“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” ~ Hebrews 12:1-2a NLT
It will be five years this September 1, that my husband Brad died in my arms from cancer. I seriously believed after devotedly caring for and helplessly watching the love of my life endure a prolonged and painful death that God would never have me witness that kind of loss again.
But I was wrong...
This past July 5, my 85 year old mom who for the past two years lived with me so I could care for her, passed into Heaven in the arms of Jesus. Her death however didn't come without a battle. I quickly realized our time together was ending, when my mom’‘s health took that giant step in it’s decline last month. I knew she was going to die soon since she had become bedridden. Her frail frame, weak and in constant pain desired no food and longed only for rest.
Soon our days and nights began to blend into one constant struggle to find rest. As I focused nearly every waking moment on trying to find ways to alleviate my mom’s discomfort and suffering, I inwardly sensed that familiar panic and fear I had when my husband was suffering before his death. The weight of despair in my heart bore down on me and I was overwhelmed by sorrow.
I remember a couple of weeks before she died, sitting beside her bed one night. I held her hand while she slept, and prayed for God to take her now like this. I wanted her death to be peaceful and swift. I wasn’t seeking His will and endurance that night...I firmly wanted mine. I couldn't imagine any good reason in the delay of her going home. I felt certain whatever God's purpose in this suffering, it could be accomplished a better way.
These very thoughts were like the ones I had as I helplessly looked on when my husband laid suffering day and night before he died. As I became overwhelmed with the memories of my husband's long journey towards death while holding my mom's hand, my heart seemed to scream "Again God...Really?"
The Lord seemed slow to me in answering. I must admit, I felt expectant of Him to quickly remove my mom's suffering and to see things my way. He did neither.
Instead, He comforted me by reminding me that as I can only hold my mom's hand for a brief visit, but He never leaves her side and is carrying her tightly to Himself. He also reminded me, as I walk in this dark valley of suffering again, I do not walk it alone. Jesus is a faithful guide and He will never leave me. “Trust me" I heard God whisper through my tears...”remember always I am here with you both.”
I found sweet comfort as I envisioned being tightly drawn to Jesus' side so as not to stray; walking bravely beside Him in His strength, as He gently carried my mom in His arms. The three of us together in the valley, yet feeling unafraid of the next step because God is with me. I was covered in His peace.
I don't know why God allowed my husband and mom to suffer so greatly before leaving this life to be with Him in glory forever. I also don't know why God would have me experience their last days, feeling helpless in their suffering. I may never know this side of Heaven the good it brought or His purpose fulfilled in it, which could have been accomplished "a better way" as I often think it could. Thankfully, God didn’t ask me to understand...He simply asked, “Do you trust me?” What else could I answer but, “Yes Lord, I trust you.”
Today like many other days, I miss my husband...and I miss my mom & dad too. The three people who mattered most to me are all gone from my life now. Still...I hold in my spirit that great hope and comfort in knowing I'll see them again one day in Heaven; but that doesn't mean I don't have days like today when I just plain want to see them...now! There have been many times when unexpectedly the deepest pain hits, leaving me feeling empty and gasping for "something more...something better" than what I feel I’ve been left with.
Sometimes the very thought of having many more years here without them can be quite depressing...until I stop looking at my future as I see it through what has been lost. Instead, I’d rather see my future through God’s promises and believe God’s Word which say His plans for my future are good and my life will not be without His good purpose being fulfilled. I'd rather live expectantly & with anticipation of what God has in store for my future days than live them out in dread and defeat. Just writing that makes me smile at the thought of death's sting losing some of it's power over me.
What about you? Will you join me and set your eyes on Jesus too as we run this race called life together?
You know...during times like this, I even think I can hear my husband’s voice among the distant cheering crowd as I endure another lap of grief, with my eyes and thoughts fixed on Jesus, running towards the finish line with Him.
Victory in Jesus...it's already mine.
“I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” ~ Philippians 3:14 NLT