storms

Blessings in the Storm

The Lord has been showing/reminding me of how much He had His hand on everything that happened this week a year ago. It is such a blessed reassurance that Rusty’s death was part of His sovereign plan, and He did everything to prepare us for it.

First of all, He had been telling me since September of 2010 that a storm was coming to my family that was unlike anything we’ve ever been through. Around the beginning of 2o11, I felt like the Lord was preparing me for a family member’s death. I even already had it in my head of who I would call first and who I would ask them to call; what I would need to do; etc. And the night Rusty died, I didn’t have to think about it, which is good since I couldn’t think. There’s a lot more that God did in the months before Rusty died to prepare me. I never dreamed it would be his death that I was preparing for, and certainly did not feel prepared for it, but in hindsight, I am so thankful that the Lord apparently WAS doing a work in my heart. I’ll never know how I would have handled it without that, and I’m glad for that.

The night he died, two of my favorite people in the world came out to my mom’s house to be with us – my pastor, Harry Walls, and my worship pastor, Kevin Moore. I couldn’t believe they BOTH came out, and I was SO thankful to see them there. Kevin was an invaluable support and help for me throughout that week as I did most of the funeral service planning, and he went with Darrell (my other brother) and me when we had to tell Dad what happened. Kevin is normally out of town with his family on Spring Break. He is this year. But for whatever reason, he was in town and available for us. God did that. Pastor Harry is also unavailable this week because he had to have surgery. What if that had happened a year ago? God made sure both of them were there for us that night and that week. He didn’t have to do that, but I am so glad He did. How would I have made it through that awful week without them?

Then there’s the circumstances around Rusty’s death itself. As hard and traumatic as it was, it was as gentle as it possibly could have been. I can see now how God had His hand on every aspect of what He allowed to happen that day. For instance, there was only one spot where one could stand and see Rusty from the yard, and Mom’s neighbor just happened to come over and visit her, stood in that spot, and saw him. Mom didn’t have to find him alone. He allowed someone – a nurse, no less – to be with her – someone who was used to emergency situations and knew what to do.

So even in the worst storm of our lives, God is there. He never fails. I can trust Him no matter what, even when it feels like my world turned upside-down.

 

 

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Categories: brothers, death, God, grief, Rusty, storms, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The End of a Journal

A few days ago, I finished up my most recent journal. It lasted me less than a year, which may be the quickest I’ve ever gone through one. It’s also the most challenging journal I’ve ever kept, with more varying degrees of emotion. I started it about a month before Rusty died, and ended it about a month before the first anniversary of his death.

In the past, my journal entries were usually about my trust in the Lord and all the great things He was doing in my life. But this last journal was different. It records my wrestling matches with God, as I struggled to trust Him and His plan. I was SO angry. I felt betrayed. I struggled to believe in the power of prayer, since I had prayed so much and so hard for Rusty. The journal records my questions (if Rusty had to die, couldn’t it have been any other way?), my confusion, my anger, my pain. Through it, God exposed my pride, my selfishness, my desire to be in control, and how shallow my faith – that I once considered so strong – really was.

However, the journal also records a lot of my breakthroughs from those wrestling matches. I gained a deeper understanding of aspects of God’s character. I saw new aspects of His love. I learned just how amazing His grace really is. I realized how deep His mercy was for Rusty – and for us left behind. It also records the moments when I didn’t have a revelatory breakthrough, but instead I just chose to stop wrestling and to trust God – even to submit to His plan of letting Rusty die, of letting him take his own life.

Overall, I learned how prideful and arrogant I am, assuming I could control things and protect my family through my prayers. I learned that God is Sovereign and that no purpose of His can be thwarted (Job. 42:2), and that submitting to Him means submitting even when I don’t want to or don’t like it. My anchor of faith is deeper now that it’s been tested, and I learned that it will hold, even through the fiercest storm.

I understand God’s amazing grace, the depths of His love, the power of His death and resurrection, the immutability of His faithfulness and His will in more profound ways that I ever would have without this journey/journal. I also learned how hard – and how rewarding – it is to give thanks in everything.

I have no idea where my new journal will take me. God has put some exciting things in my lap this year already. But I do know that God is in control, and I am not. No purpose of His can be thwarted. My role is to CHOOSE to humbly submit.

Categories: choices, death, devotional thought, grief, Jesus, Rusty, storms, suicide, thankful | Tags: | 2 Comments

Hope

We will be singing “In Christ Alone” this Sunday at my church, and the words to the first verse have been continually running through my head and heart since we rehearsed it Wed night.

“In Christ alone, my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
firm through the fiercest drought and storm;
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
when fears are stilled, when strivings cease;
My comforter, my All in all, here in the love of Christ I stand.”

When we’ve sung this song in the past, I’ve always relished the last 2 verses. (Really, though, every single verse in this song is completely awesome and SO powerful.) But after this past year, this first verse stands out to me the most. My hope is not found in my family, in circumstances going the way I want them to, or even in whether God answers my prayers the way I want Him to. My hope and your hope is found IN CHRIST. ALONE. The word “hope” is a weird word to me, that I often confuse with faith. It’s also a very important & meaningful word to me. My middle name is Hope. We buried Rusty in the “Garden of Hope”. The passage Kevin shared with me the day after Rusty died that I have clung to ever since is Lamentations 3:21 – 33. That first verse says, “This I recall to mind, therefore I have HOPE” (emphasis mine). I could be wrong, but here’s how I think of hope versus faith. Faith is the unbreakable assurance that all God’s promises are true. Sometimes, though, storms come and shake our faith. The waves get so big that it’s hard to fix our eyes on the Author and Finisher of our faith, and we get tempted to look down at the waves instead. I think hope is that expectation that keeps us looking in the direction we last saw faith. Faith is the beacon shining from the lighthouse. Hope is the instinct that compels us forward into the storm, in the direction we last remember seeing the light shining, even when we can’t see a thing and all we can feel is pain and confusion. When people lose all hope, like my brother did, they fall under the storm-ravaged waves. Faith never stopped shining as a beacon, but they lost the expectation (or hope) of ever finding it again and they lost their bearings.

But just as Christ is the Author and Finisher or Perfecter of our faith, this song reminds us that He is also our only source of hope. He is steadfast even through the fiercest storm. The heights of His love for us are limitless. The depths of His peace are unfathomable. When we cling to Him alone as our source of hope, our fears are stilled, and our strivings cease. For me, it makes me stop striving to figure out the answers to all my questions about Rusty’s death. It makes me stop wrestling with God’s sovereignty, and to be still and rest in His comfort and love. I’m tempted to say, “I can’t stop and rest now! I have to keep my hand on the tiller. I have to control the rudder and make sure this vessel is heading the direction I want it to.” But Jesus is the Captain. He’s at the helm. If I let go and rest in Him, and put my hope in Him alone, I will find that He always, ALWAYS guides me safely to the harbor He has prepared for me. So what are you putting your hope in today? Are you ready to let it go and cling to Jesus alone? I can promise you it’s always the best choice.

Categories: Jesus, Rusty, storms | 2 Comments

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