Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tragedies, part 2

“…weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

Even as I write, some of my dearest friends buried their beloved daughter today. The wife of a missionary to Ukraine went to Heaven a few days ago, after only two months of being diagnosed with cancer. A husband and three precious children said farewell to the one who only a few months ago was the joy of their lives. Hundreds of Ukrainians thousands of miles away are grieving in their own way, as the one who told them of Jesus is now seeing Him face to face.

I don’t really know if I’ve ever suffered a real tragedy like the ones my loved ones are suffering today. Oh, I can remember back over my life…things that at the time seemed tragic, like the night I went to bed, and realized I hadn’t felt any movement from the little baby I had carried for six months. He was such an active baby. I mentioned this to my pediatrician husband. “Sometimes when babies get bigger, they tend to be a little slower. I’ll check you in the morning.” As soon as the examination began, I could tell by the look on his face that something was wrong. I don’t know if we just refused to believe that this could be happening to us. I had very normal, happy pregnancies with our other seven healthy babies, and very uneventful, normal deliveries. It was tragic for me to carry our little baby for two weeks before his untimely birth.

I wrote the previous paragraph yesterday. And something I learned, that I would like to teach you is the following: while the tragedies of my life seem small in comparison to what some of my friends are suffering today, at the time I was going through those terrible times, they were as tragic to me, as those are to my friends today. And this is what I’ve learned: with time, past tragedies seem to weave themselves into the fabric of our lives. We learn a new “normal,” and life goes on. At the risk of sounding cold and hard (which I’m not) I know with the passing of days, and weeks and months, and years, the death of my dear missionary friend will eventually become part of her family’s past, and they will be able once again to feel. The numbness of grief will subside, and there will be hope for tomorrow, new dreams, new plans, and new goals to be reached.

I remember sitting on the side of my bed in the home of friends the day following my husband’s funeral. I had lost my sense of direction. For so many, many years he was the center of my life, he was my “ministry.” In many ways, he was my “decision maker.” Then suddenly he was gone. I went in for my 10:00 appointment with my pastor, Dr. Jim Vineyard, and he “set my feet on solid ground,” giving me direction for my life. That was over seven years ago. Today it would seem as strange for my Heavenly sweetheart to be sitting in his rocking chair next to my desk, as it was seven years ago for him to be gone. His absence has become part of my life. Our separation has become my “normal,” and anything else would seem strange. While I miss him, and will love him until the day we meet in Heaven, I’ve come to terms with the fact that God’s plan was to take him to Heaven, and leave me behind. Looking for ways to accuse God of being unjust, blaming others for taking the dearest to my heart from me, going into fits of depression would have been obstacles for the bountiful blessings and for the things I’ve learned through his death. I’ve been able to help other widows, as we cried together, and I told them, “Joy will come in the morning.”

It’s when we lose sight of that fact, that despair sets in. The “Will I ever be happy again?” and “Will life ever make sense again?” must not take control of our thoughts and actions, thus leading to bad decisions, broken relationships, and even to suicide. The death of a child, a child who turns his back on God, the desertion by a spouse, are tragedies, for sure. We will not get out of this life without tragedies to a certain degree. It’s what we do with those tragedies, and how we respond to them that determine our survival, and yes, even God’s blessings and the ability to see “tragedy-turned-blessing.”

Words seem so empty at a time like this. But if you’re standing in a heap of ashes left by tragedy:

1. Trust in the Lord.  He wants to be your Anchor, your Strength, and the only “Constant” in your life. He doesn’t change. He is Worthy of our trust. Put your trust in Him, and in no one else to save you. “The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble;” Nahum 1:7

2. Live today as if it were the last day you would spend with your loved one, because it very well could be. “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” James 4:14

3. If you love the Lord, all your tragedies are for your good. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 Those words seemed so empty to me when I was carrying our little dead unborn baby. And honestly, to this day, I see absolutely no “good to me.” Or do I? Come to think of it, I guess I can. I’ve been able to “comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted by God.” II Corinthians 1:4 I have used my tragedy to comfort others who are going through the tragedy of losing a baby. How is it possible that the cruel death of the Son of God could be turned into something good? He rose the third day, and said to His disciples, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” John 16:7 If the Lord had not died on the cross, we would have had to die for our sins. He was our Substitute. He took our place, and if we choose to accept His sacrifice, we won’t have to suffer the tragedy of eternal death when we die. Because he rose again, I have a Comforter, the blessed Holy Spirit, to go with me through all my tragedies. The death of Jesus, the day when “the sun was darkened,” was changed into victory when on the third day He rose from the dead. Let Him turn all your tragedies into victories.