About two years ago, my husband's dad (F) had a stroke. He stayed in the hospital for a few days. As a result, we all spent a bunch of time in the hospital, too.
The morning following his stroke, the immediate family gathered in a meeting room just down the hallway from where F was to spend the next few days. We were met there by a doctor who shared with us F's condition and progress. We were also met there by a pastor who sat with us, asked questions of us, read the Bible with us, and prayed with us. We trusted that God was a good God, a loving God, and a God who had the power to heal F. We trusted that this "suffering" was going to somehow manifest itself for His glory.
A few days later, my father-in-law went to his eternal home. And while we thanked God for F's arrival to a place of no more suffering, we spent a bunch of time grieving for our loss. And we spent time thinking about God, who is good, loving and had the power to heal. We thought about how this could possibly manifest itself for His glory.
At his funeral, those who attended were given the opportunity to write down memories of F to share with his family. At the end of the service, a huge basket of folded pages was collected. Later on, we gathered again with the immediate family and read over some of the memories people had shared. What an incredible gift it was to hear their experiences with someone we loved so dearly. We laughed and cried together and remembered the man God had graced the world with for less than 60 years.
One particular memory stood out for me. I do not recall who wrote it, and when my husband and I were copying some of these stories into a memory book for his widowed mom, we couldn't find it. I believe it was written by a man from a local recovery home who has recently become friends with F. In their few conversations and in the different projects they had worked on, this man noticed something quite different about F—something he wished he had. Talking to F and recognizing his involvement in the church, this man went to seek out this God that my father-in-law believed in. This bold move to find out more resulted in his salvation. This man shared that he knew where Frank was now and rejoiced in that hope.
When this memory was shared aloud with the family, I quietly knew our prayers were answered. God is a good God. He is a loving God. And He is a God who has the power to heal and save. In light of this situation—or any situation when we are left to grieve a loss—all those traits of God are sometimes difficult to comprehend. I don't claim to understand God's plan of salvation and redemption, nor do I understand His thoughts or ways. I can admit to that two years ago, and still today I often cry out to God because, in my sinful state of being, it appears to me that He is not doing it right! But by His goodness, love and power, I can see that God allowed this suffering to manifest itself for His glory. I can see God at work in F's life. I now see that there will be one more celebrating in our eternal home.
Today I want to thank God because He let us see a glimpse of what He is doing in our lives and in the lives of others. I am thankful that God is in control of everything and that I am not. I am thankful for God's goodness, love and power. I ask for forgiveness in those times when I challenge this truth and when I challenge God's ways. And I ask for continued strength as I try to live in a way that will allow God to work out His redemptive plan through the things I do and the lives I touch.
Isaiah 55:8-13 (from BibleGateway.com)
8 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,"
declares the LORD.
9 "As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the LORD's renown,
for an everlasting sign,
which will not be destroyed."
"I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death."