“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
I dread the month of June every year. It’s a hard month for me. It’s difficult because I was married on June 19th and my husband died on June 21st after our third wedding anniversary. It’s been four years since he died, but this time of year always brings back the memories. The night my husband died, he watched the NBA finals before he went to bed. Now, I always connect the NBA finals to his death. It’s amazing the things that trigger memories of events in our lives.
I also just watched the movie “The Shack,” and I couldn’t believe how much it paralleled my relationship with God since the death of my husband. I, too, have been stuck spiritually despite all the words the Lord’s spoken to me and all of the miraculous things He’s done. I actually prophesied my husband’s death and told him what God told me the day he died. I told him God said to set our house in order. Of course, I didn’t know it meant he was going to die. I just thought the Lord wanted us to be better stewards. Since I prophesied my husband’s death, I haven’t wanted to hear anything the Lord is saying to me except on the occasions I’ve had to deliver the word (preach). I’ve been too afraid of what God would reveal to me. I don’t want to know if and when tragedy will strike.
However, in the same manner of the movie “The Shack,” God’s spoken to me and given me a vision of my husband in heaven to let me know he was OK and happy. You see, when my husband first died, I was grief stricken because I knew my husband was afraid of dying. Days before his death, he came to me in a panic about how he was afraid to die. I encouraged him the best way I could, but I knew of his terror. After I watched him die, I couldn’t shake the thoughts I had about him being so afraid. However, while I was sitting in the pulpit before I preached the first sermon after my husband died, the Lord gave me a vision of all the company of heaven watching in a cloud of witnesses and my husband in the midst of them cheering me on to continue my race. He was smiling, and he was happy. The Lord also gave my nephew a dream of my husband playing football in heaven, something he couldn’t do in life because of his traumatic brain injury. When God allowed the character MacKenzie to see his deceased daughter in heaven in “The Shack,” it moved me to tears because that’s how God encouraged me and healed me from the negative feelings I felt about my husband’s fear of death. God wanted me to know that Gabe was OK and that he was happy.
In these four years since Gabe’s death, I have been angry with God just like the character in the movie. I couldn’t understand why God would take him away from me and our children and allow so much suffering and pain into our lives. I just couldn’t understand why. I still don’t have all of the answers, but I see how God is using my husband’s death for good in my life. I’ve been able to minister to other widows and people who’ve suffered the loss of loved ones and encourage them.
I’ve also been able to experience and know God in a deeper way. I know more of God’s character as a comforter, encourager and healer. A major obstacle in my relationship with God from the beginning has been trust. I think that’s why the Lord called me and speaks to me in such an overt way. He wants me to trust Him even in the midst of trauma, danger and despair. When Gabe died, my relationship with God took a hit. I prophesied my husband’s death which terrified me, and I felt like I couldn’t trust God because I believed He led me to a path filled with so much pain. However, when I step outside of myself, flesh and emotions, I recognize how God keeps pursuing and loving me even when I push Him away. And I have pushed Him away many times. There’ve been times in these four years when I told God I didn’t want to speak to Him. I didn’t want Him to reveal anything to me. I didn’t want to preach. I didn’t want to follow Him. I just wanted to live my life. But, because of God’s incomprehensible lovingkindness, grace, patience and mercy, He keeps pursuing me and telling me how much He loves me. It’s amazing.
The Power of Worship
This morning was another reminder for me of how much God loves me. The Spirit of God prompted me to start worshipping God as I got myself and my children ready for the day, so I put on “Total Praise.” Not long after, I was in the center of God’s all-encompassing presence. In the center of God’s presence, He loved on me, encouraged me, took away any fear and doubt I had, and reminded me of the beauty and joy I could have in Him at any time. Naturally, I was brought to tears because in spite of me, the Lord still wants to tabernacle with me and bless me. It’s amazing. Again, the Lord gave me what I needed and reminded me of what I needed to do as I approach the anniversary of my husband’s death and the life I once had so I don’t become overcome by despair.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Philippians 4:13 (NKJV).
I say all of this to say remember the “tools” and resources we have in Jesus Christ to overcome what we’re going through. When we go through tragedy, God will be there to bring us through it. I remember the first days after my husband’s death, I was seven months pregnant during a very high-risk pregnancy, and the Holy Spirit prompted me to worship God on my bed of mourning. I listened to and sang along with Richard Smallwood’s “Thank You.” I thanked God even though I was in terrible pain and confusion. That’s how I made it through those first few days. Worship really does take you out of the present situation. I’m not talking about worship in the way we think of it in the modern church, dancing around, slobbing and snotting, and falling out like they do in some churches. There’s nothing wrong with that, but the kind of worship I’m talking about doesn’t have any form or fashion. There’s no “right” way of doing it. You merely open your heart and spirit up to the Lord and tune into Him. Recite His word out loud or sing songs of praise. God will meet you wherever you are and will touch you. This happened to me many times. The Lord lifted my spirit above the despair and allowed me to see things from His perspective even if only for a few moments. Those moments kept me and continue to keep me pressing forward. God will do the same for you.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” Matthew 5:4 (NKJV).
You may be in the midst of sorrow or tragedy, but please know God has not forsaken you. God will meet you where you are and will give you what you need to make it through.