My dad’s death was sudden and unexpected.
He had been through a three-month long hospitalization five years prior to his death that nearly took his life. It left him weak and forever changed. So in the back of my mind (and his I think), I wondered how long God would give us with him. Even then, you’re never ready or prepared. I remember almost gasping for breath at different moments after he died: when I would wake up and remember that he was gone, or would walk past his emptied out office at church, or scroll past his name and number in my cell phone.
As I walked this particular part of my journey on earth, I could not help but wonder over and over “how does one do this without a relationship with Christ?” Because I am not exaggerating or trying to sound religious in the least when I say, God was our only comfort and hope in the center of our life-altering sorrow.
God’s face and voice were clearer to me than ever before.
He gave us gifts of hope and a clear view of His sovereign hand in our midst that helped us take another breath, another step. There were times when I could only speak what I knew to be true and unchanging about God, His Word and His promises, because nothing else made sense or soothed the ache. Nothing else was certain.
So I want to share with you ten verses, precious promises, that God gave me as I processed and moaned and groaned and clawed my way through this thing called grief. They were truly my very breath.
Psalm 139:16 (ESV) “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”
God made Dad, knew him, loved him and established the number of his days on earth before time. I drew such comfort knowing that all the ‘what ifs’ we were asking wouldn’t have made a difference because God had this in His plan. And this plan came from a loving Creator.
Romans 8:28 (ESV) “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
God works ALL things together for our good. ALL things. For our good not our comfort and happiness. Our good. Do I believe it or not? All things, our good. I choose to believe it and I have seen it play out it my life again and again and this circumstance was no different.
Isaiah 54:10 (ESV) “For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”
God’s love for His people cannot be shaken or removed. So this thing that honestly didn’t feel loving was not anger or hatred toward me. He loves me. He loves my dad and nothing can change that. Including my feelings.
Psalm 121 (ESV) “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? 2 My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. 3 He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. 4 Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 5 The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. 6 The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. 7 The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. 8 The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.”
The whole chapter. Where does my help come from? The Lord. He doesn’t sleep. He watches over me. Protects me. Guards me. Forever. This thing did not sneak through enemy lines and attack me. It was within God’s sovereign plan and He did indeed protect and guard me through it.
Philippians 4:13 (ESV) “ I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
There were days that it seemed almost impossible to keep functioning. But we did. My mom did. How in the world? Christ who strengthens me. I watched as He strengthened my mom. Daily. Minute by minute sometimes.
II Corinthians 12:9 (ESV) “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
It is in my weakness that I get to see, you get to see, the Lord be strong. It happened in that pain of loss. It’s still happening. I am a weakling. For real. Any strength in me is all Him.
II Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV) “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
This life is temporary. Fleeting. And the hard stuff here is just getting us ready for better things in heaven. God has things to teach us and refine us through in this life that we can’t learn any other way, anywhere else. I reminded my mom (and myself) often that this is but a breath. Eternity is around the corner and is, well, forever. Forever good.
Psalm 27:13-14 (ESV) “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”
As we waited through the days of Dad’s unconsciousness and then his last breaths and then the long days that followed, we trusted that God’s promises were true. That we would still see God’s goodness in our lives despite our sadness. And friends, we did. Oh we did. He was so kind in so many ways. Sweet reminders, messages, cards, verses and songs just for me or my kids or my mom were perfectly timed and divinely healing. Inexplicable except for my sweet Savior.
Jeremiah 33:3 (ESV) “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.”
God didn’t move closer during this time – He was and is always right here. But what did happen was that in my desperation, I started looking harder, listening more intently and when I did, I saw God do great and mighty things. He didn’t choose to heal my dad. Yet, He gave my mom a strength she didn’t know was within her and a new ministry she didn’t think was possible. He gave my heart deeper roots in Him that may not have developed otherwise. I watched Him give my kids a clearer perspective on who God is and how He loves. Great and mighty things.
John 16:20 (ESV) “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.”
There is a beautiful ending to all of this. I know that I will one day join my Dad. I will stand in the presence of my Almighty God and the pain and sadness of this life will be replaced by perfect, unending joy. Amen!
These promises and so many more throughout my life are what sustain me. Go there. Run to them. Trust His Word. It brings life to the fullest and peace that passes understanding.
God is good all the time. Rock-solid.