Eleven things that I have learned through losing a loved one
By: Jessica Cusano
Losing a loved one, a VERY special loved one, is THE hardest thing I have ever had to face thus far in my (relatively short) earthly life! This summer I very unexpectedly lost my father. On July 18th, 2013, my oldest daughter’s 11th birthday, my sister took my dad out for a lovely breakfast. On the way back home, the car my sister was driving was struck, on the passenger side door where my dad was riding, by an 18 year old young man who ran a stop sign in broad daylight. Just minutes from my childhood home, the home my parents still lived in, life as my family knew it was dramatically changed, in an instant! My dad was rushed to the hospital where he remained unconscious for three days. Then, at the age of 68 years of age, he saw Jesus’ face, as his Savior welcomed him into heaven!! While my dad had many health issues prior to the accident, this was NOT something that any of us expected, in any way, to come about so soon. Losing a loved one is a heart ache and challenge any way that it happens, but to come about so unexpectedly, so seemingly unnecessarily, brings on an entirely new level of pain and grief!
As I was talking with my sweet mom while we were out to lunch recently, she was sharing with me about a sign she had read while driving. The sign said this, “Every TEST produces a TESTimony!” SO. TRUE. The response we have to any situation tells much about us, and the things we hold in our hearts. I have been thinking about that statement ever since she shared that message with me and I want to use my testings as a testimony. I want to bring glory to my Savior, pointing others to him, even in my heartache and trial, because that is what the Bible tells me that I ought to do to please my Lord.
A few verses from 1 Peter, chapter 4:
12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. 16 Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.
And of course the well known verse in Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.” Did you catch that? ALWAYS!
I would like to share some things that I have learned and experienced through this process. It helps when I write and share, and I hope it can help others too! I am not a professional anything…I am just writing from my heart. My only real source for information shared here is my Bible, and things that I gleaned from the wise teachers and mentors I have been so blessed to have had in my life throughout the years. These are not necessarily in any particular order.
1. It gets harder before it gets easier!
After we got word of the accident, the family gathered in the emergency room. My sister, who was also very seriously injured, was being cared for in one trauma bay and my dad was in the next room over. We were not allowed to see my dad right away, they were still working on him. It was at least an hour, maybe longer (it’s hard to remember and measure time in those situations) before we could see my dad. When we were finally allowed to come to his bedside, he was already on a ventilator. (a breathing machine designed to force air into a person’s lungs when they are unable to breathe for themselves.) He had many tubes and monitoring devices streaming out of his body in every direction, he was in a neck brace to keep his head from being able to be moved in any way, as he had multiple back and neck fractures, his clothes had been cut from his body… you can probably envision that this was not an easy sight. My mom and I went to my dad’s side. We held his hand, whispered into his ear to tell him that we were there with him and that we loved him… and waited. Sometime later my dad was admitted into the NCU (Neuro-intensive care unit) listed in critical condition. That rest of that first day was pretty uneventful for us. It was a wait and see sort of situation from the very beginning. We would travel between my sister’s room and my dad’s bedside. While my dad was heavily sedated and could not respond to us in any way, the doctors would periodically perform a neuro exam on him which involved “turning down” the heavy sedation and pain medication to see if he could follow simple commands such as, “squeeze my finger, Jim!” or “Wiggle your toes, Jim!”. He was able to respond to those commands that first afternoon as well as the next morning. The rounding doctors on Friday morning, (the morning after the accident) talked to my mom and I and told us that while my dad definitely had a very long road ahead of him, he could possibly come off of the ventilator in as soon as three days! What encouragement that was to us!! However, at some point later that same afternoon, my dad quit responding to the doctors who would come in to check on him and perform those neuro exams. He would no longer squeeze their fingers or wiggle his toes, even after longer periods of having the medicines turned down. They tried to perform an in depth, (full head and spine) MRI on my dad that Friday night, during the night hours. I remember calling several times for an update from his nurse before I went to bed, but she was not available, because she was still working with my dad. The next morning I learned that they were unable to complete the MRI because my dad’s body was just not tolerating the movement and activity going on and in turn his body was beginning to shut down even more. They were however, able to complete the brain portion of the scan… it was found that my dad’s brain was full of blood clots. Substantial blood clots passing into the brain result in stroke. During the day Saturday, as my mom and I sat by my dad’s bedside, he opened his eyes! While I desperately wanted to see encouragement in that instance, and tried to manufacture hope among my mom and I with my words, you could see in my dad’s eyes that something was very different! My father had beautiful blue eyes! (He passed those to me and I passed them to my little son… we are the only ones, family-wide, with this special trait!) That day, his eyes were a dark, hazy grayish brown. (Looking back I believe the Lord caused my Dad to open his eyes that way so that my mom and I could look into them and see the changes, and that this was no longer my Dad!) We now know that the (Friday) afternoon before, was a big change in my dad’s situation. His body was the recipient of substantially devastating trauma during the accident. His car door was the point of impact, the car rolled three times, then landed on my dad’s side! His body just could not handle that level of impact and it was determined that he would never be able to recover from his injuries. Sunday morning when I arrived at the hospital, anticipating spending another day alongside of my family, praying over my dad, that he would “defeat the odds” and start showing signs of improvement, he was actually doing just the opposite… His reliance on artificial oxygenation had risen to 100%, obviously the max for the machines, both of his lungs were reliant on chest tubes to maintain inflation, his blood pressure was so low, only kept up by large amounts of medication, his body was swelling and was so very puffy in many areas. His injures were so numerous, the list was so long!
The very kind, very knowledgeable doctor, who was head of the neuro/trauma team, gathered our family into a special meeting room that Sunday morning and basically laid our situation out before us all. We learned that my dad was only getting worse, and that the doctors and his fantastic and extremely capable medical team had exhausted all medically possible options in preserving his life, and that nothing was working. Further intervention would only torture his weak, frail body. We needed to decide if we wanted to continue relying on machines to keep his body breathing, or if we wanted to follow the wishes that my dad had previously laid out, stating that he did not want to be kept alive with machines when there was zero chance of recovery. Of course we chose to honor my father. My family gathered and literally watched my father breathe his last breath on this earth. While this unforgettable situation is one that I would not wish on anyone, the Lord was SO, SO gracious, and my dad went to be with the Savior so peacefully, calmly, and quickly! While we know that my dad wasn’t really there anyway, the doctors warned us that sometimes the process of removing life support can be a lengthy one, sometimes the patient’s body can appear to struggle with breathing and things of that nature, the process can be long, (even when there is zero brain activity in a patient) which could be very hard for a family to watch. Nothing of this nature happened with my dad. He went so peacefully! A blessing straight from God!
The next days after my dad going home to heaven were full of hustle and bustle. Out of town family was there, meetings with the funeral home were immediately necessary, preparations and details began… I honestly felt like we were planning a big birthday party for my dad!! We organized a beautiful service, full of wonderful stories about him and his life, special music to honor his testimony, picture boards and video presentations to show what a wonderful man my dad was, and the many accomplishments he had, including 10 years of service, for our country in the United States Marine Corps! It truly was a celebration of his life! So, while we were so very sad, at that time, it did not seem like my dad was really gone. It felt like he was maybe resting in bed, or out with other family members. The busyness of the days following the actual death and then the time of visitation and funeral are not really a time for the people who have lost a loved one to really begin to grieve the loss. That process begins afterward… after everyone else goes back to their normal lives and activities. This is where my first lesson learned comes in, “It gets worse before it gets better!”. It might be days, it could even be weeks, depending on circumstances, before the loss of a loved one really sets in and feels real. For me personally, it was more like weeks later. I didn’t live in the same house with my dad, so I didn’t see him every single day, or even talk to him every single day. Because of this, the true magnitude of what I would feel did not set in until a later on.
May I offer a note of advice? If you want to really encourage a person, send them a note or card (phone calls were definitely not “the thing” for us, nor were drop-in visits!) later down the time line. Sure, send one when the trial (whatever it may be) occurs, but remember them later too! Keep praying for them, never assume they “feel better”, in fact assume that they do not! I know it’s hard. Life is busy and people don’t usually live for their neighbor, but there are many references in God’s word about how we should care for one another. Galatians 6:2 says, ” Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” and Philippians 2: 3,4 “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.”
I just want to clarify, I am not speaking of my family here… as in, please send me cards and feel sorry for me because we are still grieving. While I would say that things are still not easy for us, I don’t think that a person EVER truly “gets over” the loss of their dear loved one, the purpose of this post is just to share… maybe to help inform others so they can be aware and helpful when a similar situation arises. I will tell you, before this experience, I had no idea!! Through this situation, God has really grown my sense of empathy! You simply cannot really understand how something like this feels until you have been through it yourself! I am so very thankful for those in our life who continued to show us that care and concern later on, and even still do… it has truly meant so very much!!
2. God does NOT make mistakes!
The circumstances of the situation that we faced with my dad is one that leaves room for question. A car accident is not a “natural” event. While I certainly do not wish to minimize ANY circumstance resulting in the loss of a loved one, an accident is a senseless event that leaves much room to ask “if only…”. If only the waitress at the restaurant where my dad and sister ate the morning before the accident, had just taken a minute longer in coming to take the order, or serving the food, or bringing the bill or…….. You see where this could quickly go. If only the young man who hit the car had been stopped at a red light, out somewhere while he was driving that morning, or if he was, had caught a green light instead, resulting in him not being at the intersection right when my dad and sister would be crossing it. SECONDS could have made a HUGE difference in the path our lives all took that day! We can spend many hours, days, and even weeks thinking of different “if only” scenarios that could better the outcome of what WE desired for that day. However, if we decide to think of it completely opposite of “if only”, we can realize all that DID have to come together JUST perfectly for this situation to happen as it did. As hard or as unnatural as this approach to a great trial may be, I know that our great God was not surprised by this event! He knew when my dad would pass from this earth! God knew on December 1, 1944, when my dad breathed his first breath of life outside of his mother’s womb, that on July 21, 2013 he would breathe his last. While I do not think that God “orchestrated” this time of pain and suffering for us, He did allow it, and He was never, ever surprised by it! It was God’s timing that my dad pass from this Earth at the time he did, otherwise He would have allowed him to live, either by avoiding the accident all together or by healing his body afterward!
I love the words in this song, such a help in understanding.
God never moves without purpose or plan
When trying His servant and molding a man.
Give thanks to the LORD though your testing seems long;
In darkness He giveth a song.
I could not see through the shadows ahead;
So I looked at the cross of my Savior instead.
I bowed to the will of the Master that day;
Then peace came and tears fled away.
Now I can see testing comes from above;
God strengthens His children and purges in love.
My Father knows best, and I trust in His care;
Through purging more fruit I will bear.
O Rejoice in the LORD
He makes no mistake,
He knoweth the end of each path that I take,
For when I am tried
I shall come forth as gold.
~ Song by Ron Hamilton
3. God gives perfect grace, not all at once, but just when you need it!
I do not believe that you can understand this statement, to it’s absolute fullest extent, until you experience a great loss, such as the loss of a life that was dear to you. Of course there are many circumstances throughout life that cause great pain and sorrow, but saying goodbye to a spouse, parent, child, close friend… those are the circumstances that leave you with a true, genuine, aching void! Earthly “things” can be replaced, people cannot!
God gave me an absolute PERFECT grace to face this trial in my life! He did not give it to me all at once to get me through the entire day or week or month, he gave it moment by moment. Just when I thought I couldn’t take the next step, there he was, almost like an IV, slowly injecting perfect peace to continue on. This does not mean that I never feel sad, or that I never have moments where I break down and just cry. However, looking back to particularly the time of my dad’s passing, standing beside his bed, and on to the visitation and funeral time, God was right there with us, helping us to maintain “composure” and get through the moments! If you were to look at my dear, precious mother, she was a SOLID ROCK!! She was so strong the entire time. It wasn’t even me who noticed this, it was many around us who would constantly comment on her strength! She would encourage those around her, when they ought to have been there to encourage her! She was (and still is) always pointing people to the cross, praising the Lord for His goodness to her! But it wasn’t her that was the solid rock, it was the Solid Rock that she was leaning on, and that was her Jesus!! We can know that God will never leave us, nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). ” And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9. In Matthew 5:4 Jesus promises comfort and blessing for those who go through the process of grief and mourning: “ Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.”
4. The dying Christian is not the one who has lost!
This lesson was a harder one for me to grasp and understand, and it was my dear husband who helped me to see this truth. When a person who has accepted Christ as their Savior passes away from this Earth, their life has really only just begun! Philippians chapter one teaches that “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” If we are living for the Lord, we live our entire earthly life preparing for heaven, gaining eternal rewards. It is true that when a person enters heaven they leave some things behind… those things consist of sickness, pain, sorrow, suffering, death, tears… Revelation 21:4 – “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” The things left behind are not a very desirable!! Heaven is a perfect place! Our minds are not able to begin to fully comprehend the joy that awaits the believer in heaven! There have been times where I thought the life I live on this Earth is “good enough” for me. As in, I am not ready to go to heaven yet… I like my life here, right now serving the Lord from the Earth. I believe that is simply a fear of the unknown, absence of the familiar. However, after knowing that someone so special has passed on and entered heaven’s gates, it makes me so much more interested in learning what heaven is really like! If only I could just hear my Dad’s voice right now… I just know the sound of it alone would tell me EVERYTHING that I needed to know!! 🙂 I can’t understand, in my finite mind, how heaven could be so grand, and what all waits for us there… but I know one thing, and this is how I explain the unexplainable to my children when we have this conversation… the Bible tells us that heaven is PERFECT!! When I get there, everything will be PERFECT and honestly, that settles it all for me! I don’t need to “understand”. I take the word of God for what it says and believe it. The definition of FAITH!
Those of us that are left here on earth feel the sadness and pain. We cry. We can even drown in sorrow, if we are not careful! But coming to the realization that the person who has died would most likely not return to this wretched earth, even if they had the opportunity, can really help those deep feelings of mourning! We are actually selfish to wish them back here with us! The word “heaven” or “heavens” appears almost 700 times in the King James Bible!! I plan to study these passages more in the very near future, because I am pretty sure that I have been missing out on learning more about my next home!! Information that would help me to look forward to this grand, perfect place even more than I already do!
“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” ~ C.S. Lewis
5. Jesus knows, first hand, what it is like to lose a loved one!
Before I begin with this point, I certainly do not want us to forget that GOD gave His very own, one and only, precious, perfect son to die a torturous, most horrendous death on a cross, as payment for the disgusting sin of this wretched world, so that WE, the most unworthy, worthless beings could have eternal life with HIM someday. SOMEONE had to pay the price for our sin… there wasn’t anyone worthy except for JESUS CHRIST, the one and only spotless lamb of God!! So, this would be the greatest example of our great God knowing the sense of loss, and the death of a precious loved one… far beyond what we could experience, in that he GAVE His son for us!!
I would also like to draw our attention to another instance from the Bible, that really struck a chord with me, soon after losing my dad. While Jesus was living on this Earth, in human form, He experienced most things that we as humans experience. I say most things because the Savior never experienced sin. He experienced temptation of sin, when he was tempted of the devil, but never sinned. If he had, he could not have paid the price for OUR sin!!
Jesus experienced what it feels like to lose a loved one from the Earth! One of the most “popular” verses in the Bible, known because it is the shortest verse in the Bible, is John 11:35, “Jesus wept.”. I have known this verse for a very long time, but, to my shame, I am honestly not sure that I ever took the time to understand and focus on exactly why Jesus was weeping. Jesus was weeping because his friend, Lazarus, had died, because his friends were saddened by the loss of their loved one. Jesus knew that Lazarus would not remain dead, because Jesus was life! If you are familiar with the story you know that Jesus did bring Lazarus back from the dead, but the passage tells the story of how He experienced the sadness and grief that comes from losing a loved one!
Isaiah 53: 3- 5 says, “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”
The Lord knows our sorrow! He grieves for us. Thankfully though, He has provided a way that we need not grieve for the idea that death is the end! We can see our dear loved ones again, and that is the truth that we must cling to in our earthly sorrows! “With HIS stripes we are healed!”
6. God is faithful to do what He says He will do regardless of how I feel or what I believe.
After a shocking loss, (or any loss I’d imagine!) it is easy to get caught up in the feelings! Our human nature, our fleshly nature, takes over and may bring doubt. We ask questions and even seek to place blame! This allows the doubt to creep in to what we know and believe to be true! Obviously, the devil is always on the prowl, raring his ugly head to place lies wherever he can, to draw the Christian away from our walk with our Lord. He doesn’t want us to grow closer to the Savior and “seeks to devour wherever he may.”
There are many stages in grief, and one of them often includes doubt. I found myself questioning what I knew to be truth. Is God really ALWAYS good? Does he really ALWAYS know what is best for me? How could a senseless accident taking my precious father from me be in God’s perfect and best plan for my life? The Bible tells us that God’s ways are not our ways! I cannot define “good” for my Lord! Talk about a hard pill to swallow! It is easy to fall into the questioning that we as humans manufacture, because we cannot possibly understand all that God has laid out for us. This is not trusting in Him! He doesn’t allow us to see everything or see His entire plan for us all at once. This is part of the walk of faith He has set before us, this is what it means to TRUST! I believe that the Bible teaches that the very best remedy for doubt is simply to be IN the Word of God! Romans 10:17 is such a great reminder, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God!” Reading God’s word helps us maintain our walk with Him and helps arm us for the attacks that the devil will wage against us! We have to take God at His word. Sometimes, in our fleshly nature, that is just so much easier said than done. However, just deciding to DO it and waiting on God to show us the next step will bring so much clarification and assurance. He promises He will take care of us, if we just yield and allow Him to direct!
Jeremiah 29:11-13 tell us, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”
Thankfully the Lord is ALWAYS the same! He does not change with emotions! He has had a plan, from day one, and he never strays from that plan, like we finite creatures do every single day! It doesn’t matter how I am feeling TODAY… God has NOT changed! Even when we chose to yell and scream at Him in anger, or cry out to Him because we just do not understand!
7. Turn the WHY? Into HOW!
I mentioned earlier in my post about how easy it is to ask questions… there are countless “if only’s” and WHY?’s! It is really easy to find myself constantly coming back to doing this. We may never get answers to the tough questions we have after losing a precious loved one, or going through a substantial trial of any kind, on this side of heaven. So to dwell on them is not going to get help us grow toward healing. The Lord would have us to turn those “why?’s” into “HOW’s!” Instead of why did this happen to me or my family? HOW can I use it to bring glory to the Lord? How can I help someone else through what the Lord has done for me, or taught me in my situation? It’s truly amazing how ministering to others in MY time of need can bring about SO much healing!! God promises to honor our obedience to Him and He will heal our wounds when we are seeking to please and honor Him, simply for who He is!!
1 Thessalonians 5 teaches us to “edify one another”. I love that word, “edify”! The definition of edify is: “to teach (someone) in a way that improves the mind or character.” This word reminds me of my very favorite youth pastor in my teenage years, Pastor Jason Valentin. If during any youth activity or event, any conversation would begin to turn from the positive he would simply say, “Edify!”. Wise words that have always stuck with me! I just recently taught this word to my children and encouraged them to use it when there is an issue with their friends not building each other up.
I want to share a portion of 1 Thessalonians 5, specifically verses 11-24. I believe it is a help to what I am trying to share.
11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.
12 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;
13 And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.
14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.
15 See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.
16 Rejoice evermore.
17 Pray without ceasing.
18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
19 Quench not the Spirit.
20 Despise not prophesyings.
21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.
23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
24 Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.
When we take the message of 1 Thessalonians 5 to heart, edifying one another, supporting the weak, showing patience, praying for one another, giving thanks in EVERYTHING, rejoicing evermore! God can use us in a mighty way. The commands in this passage are not easy ones! It’s not easy to give thanks in grievous situations! But if we allow the Lord to work in and through us, that allows Him to bring about the healing that we so desperately long for and need, as well as allowing us to bring glory to Him, which in turn build our eternal rewards. A great big lesson: to always remember to live NOT for this life, and what we can see in the here and now, but to live for the next! If we could just remember to constantly keep our eyes on JESUS, so much easier, this short earthly life would be!!
“Until God opens the next door for you, praise HIM in the hallway!” ~ author unknown
My sweet Pastor’s wife, Mrs. Trish Harrison, recently shared a thought with me. Blessing another person in our time of hurt can bring about healing!! This statement did not stem from her losing a loved one, but from a different situation that had left pain and hurt. When we are injured whether it be physically, emotionally, spiritually… we focus on us. Our nature is to sulk. How can *I* feel better, as fast as possible? What can other people do to make me feel better and to meet my needs? This is not a biblical response, but a fleshly response. I challenge you to take the next opportunity you have, when you are down and have been “injured”, to use that time to bless others! Possibly even those who are responsible for that pain or hurt. Respond as Christ would respond. He will honor your obedience!! Imagine a world where everyone put one another before themselves… we’d solve so many problems, no one would be wanting for anything!
8. There is a time for everything. You are normal!
I have to insert some humor here… I have always had an ongoing understanding with my husband and some of my closest girlfriends, that I am THE most normal person that I know! Think about it, what you do, you do because it comes naturally to you! Therefore, that would be considered what is normal to you! Therefore, *I* am obviously the most normal person I know! Of course I do everything I do because it’s what is normal to ME! 🙂 Now I am totally normal to all of you as well, right?!
The first eight verses in Ecclesiastes 3 laid my seventh lesson out clearly for me:
1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to get, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time of war, and a time of peace.
When something bad happens, most people do not usually go on with their lives like they did before the life changing event. Hence the term, “LIFE CHANGING”. There are many stages and steps in dealing with things, to help you through your situation properly and in a healthy way. Losing a loved one is a major life changing, life altering ordeal! Your life simply cannot be how it was before, despite your best efforts! This stops people in their tracks! I lost my father, someone I was not even able to be around and talk to or see everyday. Imagine the person who loses their spouse! How do they go on after such a tremendous loss? The answer… one step at a time! And sometimes you have to stay on the same step for a while, not necessarily visibly moving forward… just not looking back! This goes back to God’s perfect grace. He doesn’t just pour it all onto you at one time, he gradually shows you His precious face, helping you to cope… one small footstep in front of the other! No two people on this Earth are exactly the same and we should never push a person to “get over” a troubling life event faster than they can. SHOW them love, encouragement, grace… show them Christ! And PRAY! Take the appropriate time to heal, or like a physical illness that isn’t properly cared for and nursed back to health, an emotional one won’t be healed either!
I feel like this might be the appropriate time to mention a fantastic resource available for any person who has lost a loved one. A dear, precious friend of mine who experienced an extremely difficult loss in her life, recommended this program to me after my Dad died and I so appreciated it, it has been a tremendous help to me, and I know for my Mom as well! Griefshare.org is a website that you can visit to help with the grief process. They have a number of resources available, but my favorite one, and one that is completely free, is the daily email subscription called “A Season of Grief”. For one full year you will receive a daily email on various topics and stages of grief. These emails are full of encouragement, suggestions in coping, and Bible verses to show how God’s word can provide so much help, and ultimately healing, in such a dire time of need! If you or a loved one have experienced a loss, please check out this website. Even if it was not recent, this could be of great help!
9. God gave us promises in his word, STAND ON THEM! Claim them for your own!
My parents had me in church from day one of my little life! I have heard all of the Bible stories, sang all of the hymns, heard countless special music numbers, participated in numerous Bible studies, attended youth group meetings and activities, even grown into the teaching role where I began to teach others about the things I have learned. You get the idea. Much to my shame, hearing some of those familiar, often quoted Bible passages, hymns and songs had become just words to me. Words I had memorized and recited often, but the opportunity used to think on, and prosper from, had become more mechanical than meaningful! A form of complacency. This is obviously not pleasing to my Lord. The one who has given ALL for me!
After my dad’s passing, hearing those same passages of scripture and songs began to become new to me again! The Lord was (He always has been!) near to me, so real to me! He was showing me HIS face, in such a special way. One of the first hymns that spoke greatly to my heart and soul was one of the oldest songs I knew. “Standing on the Promises” by Russell Kelso Carter:
Standing on the promises of Christ my King,
Through eternal ages let His praises ring,
Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
Standing on the promises of God.
Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
Standing on the promises of God.
Standing on the promises I now can see
Perfect, present cleansing in the blood for me;
Standing in the liberty where Christ makes free,
Standing on the promises of God.
Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord,
Bound to Him eternally by love’s strong cord,
Overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword,
Standing on the promises of God.
Standing on the promises I cannot fall,
List’ning every moment to the Spirit’s call,
Resting in my Savior as my all in all,
Standing on the promises of God.
Standing on the promises of God my Savior;
I’m standing on the promises of God.
The words of this song speak for themselves, and don’t need explanation. My mind and heart were refreshed in that I needed to lean on and take God for who He is, not what I feel He has done for me or for anyone!
You can’t think of any promises? Go find them! Be IN the word and let God use His word to comfort, guide, and heal! He alone can and will if we only allow! The book of Psalms is a great place to start!! (I will also include a great little collection that was once provided for me, towards the end of this post.)
A promise that I’ve always held so tight to, throughout all of the bumps in my life is Romans 8:28, a verse that I claimed as my “life verse” when I was a young teenager and really struggling during some years filled with sickness and trial in my life. “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.” We cannot pick and chose what we want to believe and receive out of God’s word. So many just want to feel good, without any effort. That isn’t usually how God works! He tells us, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33. “Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” Ps. 37:4 “Yet ye have not, because ye ask not.” James 4:2 b Pour yourself out to the LORD! Seek Him and you’ll find His promises awaiting, special for YOU!
10. Tomorrow is NEVER promised! Live your today as though you will never see your tomorrow!
This concept is probably new to no one! However, when you experience a loss like mine, it comes full circle in a hurry!! The last time I saw my dad before the accident was three days prior. I had to take one of my kids to the doctor for an unexpected visit, and my parents live near the pediatrician’s office, so I will often drop anyone who does not need to see the doctor, off to their house so I can have a more focused appointment with just the doctor and the child in need. In hind sight I praise the LORD for the need of that doctor’s appointment, whatever it was! Because of that appointment I was able to see my dad, one last time!
That day, I remember my dad was sitting in his specific favorite chair in the living room. I don’t remember him ever getting up while I was there. There were many days where he just didn’t feel well, he had many other health issues before the accident. I remember dropping the kids off, going to our appointment and then returning, when I went in to visit for a bit. I don’t remember what we talked about or how long the visit was, but I do remember getting ready to leave… I have four children. Getting them to pick everything up, gather whatever belongings they had with them, put shoes on, and get out of the door, while at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, can be a challenge!! Grandparents are SO interesting and their stuff is SO much more interesting… so distractions are at a premium! 🙂 All of that to say, “proper” goodbyes have not always been high up on my list of priorities when trying to get everyone out the door! However, that day I specifically remember going in and saying goodbye to my dad, and leaning down to give him a hug and a kiss on his soft, warm, slightly squishy, and often prickly cheek. I am so, so glad that I took the time to say goodbye that day, instead of being in a hurry to get out and get on our way! I will always remember that special last memory I have of him, the last time I saw him conscious on this earth!
When you leave your house tomorrow morning, you do NOT know if you will make it back home later that night! You do not know if your precious loved ones will make it home later that night. There are simply NO guarantees in this life!! “Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.” (Prov. 27:1) There are a couple of very important lessons that we can gather from this verse. First, we ought not leave things unsettled between ourselves and a loved one or friend because we may never have the chance to mend a broken fence. Secondly, love others the way you would want to remember loving them if this were the last time you were able to see them on this earth! Always be kind! Always kiss them goodbye!
James 4:14 is clear when it states, “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.” Picture a vapor when you read this verse. How quickly a vapor is here and gone! And what does a vapor leave as proof that it was once here? Nothing! Possibly a small scent for a short time, but there is no tangible remembrance left when a vapor is gone. This is a sobering picture, and quite frankly, extremely hopeless in theory! Thankfully, the Bible offers more! The Bible offers promise and hope! Our lives can be more if we allow the Spirit of God to move in and through us!
11. You cannot depend on PEOPLE, you have to depend on Christ!
Do I sound like a broken record yet? I can’t help it, I speak the truth! 🙂 I have many dependable, loving people in my life! The Lord put me in one of the most wonderful families on planet earth, He gave me the world’s most loving, caring, and sensitive parents who worked tirelessly to provide for me! He then led me to an adoringly special man that I would call my husband and gave us four beautifully precious children! I have many, many wonderfully supportive and encouraging friends, all over this world! My family is part of what I would describe as a truly out of this world church family, complete with a beloved Preacher and his dear wife, outstanding assistant pastoral staff families, and the most graciously sweet and loving church members I have ever met! When it comes to good, Godly people in my life, I am definitely not lacking!
However, people are human! None of the absolutely wonderful people that I described above can see my mind and my heart. They all have responsibilities… commitments, families to take care of… lives to live! Other people, as completely compassionate and well meaning as they may be, cannot always be completely focused on or even always aware of the specific feelings and needs of those around them, try as they may! There is only ONE who CAN do that!! Our Lord, who is both omniscient and omnipresent! He knows our hearts, our minds and our desires! He is well aware of every physical short coming, every emotional area of weakness, for HE created our very being!!
I think Psalm 139 lays this out so clearly…
O lord, thou hast searched me, and known me.
2 Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.
3 Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.
4 For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether.
5 Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.
7 Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
8 If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
10 Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me.
12 Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.
13 For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.
15 My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
16 Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.
17 How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!
18 If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.
19 Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God: depart from me therefore, ye bloody men.
20 For they speak against thee wickedly, and thine enemies take thy name in vain.
21 Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee?
22 I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:
24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
If we want to lean on someone that cannot fail us, that knows everything about us before we can even know it ourselves, and will NEVER let us down? There is only one option… the Lord Jesus! Do you know Jesus, personally? Did you know that you can have a REAL and personal relationship with HIM? He is honestly the source of all of my strength, and my ability to keep a positive response when dealing with the great loss of my father. He gives me the strength that I need through his precious word, through a song He may send to me, or through a friend He’s sent to encourage my heart with a note or other gesture! I can honestly say, HAPPINESS IS THE LORD! I have spoke much about my comforting relationship with Him and I want to share how this comes about, and how you too can have this intimate relationship with our great God! Where do you start?
It’s all very simple actually, but I want to begin where the story begins… at the beginning! 🙂
We read in Genesis about how God not only created man, in His image, He also gave us a free will, a will to chose how we will live our lives. Unfortunately man proved our imperfection fairly quickly, in the garden of Eden when Adam and Eve exercised their free will and chose to eat the fruit from the forbidden tree. At that time sin and with sin, death entered the world. Because of sin, man could no longer be apart of God’s perfect holy kingdom! God is holy, and our sin immediately separates us from His holiness!
The Bible tells us that there is not a perfect person on this Earth. We are all born sinners, and everyone sins in their lifetime. (“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:” Romans 5:12) (“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:” Romans 3:10) (“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23) The Bible very clearly states in the first part of Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death”. We are all familiar with what a wage is, another word would be payment. Because of our sin we deserve death and complete separation from a perfect God! So now what? I’m sharing a story full of doom and gloom? Where does the loving, comforting God that I mentioned before come in?
Thankfully, Romans 6:23 didn’t end at death. It continues on to say… “ …but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” A very familiar verse to many, John 3:16 tells us, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” While our God is a loving, comforting God, God is also a just God, and a perfect payment would need to be rendered for the atrocious sins of this world! There was only one option worthy to pay the cost it would require for this payment to be possible! That was Jesus Christ, the perfect, sinless Son of God! “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:8. God sent His one and only son to stand in our place, and pay for the debt we owed, but could never repay!
God has offered a gift to us. A gift that would allow us to escape the eternal damnation that we deserve in a wretched awful place of torment and suffering, called hell! Did you know that hell was never intended for mankind? Hell was intended only for the Devil and his angels! However, because Satan knows he has messed up, and there is no turning back for him, he wants to deceive as many others as he possibly can into believing his lies, so that they too will one day join him, and be cast into the lake of FIRE to spend the rest of FOREVER! What an absolutely horrifying thought! Some make hell out to sound like a party… a place where they can go and be with their buddies and live in the same “fun” sins that they lived in here on this Earth. That is a LIE! The Bible tells us that the pleasures of sin are only for a season! I have this discussion with my girls often! It’s hard not to notice that when we look around, we see many on earth who seem to be “doing so well”. Lots of money, nice home, material treasures abounding, etc… AND… they aren’t living for God. What’s up with that? The devil is so, so good with his perfect deceit! He knows just how to trick people into believing that “living it up in this life, living for themselves will offer them so much here. And he is right. You can have it all here… for this short season of life. I would much rather live for the Lord HERE and NOW, like he’s asked of His children, all the while earning lasting eternal reward for my obedience! Pleasure for a season? Or lasting ETERNAL rewards for our obedience to HIM? Remember, our ways (what we think is best!) are not His ways!!
After God so graciously provided this perfect, holy, free gift for us, through His Son’s shed blood on the cross, He offered this gift to anyone who would receive it. Like any gift, when it is offered we must reach out and accept, or take the gift. Otherwise the gift is there, it’s offered, it’s available, but it is not actually ours unless we reach out and physically take and accept whatever the offering. Salvation from the Lord is that same way. The Bible tells us in Romans 10 :13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” You must ask. You must “reach out” an accept the gift for it to be yours! It’s not automatic, while God is loving and does not desire that any man should perish, He is a just God, and requires that we accept Him, in our own earthly will. His salvation is not an earned gift, we could never be good enough to “work” our way to Heaven, it just cannot happen, the spotless sacrifice was needed to erase the sins of the world, and HE gave that, HE is the only way! “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) A person must ask for salvation, believing that God is able to save us from our past failures, and to take us to Heaven when we die, whenever that may be! “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10: 9, 10)
What a glorious offering! What a Savior who would DIE in our place! Why wouldn’t someone want this gift? Along with His precious gift comes His unfailing love and promises. He will never leave us, nor forsake us! You can have a relationship with the Lord, a relationship unlike ANY earthly human relationship possible! In those times when we feel so lost, because things on this old Earth are crumbling around us, maybe various situations, maybe when we’ve lost a loved one… we can turn to HIM, He will ALWAYS be available, and longs for a real relationship with His dear children, the children that He gave SO very much for!!
We must walk by faith, and not by sight!
Just because we have a personal relationship with the Lord does not mean that we will never endure hard times, or that we will not suffer. Because of the fall of man and the sin in this world, we will endure hard times. However, He has promised to:
(A list compiled and shared with our congregation by my Preacher, Pastor Tom Harrison of Prairie Baptist Church in Scotts, Michigan.)
Scripture from the King James Bible are in italics.
1. To be with you – Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy god is with thee withersoever thou goest. (Joshua 1:9)
2. To give you victory – For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world; and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. (1 John 5:4)
3. To give us a Messiah and Deliverer – Unto the woman he said, I will greatly muiltply the sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow though shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. (Genesis 3:16)
4. To be your refuge – God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalms 46:1)
5. To supply sufficient grace to you – And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
6. To uphold you – I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. ( Isaiah 41:10)
7. To provide for you – But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)
8. To renew your strength – But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary, and they shall walk, and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)
9. To settle you – But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. (1 Peter 5:10)
10. To work all things for 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)
11. To do the impossible – But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26)
12. To deliver you – Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivereth him out of them all. (Psalms 34:19)
13. To love you – For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, not things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
14. To give you perfect peace – Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. (Isaiah 26:3)
15. To comfort you – Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and they staff they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)
16. To give you help for your need – Let us therefor come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
17. To draw close to you – The LORD is night unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. (Psalms 34:18)
18. To protect you – When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. (Isaiah 43:2)
19. To give you stability – The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. (Psalms 18:2)
20. To give you hope – And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: (Romans 5:3-4)
21. To sustain you –He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. (Isaiah 40:29)
22. To care for you – Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. (1 Peter 5:7)
23. To direct you – Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all they ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
24. To strengthen your heart – Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD. (Psalms 31:24)
25. To be for you – When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know; for God is for me. (Psalms 56:9)
26. To show mercy toward you – For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee. (Isaiah 54:10)
27. To give you the Holy Spirit – But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
I keep this list containing only a FEW (by no means all) of God’s “exceedingly great and precious promises” on my refrigerator where I can see it everyday. Sometimes when life isn’t good to us, we tend to forget that God always is! Praise the Lord, HE is so faithful!
I very much appreciate you taking the time to read my thoughts and gatherings from MY journey, thus far, through a great trial and challenge of this life. I am sure it is only the first of many I will have to experience in this broken world that we live in. How thankful for the promise I have of heaven, because I have accepted God’s precious gift to me! As well as the priceless promise that I can someday see my Dad again, because he too had accepted God’s gift for him!
If you have any questions for me about anything, please feel free to send me an email: email@example.com
I would be happy to help you in any way that I am able.
“God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don’t understand
When don’t see His plan
When you can’t trace His hand
Trust His Heart”
~ Chorus from the song, “Trust His Heart” by Babbie Mason
To God be the glory, GREAT things HE hath done!