Keep in mind as I write this that I do not write to draw attention to myself, but rather to God. This is not about me, but about God, from my perspective.
I recently moved to Germany with my husband, and it has been an emotionally trying time (for me at least). The week before we moved, a lot happened. There were two deaths, a wedding, packing up our house, and getting ready to move across the world. There was a lot going on.
I thought once we got to Germany, I would escape my emotions. But as you all know, that's not how it works. In fact, it got more difficult, especially now that I had no friends or family nearby. In addition, shortly after arriving in Germany we found out that my Grandpa has an aggressive stomach cancer and the doctors don't know how long he has.
Life is short and chaotic. We are not guaranteed a long life, but even a long life is but mist, here one day and gone the next. "Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes." James 4:14
The past two months have been an emotional roller coaster. And I still remember the beginning of it all clearly.
I groaned at the knocking at the door. What time was it? What was going on? I searched for my house coat in the dark. I found it lying amidst moving boxes that had been packed for our trip to Germany. I slid it on and walked out of my bedroom into the glow of the dining room lights. My mom was frantically shoving her things into her bag. She and my dad had been staying at our place for the weekend.
She looked at me teary eyed, “Grandpa passed away in his sleep this morning.” Shock rippled throughout my body. In a lack for words, I reached my arms out an we hugged tightly, swaying back and forth. She had gotten the call that morning, he had gone away peacefully in his sleep. And while I was extremely sad, I knew he had been ready to go be with Jesus.
Everyone kept talking about what weird timing it had been. With my brother getting married in less than a week, it was all a little overwhelming for everyone. But we were also reminded that God’s timing is perfect, and even though it may seem like chaos, this had always been the plan. He knows the number of each of our days.
"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." Psalm 139:16
At his funeral his love for God, his willingness to help others, and his love for his family were brought up often. In fact, they seemed to be a consistent theme. He was not a man who lived in fear, but in faith and action.
It was the day after my grandpa’s funeral (the day before my brothers wedding). I was sitting in the kitchen with my mom enjoying some precious moments with her after a hard week. I knew it would be a while before we would have a moment like this again. I can’t remember what we were talking about because as I looked down at my phone to read the text message I had just received, everything else went blank.
One of my dearest friends had just texted me to let me know that her sweet baby had suddenly passed away that day. I felt numb as I read it, I was in complete shock. As the words of the devastating news tumbled out of my mouth the tears and heartache quickly followed; I didn’t understand.
It didn’t seem fair, nor right. She was a baby. My sweet friend did not deserve this. My heart hurt so much for her. I prayed so long that night for my friend and her family.
The next day was my brothers wedding, and it was a hard day with a lot of mixed emotions. I was happy and celebratory of this wedding day, but my heart was heavy and hurting.
In the midst of all of the emotions, I realized that joy and sorrow do not have to be separate. They can walk hand in hand. I realized that even in the midst of pain, the world keeps spinning, seemingly faster and faster.
I was hit with the brevity of life. It’s so fragile and unpredictable. Some of us get 90 years, like my grandpa; some of us get far fewer. I don’t understand it, but God has a plan in the chaos. He has had a plan from the beginning, so we, as Christians, are left to ask: Do we really believe that God has a plan for good, even when it feels so wrong?
"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11
That is a question we all have to ask at some, probably numerous, points in our life. All I can say is that in the midst of loss, it appeared that my friends truly did believe that God was a good God. I was, and still am, blown away at how in the midst of it all, they glorified Jesus; in the midst of it all they shared openly about their pain and their faith.
They did not shut God or others out, but they let God shine through their doubt and pain, and they let others witness that. To let God shine into and through your dark and hurt is brave, and it is often where we see God work. I am thankful for their courage in this battle.
I didn’t get a chance to go to the funeral as I had to go to Germany. It was hard having to leave after all of that. I wanted to stay and be with family, and be able to be with my friend. But Wayde and I packed up and went to Germany, where, other than him, I had no friends or family.
But as we flew across the Atlantic Ocean I could not get the image of myself shooting at a target with a bow and arrow out of my head. I know it sounds strange (especially since I don't ever use a bow and arrow), but it was always there. I would be holding a bow and looking down the shaft of an arrow, focusing. I would take a deep breath, let go of the string, and the arrow would hit the centre each time.
It made no sense, but in the chaos it calmed me down, made me feel focused. It also reminded me that God wanted me to focus on what he has given me in this moment. It was a reminder to be bold and to walk in faith. It was a reminder to shoot straight at what he has set before me. It was a reminder that life is short and I need to shoot my arrows. I need to set aside distractions and remember what is truly important, Him and a life glorifying Him.
It was a reminder that this is a battle, and I can’t back down: I need to shoot my arrow without fear.
We all plan for the future, but God "establishes [our] steps" (Psalm 16:9). We can plan for more time; we can plan to walk boldly in faith when "xyz" all lines up; we can plan, but we aren't in control of it all.
Am I using this short time here to glorify God, or am I squandering my time in fear and distractions?
As a Christian I believe there is power in Jesus name, but am I truly living it out? Do I truly have my sights set on things above, not earthly things? Do I truly live for Christ? Do I truly believe that Jesus can and will change the lives of the broken?
Because when I truly believe all of that I will work to focus on my task with intentionality, swallow my fear, and shoot my arrow.
I will live for Jesus in faith, not fear.