It wasn’t God’s sovereignty or faithfulness that I questioned when my dad died; it was God’s goodness that I doubted. Did God know my pain? Was He aware of how devastated I was? How does a good God allow such suffering to happen to a good person?
My dad battled Lou Gehrig’s disease for almost 10 years. While I watched this terminal illness take away parts of my dad bit by bit, I grieved over those losses along the way. I grieved the day his arms could no longer raise up to hug me or dance with me in the kitchen. I grieved the day he said he couldn’t drive his stick shift truck and take me to practice. I grieved the day his legs didn’t allow him to walk into church. I grieved the day he couldn’t breathe on his own and was connected to a ventilator. I grieved the Fall he could no longer go hunting and enjoy his favorite activity. I grieved when he lost the ability to eat food on his own, without a tube. Along the journey of battling a terminal illness, we grieved each loss along the way. So why was I so devastated when he died?
Fall was my dad’s favorite season of the year. He was the one that cultivated my love for all things Fall. My dad’s birthday is also in the Fall; so, every time it rolls this way, it is common to find me thinking about my dad and missing him terribly. Just a few weeks ago, my mom brought me an Ancestory.com kit wanting me to participate in her newest activity of researching our family tree, I was a little annoyed. Then she said, “You are the only one with dad’s DNA.” I was stunned. This was a thought that had never crossed my mind.
My mom and I were standing in the kitchen watching the leaves fall down in the wind when she talked to me about Ancestory.com. My heart was deeply missing my dad. My dad taught me how to enjoy Fall and all its glorious colors when I went deer hunting with him as a child. I did not hunt, but instead spent my time bundled up in bright orange clothing inside a Smurf’s sleeping bag next to my sister. We were either napping or eating trail mix, with my dad high above us in a tree stand. When we were awake, we had a very important job – to watch for deer.
In the silence and stillness of those crisp Fall mornings, I remember feeling at such peace. My eyes would scan across the land looking for movement of any kind. But I would often get distracted looking across the land, and would look up at the leaves instead. I loved watching them fall down around us in what appeared to be a place as magical as Narnia. But the colors of the leaves – that was my favorite thing to hunt. I would lie underneath that big tree where dad was posted and name all the colors in my head. Then, I would try to pick a favorite tree with the most splendid display of colors. The color would change as the sun would rise, and I would start the joyous task all over again.
Memories of Fall mornings with my dad are still fresh in my mind, even though these moments are well over 25 years old. My sister and I were gifted by the Lord to have a dad who was always active in our lives. He did things like show us our first sunrise, take us hunting, attend a ridiculous amount of sporting events, show us how to write checks and balance a checkbook – being part of what appeared to be normal, mundane days filled with his presence and his love.
Dad was a hardworking, intelligent, “Mr. Fix Anything” kind of guy. And He loved the Lord and seemed most at rest while in God’s creation exploring the great outdoors.
While I grieved different losses along the Lou Gehrig’s disease road, nothing could have prepared me for the day he departed this earth to go home to heaven. I had always thought that on the day he died I would find great relief – not just for him, but for me and my family, especially my battle-worn mom, his bride. Nothing could have been further from the truth. His death was a crushing blow.
I was consumed with thinking about all the future events he would not be at: monumental milestones like walking me down the aisle, helping fix my first house, holding his grandchildren. I also found myself missing him in the everyday of life. The rhythm of the machines buzzing in the house that helped keep him alive were suddenly missing. The silence was deafening.
The inward focus on my pain and sorrow took over as my eyes came off of God and focused onto myself. Hurt and grief turned into anger at the world, and especially at the Creator of it all. I didn’t doubt that God was in control or on His throne, but I didn’t believe He could be good in the midst of such deep sorrow.
Over many years, friends would meet with me and open the Word of God with me and for me, and enter into my anger-filled heart. With eyes set on myself and not on the Lord, I had started to believe lies and not the Word of God. People must have been praying for me during these years because by God’s grace, I continued to attend church and small group Bible studies, while still holding onto my hurt and anger.
Over time, the Word of God started to melt away the anger and expose the lies I was believing. The Word of God is powerful enough to do the work of God, and that is exactly what happened to this hard heart. The Word revealed that God did not design death as part of His original design, but it came as a result of sin and of the fall (Gen. 3). Every word of Philippians brought life and exposed sin that needed to be repented of and brought before the throne of God. I read the story of Lazarus (John 11), where Jesus knew his friend would die and He would bring Him back to life, and wept in such a way that he was sobbing uncontrollably. I finally saw that Jesus knew my pain. Jesus suffered greater pain than I will ever know when He was on the cross, separated from His own Father to bear the sins of the world so that I might know Him, escape eternal death and live with Him and for Him.
The Word melted away my anger and revealed God’s character, and I could not deny God’s goodness any longer.
- In God’s goodness, I saw marriage vows lived out between a man and a woman in what could be called the very worst of times. Yet, they continued to love one another and glorify the Lord in their perseverance and love for one another.
- In God’s goodness, I watched and learned what hope in God means during suffering.
- In God’s goodness, I watched the church and body of believers uphold and sustain my family during the Lou Gehrig’s disease journey.
- In God’s goodness, He gave me a husband who is not afraid to point me to the Truth and would not let me stay in my sorrow. Instead, He took me to the Word and to the church to be with believers.
- In God’s goodness, He placed me in a church that preaches the Word and the gospel, where people meet together to dive into the Word and into each other’s lives.
- In God’s goodness, He gave me godly women who loved me so much that they wouldn’t let me stay in my anger, but gave me themselves and opened the Word of God with me.
- In God’s goodness, He redeemed me. He called me His very own because the penalty of my sin was paid for on the cross by the spotless Lamb of God.
- In God’s goodness, He redeems the hurt and pain from losing my dad in a terminal illness in unique ways that only God can orchestrate.
As I watch the colors of Fall change all around me, I still miss my dad. But God’s goodness is more evident than the pain and sorrow. My heart now sings:
“Give thanks with a grateful heart.
Give thanks to the Holy One.
Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son.”
Won’t you join me in singing and telling God how good He is. As we walk toward Advent, there is no better time than to reflect on God’s goodness in our lives.
I was not paid by any company mentioned in this post.
Copyright © 2017 by Mimi Brady No Ordinary Day Planner. All rights reserved.