It felt like I had been run over by a freight train. I was stunned. I was in shock. I was crying hysterically. But it was really just a phone call. My dad called and said he had to talk to my husband Jerry. I knew it was bad because Jerry hates to talk on the phone so no one ever asks for Jerry unless something bad is going on. I knew some elderly family members and friends were sick, so I thought one had died. I was right someone had died. But it was not an elderly person or even a sick person. It was my sister April. She was 33, a college graduate, a non drinker, non smoker, no drugs - nothing - just a little over weight. She had been getting ready for a Sunday School party and simply dropped dead. It was probably a heart attack. And that was when the shadow of death passed over my life like a freight train. Suddenly, from the middle of bright sun shiny Good Friday, I was in the valley of Baca. At some time or another I had heard a sermon based on a verse from Psalms 84:6 on the subject of "when passing through the valley of Baca (sorrow) dig a well. I had suddenly become a "well digger".
The well I dug was really just "digging into God's word" and learning to believe His promises. I learned that God was with me because somehow He gave me the strength to read His word. Somehow He gave me strength to get up every morning and go through the day. He gave me strength to live each day. He gave me strength to begin to look toward the future.
The first thing He showed me when I was looking toward the future was our eternal future. I "saw" heaven. I saw a very real place filled with very real people doing very real and wonderful things. I saw peace and joy. I saw love and excitement. I saw beauty without ugliness, pure love without any animosity. It was wonderful.
Then from that vantage point I began to consider the immediate future and try to live each day as it came. Gradually it became more normal. There will always be an empty place in my life here on this earth because my sister's existence here is missed. Nothing could fill her place. But I know she is in heaven doing just fine. The Bible tells us. 1 Corinthians 2:9 "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." April is in a place that is just too wonderful for us to even imagine. Knowing where she is does not fill the empty place she left here, but it does give great comfort that she really is ok.
So - I miss her - but I am not without hope. On the firm foundation of God's promise - I will see her again and there will be no parting anymore. All this I learned from digging through the wonderful written message God gave us. The Bible became more real to me than ever before. It is a well of comfort and joy beyond anything we can imagine. Really the well is already dug. It is the Bible. We just have to dig through the verses to find what we need at the moment.
My father in law recently died of cancer. He was the earthly patriarch of my husband's family. He was (and still is) loved deeply. His illness was hurtful to everyone because we didn't want to see him suffer and grow weaker. We didn't want him to leave this earth. We wanted all of us to abide in good health until the return of the Lord. But in leaving us here - we KNOW he went to the same place in which my sister now resides. I think they are laughing about the time April fell of my daughter's horse and rolled right up to my father in law's front door - and dented the screen door. The Bible says "we shall know as we are known" (I Cor. 13:12). We know the apostles knew Moses and Elijah at the transfiguration - even though they had never met them before. We will not only know our friends and loved ones - but others also!
Before my father in law's death I had already come to terms with how wonderful heaven will be. My real sorrow is for the family who was left without him. Without his corny jokes and his onery way. Without his steady faithfulness in the daily things of life. For his wife of 64 years who was left alone and lost without him. But I have hope for the future. That future is more real than the here and now.
The very thought of the reunion in heaven becomes more and more precious with the passing of each loved one. It also becomes more real each time. Sometimes I begin to wonder how thin the veil between heaven and earth really is.
I don't know what you personally may be facing right now. No one knows what he or she may have to face in the future. But I do know the One who will be there to face it with you. I know He will not leave you nor forsake you.
Of course there are many sorrows in life that don't involve a death but are still very painful. The way through any sorrow or trial is still the same. First you look to Jesus - the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Second you focus on the promises he has given you in the book he has provided for us. The Bible is chocked full of promises. I don't know what promise you will find the most helpful. That is why you must study the Word for yourself. There will be a verse that jumps from the page into your mind and brings you comfort as though it had been directly spoken to you and written thousands of years before just for you to read today. Third, you keep at it. Keep reading. Keep studying. Keep praying. Second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour, keep going.
I like to end an article by mentioning an old hymn that seems relevant to the subject if the article. I usually have a hard time deciding on the hymn because there are so many wonderful hymns. But this time it was easy. The hymn for the day is "Whispering Hope". "Whispering Hope - Oh how welcome thy voice." That relates so well to the still small voice that speaks - but it can be heard more easily than thunder by the child of God who is listening.
God Bless YOU!! - Love Barbara
WHISPERING HOPE WORDS
Soft as the voice of an angel,
Breathing a lesson unheard,
Hope with a gentle persuasion
Whispers her comforting word:
Wait till the darkness is over,
Wait till the tempest is done,
Hope for the sunshine tomorrow,
After the shower is gone.
Whispering hope, oh how welcome thy voice,
Making my heart in its sorrow rejoice.
If, in the dusk of the twilight,
Dim be the region afar,
Will not the deepening darkness
Brighten the glimmering star?
Then when the night is upon us,
Why should the heart sink away?
When the dark midnight is over,
Watch for the breaking of day.
Hope, as an anchor so steadfast,
Rends the dark veil for the soul,
Whither the Master has entered,
Robbing the grave of its goal.
Come then, O come, glad fruition,
Come to my sad weary heart;
Come, O Thou blest hope of glory,
Never, O never depart.
Words & Music: Septimus Winner, 1868 (MIDI, score). Hymnals often list the author as Alice Hawthorne, one of Winner's several pseudonyms.
Christian writer, wife, mother, grandmother, artist