You never know…you just never know. Life is so far beyond predictable. In my last post I talked about some of the “why” questions that surround our loss and the subsequent grief that we feel. While we know that many of our whys will not be answered on this side of Heaven we have been given one more answer. Little did I know that only days after uploading that post, I would be contacted by a family who was entering their own dark valley. The Weavers, like so many others, have known of us for months as they have been following (via our blogs) our journey after losing Hannah. They came across our blogs as they prepared to make their own move from Pennsylvania (not far from our hometown) to Kenya (only a couple hours from Tenwek). Those of you who are members of our Facebook group know what has occurred over the past week. Only months after arriving in Kenya, they discovered that their unborn child had anencephaly (a fatal condition). I won’t give all of the details (it is really their story to tell and you can read it on their blog here), but what I can tell you is that we have had the opportunity and privilege to walk along side this family in a way that never could have happened if we hadn’t lost Hannah. The pain we have endured and continue to endure, this ongoing trial, has given us a unique perspective and ability to meet at least some of their needs.
Valley walking is hard. It hurts. It is not fun. It can be lonely, intimidating, and just downright awful. I am so thankful that we didn’t have to do it alone. In Psalm 34:18, David writes, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Yes…and yes! The Lord does remain close to the brokenhearted. As I’ve mentioned before, in the days and weeks following Hannah’s home going, we felt closer to God than at any other point in our lives. No spiritual retreat, time of worship, or amazing sermon has even come close to matching it. There was a presence that is difficult and maybe impossible to accurately describe to those who haven’t experienced it themselves. I still remember people telling Steph that she looked as if she was “glowing” at the services after Hannah’s death. I believe they were seeing a small reflection of that closeness. Crushed doesn’t even begin to describe the depth of the anguish we felt…especially in the initial moments of this experience. After the initial resuscitation when other clinicians arrived and I no longer had to provide direct care, I remember hitting my knees in prayer. And it was as if the weight of the world was lifted from my shoulders. I was given a strength that had absolutely nothing to do with me. While the walk was still painful and incredibly difficult, I was no longer being crushed under the weight of what we had to bear. Untold numbers of friends, family, and strangers also joined with us through prayer and tangible means to help to ease the burden. We saw the Church at work and it was a beautiful thing to behold. (We also saw this over the past week as Tenwek and others rallied around the Weavers.)
Few things in life are guaranteed…but trials are. Everyone, every single one of us, every person reading this blog is either going through a trial now, has just come through one, or is about to enter into one. Trials and difficulties will occur. How do I know this? Well…real life experience for one. And secondly, and more importantly, because Jesus promised it. In John 16:33 we read Jesus’ own words. ”I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble.” If the verse ended there, it would be a pretty depressing state of affairs. (Begin internal dialogue – ‘Great, thanks for the encouragement. Trouble is coming. I can’t wait. What else do I have to look forward to?’) But thankfully his words don’t end at that point…Jesus goes on to say, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” This is one of those Biblical truths that I, and I’m sure many others, find themselves holding on to dearly when life seems to fall apart. The broken world we see and are so familiar with, has been defeated and a far better world is awaiting those who have placed their faith & trust in Christ. Death has been defeated and the grave holds no power…zero…zilch…nada. Heaven is not a fairy tale, a hopeful fantasy or a delusion. It is a very real place. It is a place where every good thing we experience here on earth is amplified. Good things on earth are but a mere shadow or what is yet to come. (I for one am pretty excited about the enhancement of chocolate…hard to imagine how you can improve on that one!) Relationships will be deeper; love will be purer; everything and I mean everything will be better!
The Chinese language is fascinating. (I’m going on a brief tangent here.) Chinese scripts are often formed from a combination of other words/scripts. (I first learned of this when teaching on evidence supporting the Biblical narrative of Noah and a literal world-wide flood. Amazing stuff!) Recently I learned that the Chinese word for crisis is a combination of the words tragedy/danger and opportunity. (Please let me know if this is incorrect because I am certainly not a language expert…I’ve barely figured out English at this point.) This certainly seems appropriate though. A crisis is a time of intense difficulty…or a trial. And trials are indeed opportunities. Trials can crush and destroy or they can provide an opportunity to strengthen. Trials can incapacitate or they can allow for an opportunity to motivate. Some of the greatest men in the Bible (Joseph, Paul, etc.), have faced some of the most intense trials. They have taken advantage of the opportunities that their trials presented.
To a large degree, the way in which an individual approaches a trial or tragedy is dependent on the lens through which they view it. (And we all view the world and events through some type of lens. Do you know which ones you use?) I choose to view the world through a Biblical lens. I therefore see circumstances through a lens of faith and the future through a lens of hope. I understand that many would say the Biblical lens is outdated, narrow-minded, or just plain crazy. Trust me…I have studied this intensely and would not be putting all my marbles in this one basket if there were any doubts. (This post isn’t the right forum for a discussion on evidences for Biblical accuracy but the proof is there! And please know that there is a lot of proof!) The opportunities that a Biblical/faith-based lens are unique and important.
So if trials are inevitable and they provide opportunities, how does this work? Here are just a few examples. While we all have a tendency to see ourselves as self-sufficient (I hope I’m not the only one guilty of this one), trials help to remind us of our dependency on God. It’s easy to think we have control when everything seems to be going our way. Not so much when life begins to fall apart. Trials also provide us clear insights into what truly matters. Bank accounts and having the latest model of x, y, or z seem fairly insignificant when sitting in an ICU. Trials allow us to see firsthand the power and majesty of God (remember that He is near to the broken-hearted). Trials can also help increase our sensitivity and compassion for others. ”Those who have hurt much, love much.” I have no idea if that’s a real quote or not but it sure seems to be true. Another thing that trials can do is provide a testimony to an unbelieving world. The importance of this aspect can’t be understated. A Biblical response to trials is unusual and will rarely go unnoticed.
So if we all will face trials of some sort, how will you face yours. This week I have seen a family cling to the promises of scripture and they are walking through their trial with heavy hearts but with their heads held high as they await the promise of a reunion that will happen in Heaven. Walking with them has been painful and yet it has been an immense honor. I would be a fool to think that I am an expert in any of this but if I may, I would like to challenge you. The next time you are faced with a trial or some form of suffering, use it as an opportunity to express your love for others and for Jesus. Let Him guide you through the difficult circumstances. He promises to walk through with you…and he NEVER breaks his promises. Allow a lens of love to guide your motivations. You never know how He may use your pain and trials for bigger and better purposes.
I had the honor of being with and photographing the Weavers as they met and said goodbye to Hadassah. Below is an image of their beautiful daughter (used with permission). One of our boys mentioned during evening prayers that they thought that Hannah was probably showing Hadassah around. Such a cool thought!
1-Be praying for the Weavers as they prepare to say their last earthly goodbyes to Hadassah this week. Pray for their community and for their family/friends who remain in the states. May they continue to feel His presence and comfort.
2-Pray for Steph’s father as he begins his cancer treatments. May side effects be minimal. May he (and the rest of us) use this trial as an opportunity.
3-Pray for outgoing/incoming CO interns. May transitions go smoothly and may all graduates find employment at locations where God wishes them to be. May they serve Him as they serve others.
4-Pray that our family may continue to seek out ways to use our trial(s) to better serve Christ.