Christmas 2012, the end of my first semester of college at Hardin-Simmons University, would be a Christmas I or my family would ever forget. Often times holidays are filled with (mostly) joy, laughter, and love. Not often do we hear the memories of those passed, though we dare not let them leave us until our parting breath. This Christmas, Christmas 2012, would rock my family.
It began with a phone call from my brother-in-law, Jason, to my mom that his wife, Lisa, had stopped breathing. We had seen her just a few days before and she seemed in realitvely good health. A pesky cough is nothing to fret at when it is consistently cold and rainy. Unfortunately, that cough was just the beginning of what would be our last Christmas with her among us. That phone call then moved to my mom breaking the news to my dad that his daughter may not be with us much longer. My dad is not one for emotion, but that man cried like never before. We quickly took for Lousisiana to be with family. This is also the same Christmas Shelby and I spent together as a couple; her in Minnesota, me in Texas and Louisiana. I am thankful to this day for her, her grandparents, and her parents’ prayers. They are, and continue to be, wonderful. As stated by the title, you might be able to anticipate the ending of this story. My step-sister did eventually pass away.
My late great-grandmother said of my grandmother, “A mother should never have to bury her child/children.” Unfortunately, sometimes we do not get a choice. I struggled with my faith after this. I could not understand how a good and loving God would take my sister from us. My sister, who had just begun serving in the church, her children and husband thriving in the church body, had been taken from us in a seemingly random moment. “Why God?” is the cry I voiced day-in and day-out. I simply could not understand. To say that my faith in God decreased is an understatement. I did not trust His plan. I could not in this moment or moments to follow. A month or so later, I realized how much I needed God. I could not make it through thinking about my sister without shedding tears. Of course it was hard, death is never meant to be wasy to deal with. What I learned, and continue to learn, is that God is sovereign in so much. In everything.
Paul has many wise words to offer. In his first letter to the Christians in Thessolonica, he writes:
We do not mourn as those with no hope… For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Therefore encourage each other with these words. -1 Thessalonians 4:13,16,18
Suddenly, these words hit me literally like pounds of bricks. They were so heavy yet so relieving. God brought all of my sorrows to light and gave me joy and hope. Hope that on the Great Day of our Lord’s Second Advent I will see her again. Until then, I take these words from the Apostle John’s Revelation to heart:
He will dwell with them, nad they wil be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away ever tear form their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. -Revelation 21:3c-4
If Paul is correct, and I believe wholeheartedly he is, when we leave this body we are in the presence of the living Christ. And, if John is correct, and I do so believe he is, then those who are not present with us are present with God and celebrating with Him whole and without ailment. These words get me through the thoughts of losing my sister.
I am thankful my sister served her Lord with all that she had. She loved the Lord her God with all of her heart, soul, might, and strength. She served His people with great love and compassion. She served her family and loved them with the love Christ has for His bride. Jonathan Edwards said this:
When they (the saints) go to heaven where He is, they are exalted and glorified with Him, and shall not be kept at a more awful distance from Christ, but shall be admitted nearer, and to a greater intimacy.
Friends, if you have lost someone as I have then you know the struggle. You know the depression, the sadness, the confusion that comes from the passing of someone you love . I urge you, friends, hear the words throughout Scripture: God is sovereign and God hears you. God knows what He is doing even when we do not. We do not understand, and that is okay. Trust His Word. Trust what He has revealed to us written in the pages of Scripture:
He leads me beside still waters, He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. -Psalm 23:3, emphasis mine