I was visiting with a neighbor of mine not too long ago and we got talking about our parents. I quickly learned quickly that her mom had died suddenly in the years following her high school graduation. I briefly shared about my dad’s illness and how he’d passed on 3 years ago. She looked at me somewhat surprised and said, “You can talk about it? It hasn't been that long.” I thought for a moment about why that is. It’s not because I’m some strong person. It’s not because it wasn't hard or painful. It’s because God is a healer.
At the funeral this past weekend, I saw a lot of fresh wounds. The pain was so raw that it was hard to watch. The casket was layered with several ribbons that read sister, daughter, and best friend. I wept at the thought of each of those relationships lost. The tears continued coming as her boyfriend shared about how they’d just been planning to get engaged later this year and married next summer. Between tears, he shared how he couldn't believe that one week they were planning their wedding and now suddenly he was speaking at her funeral.
As I have been praying for God to carry my friends through this difficult time and begin the process of binding up wounds that only He can do, He has been reminding me of a few of the stones that He paved my road to healing with.
1. Thankfulness. God has done a lot in my life through this simple truth. Give thanks in all circumstances. I still vividly remember getting the call of the diagnosis. My dad told me what it was. I had never heard of ALS but I did know what fatal meant and I remember him saying 2-3 years. I sobbed. I couldn't believe it. The days that followed were a blur but one thing I do remember was kneeling down in my living room and praying. I was totally lost for words so I started saying thank you. A few things came to mind. Thank you that you saved him. Thank you that he modeled what faith looks like. Thank you I grew up with a loving father. Thank you that you chose him to be my dad. I remember nothing from those early days except that I ran out of time before I ran out of things to be thankful for. Being thankful didn't erase or even minimize the pain, but it reminded me of how faithful God had been in the past and that He was still trustworthy in the present.
2. Trust. I've lost track of the times over that 15 months that God whispered to me, “Will you trust me?” I remember asking God lots of questions. How will I live without my dad? I am and will continue to be your heavenly father. What about my mom and sister? They’ll be alone. I will take care of the orphans and the widows. They have a special place in my heart. What about when I have kids and they won’t know him? Or when Emily gets married? We need him! I will supply your every need. I remember one particular time God asked me that tough question. Seven months before he passed away, my sister and I were driving to the hospital. My dad had gone in an ambulance with possible pneumonia which we were told could be the end because his body might be too weak to fight it. As we drove, she quietly said, “This could be it.” All I could think was, no God, I’m not ready. I heard Him. He asked me again, “Will you trust me?” As the hospital came into view, through fears and tears, I had no choice but to say yes.
I will never forget something a friend who’d spent a lot of time praying with me said during that time. “I’m excited for you for when the things you've trusted God for in faith, come to pass and you truly experience His faithfulness.” There have been many things in the past 3 years that I have not looked forward to simply because my dad wasn't going to be there to share in it. I thought the gaping hole that he left would be too overwhelming but I can say this. God has been faithful. We’re all still standing. He got us through. There are still some bridges we haven’t yet crossed that scare and sadden me to think about. But I remember this great quote, “My confidence in the future comes from a God who has proven Himself in the past.” There’s nothing that he asked me to trust Him with that He hasn't delivered on.
3. Choosing to bless. We were driving to the funeral on Saturday when the song, “Blessed Be Your Name” came on the radio. I smiled and Mike asked why. I said because I remember a time when I could not listen to this song without bursting into tears. It would poke at my wounds. I love the song because it always challenges me to choose to bless the name of God in any circumstance. That includes the plentiful land with flowing streams as well as the desert place and the wilderness walk. I am constantly challenged by the line, “You give and take away, my heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be Your name.” I know there was a time when I was blinded by pain, but the truth is, even when I couldn't see it, God was still good and He was still faithful. There was something about saying it out loud that began to convince my hurting heart that it was still true and began to turn my wound into a scar.
4. Talking. I realize not everyone is an out loud processor, but talking to God and talking to others has been a huge part of healing. At the beginning, I had a lot to say to God. Why?! Then it became, what are we supposed to do when…? Between the questioning was a lot of crying out. This is really hard. I need your strength. I will just miss him so much. It hurts. When I stopped talking long enough to listen, God also spoke to me, particularly through Psalm 91 one summer morning and it has always stuck with me:
“Dwell in my shelter and you will find rest there. Say out loud that I’m your refuge and fortress, your God in whom you trust, even if you’re having trouble believing it. My faithfulness will be your shield. Because you love me, I will rescue you. I will protect you for you acknowledge my name. Call on me and I will answer you. I will be with you in trouble.”
When my dad was sick, I was listening to Beth Moore describe the difference between wounds and scars.“You don’t want that thing to stay a wound. You want God to heal it. Scars don’t still hurt. If that thing still hurts, it doesn't matter how long ago it was, it’s still a wound. If something touches me in a place I've been hurt, and it still hurts, it’s not a scar. The longer a wound stays open, the more infected and dirty it gets. Let Him get to you.”
I've heard it said before that time heals all wounds. I’m not sure I believe that. I think time makes us adept at protecting our wounds so they’re not exposed, but it doesn't mean that they’re healed.
She shared a verse from Psalm 147:3, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” The word binds tells us it’s a process. He could just point to it and provide instant healing but He seems to choose to take us through this process of binding. In Beth’s words, “He wants us to fall in love with Him as healer where we come out of it more in love with Him than anything we could possibly see or touch.”
I challenge you… even dare you, to allow God into your pain. Let Him get to you.
Thank him. I heard it once said that God has saved me from eternity in hell. If he did nothing else but that, He would still be good. Yet, He does so much more. He makes it so I can live. No matter what age someone passes on, it always seems too soon. It feels like we are robbed of time from the 9 month old baby who literally had her whole life ahead of her, to the beautiful 25 year old girl with the exciting life changes on the horizon, to the 61 year old pastor with many years of sharing Christ and enjoying being a Papa. No matter how much of the future we feel robbed of, I would venture to say that in each case there are many things in the past to be thankful for.
Say yes to trusting Him even if it’s so dark right now that you can’t see the light. Choose to bless His name. Let what you know to be true to guide your heart. If you don’t know Him to be true, ask Him to begin revealing Himself to you today. There’s nothing He’d love to do more. Talk to Him and tell him how you feel. Tell him you don’t understand but let Him speak to you. I promise you, He is a healer. I pray that no matter what your wound is, you will begin down the road to healing so one day you too can testify to His great healing power and let your scars tell His story.