Four years and two months ago our daughter Sarah died of leukemia.
How I miss her! Every November it's the anniversary, time to remember, and a sort of cold fog wraps our hearts and minds. But November is not the only time. We can't predict what might stir up that sadness, and sometimes there's nothing apparent - the sadness and the memories just happen. Vivid pictures, sharp feelings, pain, and sorrow. And the absence of a loved child... how deep an ache that is. Will we never, never get to hug and laugh again?
And now comes the testimony part, because that dimension of the experience is just as real, just as piercing -- God is faithful, he is present, and he does give joy. Some of the hottest tears fall when I remember Sarah's testimony, her calm conviction that she was held in God's hands when she was taken to the hospital basement in the middle of the night for a surprise exam. When she got the diagnosis, she said, "I'm God's child now, and I'll be God's child no matter what happens." And there was her frequent concern expressed for us, "If I die, I know I'll be fine, but I worry about you guys. You'll be so sad." For the last couple years of Sarah's life, after the diagnosis, God gave her calm, a contentment, a peace, that blessed us then, and still does.
Our son in law has since remarried, and he and his wife make it a point to keep us in their lives. What a gift. We've been able to stand with close friends who've lost kids, and be a blessing and a comfort simply by sharing the experience. That's a gift when God uses us like that. And there has been other deep pain in our lives as well since Sarah's death, and in the crucible, God is faithful. There are so much beauty in our lives.... the love of Sarah's friends continues to bless us, our own friends have become more precious, our church family is a place of love, acceptance, and encouragement, as well as opportunities for new friendships and ministry.
We see other's pain with new eyes, with a bit more insight, a bit more compassion, and we look for what God is doing in an through the pain. I've never been able to believe that God wanted Sarah to die, and I've often asked him where he was on that Sunday morning four years ago. Did he look away for just a moment? No, that's not the explanation. We live in a broken world, a world in which evil is real, and we just don't get to avoid everything that gives us pain. That's not reality, and that's not what God offers us. But God does offer his presence, faithful, hopeful, joyful, leading to a resurrection future. A new life in Jesus. We're enjoying it now.