“No one ever said that they learned their deepest lessons of life, or had their sweetest encounters with God, on the sunny days. People go deep with God when the drought comes. That is the way God designed it. Christ aims to be magnified in life most clearly by the way we experience Him in our losses.” – John Piper
On November 19th, 2019 my wife and I lost our daughter suddenly. We experienced pain beyond words. We experienced sorrow that I can’t explain. We experienced brokenness like never before. Yet, in the midst of all of it, we have experienced God unimaginably.
Make no mistake about it. This is a miracle wrought by the Holy Spirit alone. When a young mother can hold her lifeless child, look to the heavens, and praise God, this is miraculous. Not only praise God a little, praise God a lot. There is no explanation, other than God is present, God is preserving, God is working on her behalf.
We had experienced mountaintops leading up to this point. Everything seemed to be perfect. We had just been called to the pastorate. We had the nursery set up in the parsonage. We had plans for our child to live a radically Christ-centered life. It was sunny out, you could say. Then the rain came. And the rain taught us far more than the sun. Dancing in the rain, has been far more enjoyable than walking in the sun.
The pain is still there, but the joy is simultaneous. We can relate to the Apostle Paul who said, “as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” Are we sorrowful? Absolutely. We would be liars if we said otherwise. Are we joyful? No doubt about it. We would be liars if we said we weren’t. We feel the deep pain from the loss of our child, yet at the same time we feel the power, love, and joy through Jesus Christ.
I have learned so much in this time, and I want to share some of what I’ve learned with you.
- Suffering isn’t always punishment. It’s almost always a gift.
“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.” – Philippians 1:29
This text teaches that suffering is granted, much like a gift. Most of us do not want this gift, and that’s understandable. Who wants to hurt? Who wants to walk down the tunnels of deep pain? The dark tunnels of suffering would destroy our faith if not for the preserving work of the Spirit. But Christ Himself promises to be with us, be in us, and be the glorious prize at the end of the tunnel. Therefore, we endure.
If your suffering today, and you truly are in Christ, understand that it is not wrath, it is a gift. It is a gift intended to wean you off of the world, prepare you for eternity, draw you nearer to Christ, and dissolve all that you trust that is not Jesus.
2. He will never leave me, nor forsake me
“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will never leave you or forsake you.” – Deuteronomy 31:6
The writer of Hebrews also quotes this passage, and it leads me to understand this is a blood bought promise of God through the cross of Christ. In the hospital room, when I felt like I couldn’t go on any longer, He was with me. Today, when I have days that I feel like I can’t go on, He is with me. He has proven time and again that He is faithful. And as I’ve walked through the valley of the shadow of death, He has proven that He is with me. If not for His presence in my life, I would have given up. But because of Him I press on.
If you truly belong to Jesus, this is a blood bought promise of God through the cross of Christ. Whatever it may be that your going through, be strong and courageous. Do not fear, because God will go with you through it all.
3. Trust Christ, not the uncertainty of circumstance
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” – Hebrews 13:5
Like I said earlier, circumstantially our lives were great. Yet, I learned through all of this how quickly circumstances change. Our circumstances may change, but our Lord never will. He is immutable, unchanging, and our circumstances are mutable, always changing. I learned not to put my trust in the construction of my life here on earth, because at any moment things could change.
4. A firm grip on the sovereignty of God will save your life
“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 19:16
When we announced that our Wrenley had passed on social media, we added this phrase to the end of the post because it is true:
“In the sovereign, good, and merciful God we put our trust.”
If we didn’t have a firm grip on the reality of God’s sovereignty, we would have been lost. He was, is, and always will be in total control. In life, and in death. Before the foundation of the world God ordained that day, and if we didn’t understand that I honestly don’t know how we would’ve responded. He was aware, He had a purpose, He had a reason, and all we could do was trust in the sovereign, good, and merciful God.
If your suffering today, and you are in Christ, your suffering is a glorious gift for your good. He will not leave you, He will not forsake you. Put your trust completely in Him, and not in the uncertainty of your circumstances. Believe that He is sovereign, because He is. You will persevere in faith, because He will preserve your faith. I know this from experience.
In the sovereign, good, and merciful God we put our trust.