set me heart into a tailspin. As I delicately placed a bouquet in my cart, the tears welled behind my eyes. Realization hit hard – while most of my friends were baking pies and cooking with their moms that afternoon, I was left to only deliver flowers to the cemetery. Holidays are hard. Triggers are everywhere.

Wiping my eyes in the parking lot, I pondered this question…

How do we be thankful when life hurts so bad?

I have spent most of these past two years learning how to be grateful for the days I have been given, despite grieving the loss of my mom. Keeping a gratitude journal has helped, opening my eyes to small blessings along the way. Continuing to serve in our youth group has provided new reasons to be grateful, seeing the ways God is at work. Creating new experiences with my husband and girls has brought fresh memories and laughter. Though despite these things some days my heart just hurts and joy is hard to find.

Pain is a guaranteed part of this life. As much as I hate this truth, it is reality. This fallen, broken world is full of suffering. People will die, circumstances will disappoint us, and we will make decisions that create a mess sometimes. The question isn’t WHETHER we will suffer, WHEN it will come, or WHAT it will be. The thing we must ask ourselves is  HOW we will respond to it.  Will I wallow in my self pity or constantly grumble to my Creator? Will I doubt His goodness at every turn, denouncing His genuine love for me? Will I become paralyzed with fear, dreading the path that lies ahead?

Or will I trust His words, His promises, His faithfulness?

I cling to the very words of Jesus in John 16:33,

“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.”

A few verses before this truth, Jesus reminds us, “Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” (vs 21-22)

There will  be seasons where we weep and mourn while others around us are content and happy. It isn’t their fault, just as it isn’t ours. Healing comes as we sit with Jesus in this grief, giving ourselves permission to feel the feels and mourn the losses. As our heart begins to heal, Jesus promises that our sorrow will be turned to joy. Only through fellowship with Him, can we release our stories into His care, trusting that one day soon, when we enter His presence, our tears will be wiped away and our joy will be complete, never to be shaken again.

Thankfulness comes when I reflect on the truth that, though our pain is temporary, God has eternal purpose for it. Oftentimes, He takes the hardest pieces of our story and weaves them into the lives of others, bringing hope and encouragement along the way. Refashioning our grief into a beautiful picture of redemption, He doesn’t let our suffering be in vain.

Our hardships can actually be one of the most powerful instruments God uses to help heal other people.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 teaches, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”

I woke up the morning of Thanksgiving with names on my lips. Names and faces of families I know who are hurting. People we love who have lost family members, endured significant suffering, or experienced much pain. The list isn’t short. The longer I live, the more suffering there seems to be. Maybe because we are growing older. Perhaps because our sphere of community is bigger. Most likely because I am just more aware. Being able to support and comfort others has been one of the greatest joys of this past two years for me. Though I wish I could reverse time and take away their grief, I am thankful to be able to enter in. To hear and understand their heart even though our stories are different, our pain unique, are circumstances only ours.

The truth of Scripture and the way God is redeeming my pain have helped me be thankful in this tough season of sorrow. Even on the hardest days, I have learned to trust that He is for me, He is good, and His purposes are far better than what my eyes can see.

If you are experiencing pain today, be still and rest. Soak in the truth that God has overcome yesterday, today, and whatever tomorrow brings. Be assured that He sees you, hears your groaning, and will use your sorrow to bring others closer to His heart.

And take courage, “Jesus has overcome this world.”

Our Terminal: A Community of Hope Facing Terminal Illness

Out of the pain of losing Mom, a web community has been born.

When Mom first got diagnosed with terminal cancer in February 2015, I searched far and wide for resources to help navigate the journey. I wanted to find stories of other people who had walked a similar journey, anyone who could provide me a window into the future. I desperately needed to find redemption and hope when the circumstances seemed void of it. My search came up very short. Feeling like I was in uncharted territory, I turned to a few friends who had walked this road before me, knowing not everyone has people who can support in this way.

After Mom’s death, a deep desire has been birthed in my heart. Knowing others were experiencing similar grief, I yearned to create a space where people can gather when a terminal illness enters their world. A central hub of resources and information. A place to share the ups and downs of our stories. Most of all a corner to experience HOPE.

After walking Mom through her final stage of life, I was able to see gifts, big and small, that were given to us during those months. The word “terminal” began to take on a new meaning to me…

An excerpt from Our Terminal:

“Your loved one is at the bus terminal of life—their journey on this earth isn’t over. At a transition point from their healthy past life, to their eternal home waiting in the unforeseen future. This terminal we should not fear. Many people don’t get to ever sit at this transition point with their loved ones, never getting the opportunity to “gather ’round” one last time. To listen. To laugh. To learn. So many loved ones never get to wait patiently on the bench of life, enjoying this sweet sliver of time together. This terminal is a gift to us. Hard? Yes. Are tears shed? Many. Do we wish we could take them off the bench and firmly place them back to their past life? Definitely. However, we can choose to see this “terminal” as a gift; space where we can share memories of the past, show love in the present, and hold hands as we wait for the bus headed to their eternal home. Today the word “terminal” can become one of the greatest blessings God could ever give. And our hope is that this community will be one of the redemptive pieces of your terminal story.”

My prayer is that Our Terminal can be a community for people navigating a terminal illness either for themselves, or someone they love. And, above all else, that it can point people to the ultimate source of Hope, not just for this present hardship but for eternity to come.

If you know someone who is currently facing terminal illness, or if you have been impacted by it yourself, join us at http://ourterminal.com

We’d love to hear your story.

You can also connect with us on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter

 

 

Running Towards Grief

I AM A RUNNER. 

When stress overtakes me…I grab my sneakers and hit the pavement. When people hurt me…I desire to seek refuge as far away as possible. When life gets hard…I search for the greener pasture. This is a part of my DNA. My makeup. For as long as I can remember, my propensity has been to run. Flee. Take flight. Escape the uncomfortable.

On the other hand…

MY MOM WAS A FIGHTER. 

When stress overtook her…it motivated her to dig deeper and challenge the obstacle. When people hurt her…she confronted them, desiring reconciliation or at least a chance to be heard. When life got hard…She rose to the occasion, passion pulsing through her veins. This was who she was. Her default. Mode of operation. For the 34 years I knew her, she stood up, faced the hard, and conquered the awkward.

The summer after my senior year in high school, I came home from a month-long camp to find a friend problem waiting at my doorstep. As teenage drama happens, people misunderstood people, circumstances got twisted out of focus, and real feelings got hurt along the way. All the while I was living on the Slovakian mountainside.

Heading off to college, I was content to just let things play out. After all, I’d probably never see these people again, right? Mom couldn’t have disagreed more. Before I could raise my hand to object, the phone dialed a few numbers, and Mom was slamming my car door shut as she drove out of the garage. By the end of the day, I had made four house calls, talked through the disagreement with each friend, and felt a burden lifted. That day allies were restored, relationships salvaged, and wounds forgiven. With Mom behind the wheel, my running days were coming to an end. Quick.

Yesterday would have been the perfect day to just hide away and pretend like it wasn’t happening. Try to stay comfortable and just move on. Staying extra busy, I could have glossed over the hurt, stuffing it a little bit deeper into the corners of my soul. Being the one year anniversary of Mom passing away, I had navigated 365 days without the lady I turned to in my deepest pain and brightest joy. Grief is just plain hard. The hurt cuts to the core. Doing most anything to make it go away, this monumental marker felt like an enormous end-cap to the hardest year of my life.

But just like Mom that summer day in high school, God had other plans for my troubles…

“You have to feel this day, Sarah. REALLY FEEL IT. The pain. The loss. The heartache. The memories. The longing. The emptiness. You can’t run from it. You have to let it come. Trust me…”

“Your tomorrow depends on how you navigate today.”

Crawling out of bed before day break, I yearned to escape back under the covers and sleep the day away. Forcing myself to get up, I threw on a fleece, grabbed my keys and headed to see Mom. It felt more like an act of obedience than it did a desire of my heart. Perched on the hillside, I watched the brilliant, full moon fade behind the clouds to the West as the yellows, pinks, and purples summoned the sun from the East. Sitting cross-legged in the damp grass beside her beautiful headstone,  I reflected on all that transpired that day last year; the sites, the smells, the endless hours of waiting, the raw grief all felt real again. I will never forget holding Mom in my arms, watching her take her final breath, seeing this life I loved come to an end.

As tears spilled down my cheeks,  I was reminded of these verses:

Matthew 5:4: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

2 Corinthians: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

The day was long and hard. Seeing my child lay prostrate on the grass, trying to give her Nana a hug, ripped me in two. It is so hard to help others navigate their feelings in light of your own. Singing worship songs at youth group brought a sizable lump to my throat. Every song seemed like it had been picked out just for me, for that space, for that day. Though hard to get the words out, worshiping became the perfect way to end the day, signing praise to the One who brought comfort despite my sorrow and my pain. Had I spent my day hidden under my silken bed sheets, I think I would have missed all the tender ways God showed me His peace and His care. The flowers left on my doorstep. The messages from friends who remembered. The conversation with my sister. The ice cream eaten around our kitchen table as conversation was shared. God was there in the little things. Glimmers of hope, love, and joy. And as my pain became exposed, my burden shifted a bit farther off my shoulders, firmly resting on the One who had promised to carry it for me all along.

In all its ups and downs, I went to bed thankful I had felt the day. And as promised…

Today dawned brighter because of the pain of my yesterday.

When the World Rages On

Ding. My phone lit up at 5:45am this morning. One of my favorite people in the world was in a rage. Literal, chemically induced, uncontrollable rage. Anger, aggression flowed out of her in rapid torrents. Out of control, she cried out to God, “Why did you allow this pain in my life!” Flare gun prayer shot straight to heaven, she yearned to hear an answer.

While the world raged on.

Why does this world hurt so bad? Why are we exposed to pain and disappointment? Who is in control of this chaotic, pressure-filled globe we call Earth? Will there ever be relief from our suffering?

Valid questions. Honest yearning. Sought after answers that pierce to the core of every human being.

I have asked these questions. Have wondered when the relief would come. When my life could just be normal. Calm. Quiet.

Recently I was told that I have lived a “movie-worthy life”. An atypical childhood spent at international peace camps, a cameo on the kid’s TV show, Barney, a stint living in Switzerland with young babies, and so on…. On the outside it has been lovely. Exciting. Adventurous. Special.

When you peel back the layers of this unconventional life, you find death. Lots of it. To date I have lost six friends, all to different and tragic means. I lost all of my grandparents years ago, followed by my mom last July. I am no stranger to suffering. An autoimmune diagnosis tried to steal my health a few years ago, and mental illness has inflicted members of my family. Not to mention the normal ups and downs of life. Byproducts of just being a human being living in this fallen, broken world.

I use to ask these questions. Sought them to the heart of my being. And then one day the questions stopped. I had found someone who held the key to all my wavering. Someone who replaced my wondering with belief. Belief in a God who created this world. Belief that He humbled Himself to come in the form of a baby. Belief that He lived a perfect life despite immense pain and suffering. Belief that He died for ME. And for YOU. Because I am not perfect and needed Him to.

Belief that He didn’t stay dead – in His great power was raised to new life conquering death for good. Belief that He sees me, cares for my pain, carries my burdens, and lavishes peace. The only place I know to turn is Jesus. When life crumbles, when the fortified tower falls, when heartache becomes my compassion. He takes it all. Once and for all.

John 16:33 says, “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.”

Hebrews 4:15 reminds us, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.

Matthew 11:28-30 encourages us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Jesus knows. He suffered. Wept. Was tempted. Accused. Was hungry. Beaten. Killed. There is nothing we go through today that He doesn’t understand. Nothing that He can’t help carry. Absolutely nothing that His death didn’t conquer.

So come. Come to Jesus. His arms are open wide. I will be there too. Right by your side.

The Year That Changed Everything

I woke up October 30, 2014 full of hope, excitement and anticipation for the year ahead. For the first time in 10 years we would have a grandma living in the same town as us . My mom had woken up one day that July and just knew she needed to move to us. She bought a house sight unseen, one that was only one mile from ours. She just knew Texas wasn’t suppose to be her home anymore, even after 33 amazing years in that community. She just knew this year everything needed to change.

As we waited for the moving van to arrive on that beautiful fall day, we talked about the sleep overs, family outings and projects we could do together. She was excited to make friends, get involved and open this new chapter of her life. She was full of hope for her life here, eager to see what blessings lay ahead. She just knew she was where she needed to be. In hindsight we just didn’t know exactly why.

Today, October 30, 2015, I left the house keys on her kitchen counter, releasing her home to some other family. Exactly one year ago we were moving her into this house, with dreams in tow. Now it lays empty, void of her smells, her furniture, our plans. As I walked the halls for the very last time, I shed tears for the loss of her presence. I cried, mourning the memories yet to make. I broke over the way we suffered together, shared life together, and clung to hope side by side. The emptiness of her place was overwhelming. The finality deafening.

This Year Changed Everything.

Today, I mourn her death in a new and fresh way. No longer will I ever be able to enter my Mom’s house, a place that brought instant safety and an ease I could always find at “home.” Her house, whether in Texas or Oregon, was a sanctuary where I would run to if I was afraid, lonely or downtrodden. It was a refuge, a place where joys were celebrated, dreams were brainstormed and losses comforted. We had a couple hard seasons along the way, but I always knew I was loved unconditionally and that her door was wide open for me. As I locked the front door for the very last time, a lifetime worth of memories, joys, trials and struggles replayed before my eyes. She just knew she needed to move close. She just knew she needed to be here. We know with absolute certainty that she “just knew” because God is omniscient, all-knowing. God spoke to the depths of her heart in July, pressing her to move. He knew what lay ahead. He knew what we needed most of all. We thought it was for her to live life well beside us for years to come. In reality, it was so we could walk beside her as she faced her death; and in that we got the privilege of witnessing her testimony lived out to the full until the very end. We saw her legacy. We were changed by her journey.

Mom lived almost six months from diagnosis to death. She was in and out of the hospital often, eventually giving up the chemo that was tethering her to life, yet destroying it along the way. She was determined to live life well, to the full. Days she felt like lying in bed, she would get up, dress herself in her favorite Chico’s jacket and call me to ask, “Where are we headed today?” She picked berries, danced the hula in Hawaii, went to high school basketball games and played with her family. She laughed, she cried, she listened and she lived. She comforted a nurse who had just miscarried a baby, all the while being on the fringe of death herself. She called friends, sent cards to people who were hurting, and continued to be a tour guide to out-of-town guests. She passed out Hersey kisses to her doctors and nurses while in the hospital on Valentine’s Day. She made quilts for her granddaughters. She talked about hard stuff and planned her funeral. She was weak. She was sick. She was weary. Some days she would tell me she was just ready for heaven; this was just too hard. But she kept fighting. Kept persevering. Kept reaching out and kept loving people. And most of all she rested in deep peace, knowing her time ending on earth meant a new beginning in heaven. This is how she chose to end.

John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I [Jesus] have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Mom lived out her faith greater in the last six months of her life, then in 71 years combined. She clung to the hope of heaven, yet didn’t lose sight of the opportunity for today. She trusted God, even when the greatest trial of her life came, and she lived and loved well despite no promise of tomorrow. Cancer came to steal, kill and destroy Mom; but Jesus came to bring her life and life to the full.

For Mom, everything changed this year. She went from being fully alive, to experiencing death, to being completely and perfectly healed. For us, so much of life still looks the same. We still have the daily grind: the school work, the job obligations, the church commitments. We are still fully alive on this earth. Yet, everything seems different as we now look through the lens of this loss. Life feels strangely shifted, as if a new normal needs to set in. This year changed everything, but most of all it has dramatically changed my faith.

Over the past six months I have seen God move in a way that I had never experienced before. I saw first hand what it means to rely on Him for every part of every day. I witnessed countless prayers answered, some lifted up by people who hadn’t prayed in decades. I saw comfort being wrapped around people like a blanket in the dead of winter. I was able to rejoice while weeping in a way I never have before. God has been palpable, ever-present. He has been just what we needed Him to be in this darkest of times.

The song, “Christ Be All Around Me” by All Sons and Daughters has been on repeat for me over the past several months. My favorite verse repeats this line over and over again:

“Your life, Your death, Your blood was shed, for every moment, every moment. Your life, Your death, Your blood was shed, for every moment, every moment.Your life, Your death, Your blood was shed, for every moment, every moment.”

It has become almost a chant for me. A battle cry. I sing it, yell it, proclaim it out loud, reminding myself that God sees me in THIS MOMENT, in THIS SEASON, in THIS PAIN. And He has already met me here, long before it ever came to pass.

When we think of Christ’s death on the cross we often only associate it with Him dying for our sins to give us salvation. His death brought the reality of eternal life to us. We don’t have to fear death if we believe in His name. We don’t have to live eternity separated from Him. The lines of this song brought the realization to me that not only did Christ die for eternity, but He died for EVERY moment of EVERY day. His blood was shed for this cancer diagnosis. He died to see us through the hardest six months of my life. He was crucified for this pain and for this loss. Not only did He die for my situation, but He also came to this earth for yours. His death came for the wife whose husband just walked into the arms of another lover. His life was given for the child who is bullied on the playground. His skin was pierced for the baby who dies prematurely in its mother’s womb. He bore the cross for the wayward son and the discouraged daughter. Jesus Christ lived and died, and was resurrected for every joy, every sorrow, every tear, every triumph. FOR THIS MOMENT, FOR EVERY DAY.

We don’t have to be afraid. We don’t have to worry about tomorrow. We can rest knowing that it has been covered. And not just covered but…

CONQUERED

As I shed my tears today and mourn the absence of my Mom, I lean on the cross; that is the place where Jesus’s death meets my pain today. I can surrender my hurt, knowing full well He alone can bring me freedom from it in my tomorrow. People change. Seasons change. But God’s promises are secure for yesterday, today and tomorrow.

When God Gets It Wrong

We prayed.  We petitioned. We cried out for a miracle. We trusted God was big enough, strong enough, and good enough to heal. We knew His promises, were trained in his faithfulness and depended on His mercy.  But healing didn’t come; death did, at least in the finite, earthly, temporal form.

I sometimes think that God gets it wrong. He doesn’t answer some of our most heart-felt, guttural, vulnerable prayers. Prayers that cut to our core, ones that rip us of our pride and groans that step us out into an area of trust we haven’t ventured before. Time goes by and our trust wavers, when the slow decay of our loved one’s body shows the unmistakable marks of impending finality or when our dream fades far from reality.

Where is God when He says no? What is His plan when we don’t see the good in our circumstances? Can we truly say He is good and holy when our life is crumpling and the pain is unbearable? Is he just, fair even? Does he really love me? Sometimes it seems like prayer doesn’t work, that it has no purpose and yields no response. I get tempted to just give in and quit asking, especially when it comes to the deepest longings of my heart.

My very first time praying to God occurred five years after realizing and accepting the fact that I needed a Savior. My dear friend, Katie, was skiing with her family when she had a sudden heart attack and slipped into a coma. For three days she teetered between death and life, unsure of what lay ahead for her life. Three of us friends huddled around a living room ottoman in North Texas, crying out to God on Katie’s behalf. Spare her life God! Deliver her! Heal her heart, Lord, a heart that loved people with genuine compassion and grace! Save her parents, siblings and friends from enduring the agony of her death! But… Katie died. She didn’t see the end of 8th grade like the rest of us. Her numbered days were done. My first time praying ended in death, disappointment and despair. God answered wrong.

A lot of life has happened in the 20 years that followed that prayer. Ups and downs, twists and turns all have played out with a kind of melodic rhythm through the years. Mostly good moments have come, however some days have been sprinkled with pain or besieged by war wounds. My journal is wrought with testimony of prayers answered, people healed, souls saved and God’s faithfulness through trials of many kinds. God has proven to me that He can be trusted. I can depend on Him to hear me, to love me so much that He finds joy in me reaching out to Him in prayer. I know to my core that He is good. He has walked me through so much and a deep, unwavering trust in His word has been cultivated in my heart.Then something happened…

Almost 20 years to the day of Katie’s death, I found myself huddled around a hospital bed, praying the same prayer I first lifted up to God. Spare her! Deliver her! Grant her life to the full for years to come! This time the prayers were for my mother, who had just been told she only had months to live. My world shook. My faith quivered. My soul ached for a different answer this time. But…Mom died. She won’t get to see her grand kids grow up like most of her friends will. Her numbered days were done. However, something was different this time. I know God more intimately, and I trust His character and His heart for me. Even amidst this pain, I could still sing praises to the One who answered wrong.

God created us to be in communication with him, knowing full well that sometimes we just won’t understand His plan. We call him a liar, a swindler, thinking He asks much of us but does not deliver the life of blessing we feel He promised. We feel cheated, and we give up. We doubt His character, or we feel like His hope for our future doesn’t apply to us. In these moments when God answers wrong, we come to an impasse of having to make a decision on what we believe. Do we believe God is truly who He says He is? Do we believe He is really all-knowing, never-changing and glorious in His wisdom? Do we believe God is worthy of all praise no matter what? Is He really merciful, are His ways always good? Do we believe that He really loves us?

From Katie to Mom I can honestly answer YES. YES, He is who he claims to be. YES, He hears my pleas.YES, He collects my tears in a bottle, not one falling without his knowledge or care. Furthermore, I have come to have a more accurate view of myself. NO, I am not omniscient. NO, I don’t see the span of eternity.NO, I can’t know what is best for every living person on this earth. NO, I don’t chose when people die or what my future looks like. BUT, I do get to trust. I get to lift my requests up to Him, the only One who has the power and authority to set up and dispose kings, to heal the sick and save the lost. I get to choose joy when my circumstances feel chaotic and out of control. I get to rest knowing God will never leave me, even when He sometimes feels far away.

I can say that for Katie and for Mom, healing came in a more perfect form than I could have ever prayed. They are complete and whole, lacking in nothing. They are delivered, free from pain, anxiety and worry. They sit at the foot of the Savior they proclaimed and loved . It wasn’t what we wanted. Our hearts yearn and break in a way we never knew possible, missing their company and the unmet dreams for their lives cut short. We don’t know how to walk forward without them. We wonder if joy will ever be our companion again. But through this questioning, God’s word stands firm. My hope can be secure in Jesus’ death on the cross, not just for heaven but for the mess of this life on earth too. I trust God knows how to heal and restore my soul. He sees me and understands my questions and my pain. And He will, in time, bring His joy.

My prayer is that as God heals my heart, He will use my journey to bring healing to others who are hurt and broken just like me.

Even when God answers wrong…We have FAITH that He is good.