Loss-cancer · Loss-flood

Joy Found

Sometimes you smell something, but you don’t know what it is or where it is.

Summer of 2017, I was on a hiking vacation with my family when my best friend from college called me to pray for her, as she was having a biopsy for breast cancer.  We prayed for wisdom for her and she was quickly diagnosed with Triple Negative IDC, a very aggressive form. I smelled something.

The thought of losing my dear friend was terrifying – but constantly reminding myself of the truth that God is sovereign over every detail in our day brought comfort. 

When we returned home, on my to do list was that mammogram that I kept putting off, thinking it was a box to check off my long running late summer list before school starts – four days later I was sitting in front of my OBGYN hearing “You have cancer” in disbelief and uncertainty of what lay ahead. It was serious smoke for sure.  

In a whirlwind of daily appointments, scans, etc. – we had to make decisions and fast.  The Lord was so gracious to provide wisdom and establish a team of doctors and nurses that we felt confident to take this on.  God provided generously when we were not sure how to meet all the bills pouring in. God protected us when days before our major surgery, Harvey hit, as well as an outlet that caught fire AS WE WERE LEAVING home – we smelled smoke and could not pinpoint where – the Fire Department came, and found an outdoor outlet that the GFCI did not work.  Our entire house would have burnt down had we left!  

Despite all of this, God ‘s goodness poured out on us through supportive family, friends, and church community.  God gives wisdom as we continue on a preventative path to get to the root causes of my weak immune system.  God also gives healing in allowing me opportunities to be a vessel to share in my sufferings with newly diagnosed breast cancer friends. The smoke dissipated.

God brings trials into our lives to prove and increase the strength and quality of our faith – so what will you do when your trial comes?  Will you embrace it as an opportunity to grow?  Or be angry and bitter?  You have a choice! Count it all JOY. Trials are an opportunity to test your faith into a deeper communion with God and greater trust in Christ. Now, there was another scent–a sweet fragrance.

While we don’t know if a recurrence is in my future – we do know that we have a God who loves and cares for us and wants to be in our midst – whether the days are certain or not – He is unchangeable and we can rest in His constant unchangeable character! “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have it’s full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing”  (James 1:2-4).

Contributor-Heather Harbuck

Photo credit-Dawid Labno

Loss-child · Loss-pandemic

Questions-Part I

There are many emotions in the grieving process. I started with questioning. The very first day after I lost my son, in my fog, I wondered how God could have allowed the death of my child.  Why did He not stop it? I have long leaned on the sovereignty of God. Sovereignty meaning that He is in charge of everything. How was it possible that He could have permitted this to happen? These are hard truths–brace yourself.

I recalled how God allowed Joseph’s brothers to throw him in the pit and be sold into slavery, He allowed a famine, He allowed Joseph to be unjustly accused and sentenced (Genesis 37-50), He allowed the hardening of Pharoah’s heart (Exodus 4:21, Romans 9:17) and the Canaanite’s hearts (Joshua 11:20), He allowed an evil spirit to torment King Saul (1 Samuel 16:14), He allowed evil to rise up against David in his own house (2 Samuel 12:11-12), Jonah was thrown overboard. Job lost 10 children. Sinful men convicted, tortured, and crucified Christ. The Holocaust. Pandemics.

On the first morning, I read in Isaiah 46: “for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning  and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’” God was still in charge and He knew the beginning and the end. He doesn’t get surprised. He doesn’t stop being in charge, even for a second, an hour, a day.

I concluded: God allows people to make their own choices, allows demonic forces, allows evil for His purposes (Joseph/Job) or to discipline (Saul/David) or to lead unbelievers to repentance (Jonah/Jesus) or to bring judgment or deliverance (Canaanites/Pharoah). These things are not wrong on God’s part. God can govern the actions of sinful man. However, God is not evil and does not do evil. His goodness and mercy contrast starkly with unspeakable, dark evil.

I just reread little notes from my son’s friends who I met with and asked to write their questions. The number one question is: Why did God allow it? The why will never make complete sense to me on this earth, even if someone or God tried to explain it, nothing would justify his death. God doesn’t owe me an explanation. I told you, these are really raw truths, but this is genuine faith. I believe God and I trust that He is in control (Job 13:15a), He is good (1 John 4:10), and He understands (Psalm 147:5), even when I cannot see and even when it hurts.

Contributor-Liana Vincent

Photo-Evan Dennis

Loss-child · Loss-pandemic · loss-suicide

A-Bomb

In the introduction to the book, 1984, a revolutionary book revealing the atrocities of Stalin’s regime and communism in Russia, which was released in 1945, it likens its release to the world with the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagaski at the end of World War II, saying that it would change the face of the earth. Indeed. The book did and these bombs would kill and wound over 200,000+ people. As a point of reference, 500,000+ have died at the time of writing from Coronavirus. Another type of bomb.

What were the effects: some vaporized instantly, others felt the effects for days, months, years. Some were close to the bombing and some were at a distance. Keloid scars from burns, A-bomb cataract, trauma, disfiguration, bleeding, diarrhea, leukemia, cancer, radiation injury penetrates deeply into human body and injures cells. Deep painful effects.

An atomic bomb. This is how I picture the effects of suicide. According to the World Health Organization, despite efforts toward suicide awareness, a suicide occurs every 40 seconds. So, an atomic bomb drops on a family and community every 40 seconds. I think about this silent bombing often. Sometimes I will count 1, 2, 3…and realize this is happening—sometimes secretly and sometimes we read it in the newspaper. I pray for the unseen families and for the families I know impacted by suicide. I pray Isaiah 60:18, “Violence shall no more be heard in your land, devastation or destruction within your borders; you shall call your walls Salvation, and your gates Praise.” That there will be NO MORE VIOLENCE IN THE LAND (within a family, within a school, within a community), but instead that the same people will find salvation and will praise God for His unexplainable mercy and grace and will seek help at all costs for themselves and others.

According to a 2016 study, it is estimated that 115 people are exposed to a single suicide. These people are called Suicide Survivors. Just as atomic bomb survivors must seek help, so must those who survive a suicide. Counseling, Bible studies, GriefShare texts, talking to friends/family, books, medication, listening to sermons or podcasts, helping others, educating oneself, problem solving, drawing near to the healer (Jesus)—healthy coping. There is help and depression can get better with help. Fight for life!! National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255.

Contributor-Liana Vincent

Loss-parent · loss-suicide

Freedom

The phone rang and as I heard my aunt’s trembling voice, I immediately knew something horrific had transpired. “There’s been a terrible accident.” I hesitantly sat up, sensing deep inside something unfortunate had taken place. One day prior to this, I purposefully drove to see my dad, wanting to reach out and make sure he was fine.  My aunt dropped the unexpected and unwanted bomb: he was gone…I can still hear myself screaming frantically, “MY DAD, MY DAD, MY DAD!” As a believer, he had suffered from manic-depression and had taken his life. Ironic. I had been suicidal myself. Questions began to torture my mind: “Why him, not me?”

The reason for MY earlier despair was: unresolved issues. Lack of self-forgiveness caused great depression in me. I had been a Christian for so long and didn’t understand why I couldn’t be FREE of guilt. But 1 John 1:9 promised, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness.” The Bible proclaims Satan is the “accuser”-constantly reminding us of our sinful past. The enemy fills minds with unending doubt. His utmost goal–to “steal and kill and destroy.”

I stood firm believing my loving Savior’s words: “I came that they may have LIFE and have it in abundance” (John 10:10). I braved counseling and discovered that we are in a spiritual battle. People can pray over us, but ultimately, we are forced to take charge of our own life and commit to accepting that, and to live abundantly, we need to change our mindset. Every day, we need to choose between allowing Satan to rob us of our joy or rebuke him and live FREELY with the Lord. I live by His Word “So if the Son sets you FREE, you will be FREE indeed” (John 8:36).

Contributor-Ivette Menendez