This morning, MiKayla and I drove to the community where my brother-in-law preaches and went to his church. We are able to attend at different times and always enjoy hearing the message that he shares. I have had the privilege of hearing Alonza preach for years, and just like today, after hearing his message, I feel challenged and encouraged.
He is my husband’s brother, and I have spent many years working with him. He married my husband and I. He has been a wonderful uncle to my three children. He was heartbroken when my husband, his brother, died in a work related accident in August 2011. He was at the hospital while my husband battled for his life in trauma for four days before he died in pre-op. He preached at his funeral. He was there when my only son PK was instantly killed in a car accident at the age of 18 in June 2013 just 22 months after my husband died. He was in shock and disbelief. He loved PK since he was born. He preached at his funeral. He has been around when I have had the absolute best moments of my life. He has been there at the absolute worst moments of my life. He loves to preach, and God uses him mightily to touch many people. This most definitely includes the girls and I.
This morning he was challenging us to not live in fear. He said many times throughout his message “Fear is a liar.” He shared of his own experiences where fear had crept in and almost kept him from doing what he was purposed to do in his life. He showed examples of how fear can keep us from doing so many things. He shared about the uncertainties of life and challenged us to be certain of who God is in the midst of our uncertainties. His message as usual caused me to reflect on many instances in my own life.
As I thought about the uncertainties of my own life, my mind most definitely returned to the deaths of my husband and my son. My thoughts swirled as I pondered the uncertainty of the events that occurred in my own life. I became a widow over 6 1/2 years ago. My children were 11, 14, and 16 when my husband died. Everything felt uncertain following his death. Suddenly, my husband was gone. Tragically, my children did not have their father. I was now a single parent. I felt so overwhelmed in the uncertainty of my life and family. Was I certain of who God was during this season of my life? I remember feeling quite uncertain of what was happening to my family. I was not sure how to process my grief, and I was so scared that I would not be a good mom. I was fearful that I would not help my children to be able to adequately and fully express and process their own grief. I was feeling a lot of fear that I was going to mess my children up and, I was fearful that I would not respond to their grief in the way that I should. All of a sudden, life had changed in the blink of an eye. One morning, my husband was going to work and feeling fine, and that very night he was being transported to a trauma center in a major city after being instantly paralyzed from the chest down. I was fearful. Everything felt uncertain. Was I certain of God in this uncertain time or was I letting fear rule me and my decisions?
Any of you who have read my writings before, then you may remember that when my son was killed that I instantly felt like I was going to be in for the faith battle of my life. I always wanted to be a woman of faith and to live in faith. Would I be able to live as a woman of faith after having to bury my only son? There was nothing in my life that compared with the questions and the pain that I was filled with. I do not know how to adequately describe the pain of burying my child. I have shared before that a friend of mine who had to bury his daughter after a car accident described it as having his heart ripped out of his chest. I have always felt like that was a powerful description of the pain that one feels after your child dies. How uncertain did I feel when my only son was dead? I had so many people trying to give me answers. I was not seeking answers from any person as I did not believe that they had them.
I had people tell me that my PK died because he was protected from the evil that was to come. I would agonize and think, “How do I help them to understand that I do not feel like my son was protected when he was killed?” I had others tell me that if we would have been praying at the exact moment that PK was in the car that then he would have been safe. I had to reject that as that then meant that all of my other prayers throughout his entire life meant nothing and that because I was not praying at that very moment, then he was killed. I was told that God was going to work his death for good. When a parent loses a child and someone tells you that it is for good, then all your heart knows to do during that time is to cry and think, “I just want my son.” The days, weeks, and months were tormenting. The uncertainty was so massive. Everything felt uncertain. Was i certain of God in this uncertain time or was I letting fear rule me and my decisions? Everything felt uncertain.
There are many examples of suffering in the world. I remember truly reflecting on the hymn, “It is well with my soul.” Spafford who wrote the hymn went through so much trauma and suffering. First, his 2 year old son died, and the Great Chicago fire of 1871 ruined him financially. He planned to travel with his family to Europe, and at the last minute, he had to change his plans and send his family on ahead of him. The ship that his family was traveling on sank while crossing the Atlantic after colliding with another vessel and all four of his daughters died. His wife lived and sent him a telegram that said, “Saved alone…” As he was traveling to meet his wife, and they now had all 5 of their children die, he wrote the words to this hymn as he passed near where all four of his daughters died.
I read and reread the words, “When peace like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to know It is well, it is well, with my soul…” I kept pondering his words… It is well with my soul. He wrote this hymn and all 5 of his children had died. How could he say it is well with my soul? He was passing by where his four daughters died and he was writing… It is well with my soul. Surely, this must be one of the most unbelievable examples of being certain of God in uncertainty. This man had lost all of his children.
I think back through these almost 5 years now since my son died. How often have I felt certain of God in my uncertainty? I have written and shared many times before that I seek the peace that passes understanding. I am always careful to share that I seek it. I do not want to mislead anyone. I do not want to sound as if I always feel peaceful. That would not be true. I feel tremendous hurt and pain. Yet, I will continue to seek the peace that passes understanding. Do I always feel certain in my uncertainty? The truthful answer would be, no, I do not always feel that way.
I have to separate how I feel from what do I purpose my heart and mind to believe. These are different. Are there times that I feel fear? Yes I do. I have feared on a variety of occasions that I would also lose my daughters. However, just because I feel that way then does that make it true? Absolutely not. I also do not want to live in this fear. I do not want to limit or hinder my two beautiful daughters because I fear losing them. I want them to soar… I want them to be at their absolute best… I want them to experience the best that life has to offer. My two sweethearts have already had to suffer some of the worst, painful moments at such young ages. I want them to also be able to experience the best that they can. I have to look fear in it’s face and stand up to it and let it know that it will not rule me. I see it’s lies and limitations. I do not want to live in fear. I want to live in faith. I want to be certain of God even in the midst of my uncertainty.
I sometimes fear being alone. I love to be close to others and to share emotionally and spiritually. I love to do things for others and to be close to others. I do not want this fear to rule me. I want to continue to learn and grow even if I continue on alone. I want to do my best and still experience the highs that life can offer. I do not want to live in fear. I want to live in faith. I want to be certain of God even in the midst of my uncertainty.
As I reflect back on my life and what I thought it would be and what it is now then there is a huge disconnect. There are many things that happened that I did not expect, and as I look forward, then there is much that is uncertain in my future. As I continue to seek the peace that passes understanding then I want to stand in certainty of who God is even in the midst of my pain and uncertainty. I want to live as a woman of faith even though I do not understand all that has occurred in my life. I want to encourage others and inspire them to be the best that they can be even in the midst of their own pain and uncertainty. I do not want fear to rule one inch of my life. I want to stand firmly. I want to be able to have the peace that passes understanding and to be able to sing the words of that beautiful hymn that it is well with my soul even though there is so much that I truly do not understand. I believe by the grace of God that I can. Does that mean that I will always “feel” that way? No, it does not. Our feelings are ever changing. However, I do believe that we can learn to stand in certainty of who God is even in the midst of our pain and hurt. Will you join me? Will you be certain of who God is even in the midst of your uncertainty? Will you seek the peace that passes understanding with me? Remember, that does not mean that we will always feel it, but that does mean that we can continue to seek it and persevere every day. We can be determined to give our all and our best in each day that we are blessed with.
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Martin Luther King Jr.
I don’t see very much of what the staircase looks like in my future, but I will keep stepping and doing my best to not live in fear and to be certain of who God is in the midst of the pain and uncertainty.