Growing up in church, attening Sunday school, going to VBS, Church Camps and on and on, it becomes engrained in your head that God is Sovereign. And you believe that. Or do you? Or is it just an acquired taste you developed because you are in the midst of such a thick westernized Christian mindset and reality is you haven’t tasted anything else to make you doubt it? To doubt God’s goodness. Is it a constant westernized and privilege Christian culture, being poured on you so thick that is confused with a true rooted faith in God? Maybe the reality is that you have never really had to step too far out to see what you actually believe when darkness happens.
You get older and you see the world really does have darkness and you see how God’s word is always true and relevant. Darkness transpiring in the world that has been promised would happen in the Bible hundreds of years ago. And you’re like “Yea! (pat yourself on your spiritual back). I really have a strong foundation. My feet are firmly planted.I get this.” You have even seen specific situations where you know the Lord has clearly orchestrated and painted beauty out of ashes in your life that only He could do. But is that enough?
For me, this was tested a year ago, September 20th 2015 to be exact, and the weeks that followed. A late night phone call from my mom; my cousin died. “All four,” she said. “All four?” I repeated. “Yes.” …. “All four?” … “Yes.” I asked this question over and over while my mom said “Yes”, over and over allowing it to sink in. My cousin died, along with her husband and their 6 year old son and 4 year old daughter. Hit by an intoxicated driver while they came home after church. Of course he walked out just fine.
It didn’t make sense. She had been a missionary. She loved Jesus. She was sort of a spiritual icon to me. That sounds tacky but it is true. If you knew her, the first thing you knew is that she loved Jesus. It was the first thing you knew at her wedding ceremony, it was the first thing I knew when I was a child trying to impress her with my Point Of Grace CDs. She met her husband on the mission field. He was a missionary too. She already faced extreme death experiences which should have been the end of her life, taken by savages while she was in Africa. The same savages who had raped and killed all of the other women they had previously taken. But they let her go. She prayed out loud while she was in the vehicle with them. She said the name of Jesus over and over, and eventually something happened where they told her to “get out and go.” This was when she should have died. This would have made more sense. This was the first thing that came into my mind and also why I couldn’t allow her and her family’s death to sink in. If she was going to die it would have been there in Africa, but God spared her. Why now? Later I learned her husband had faced bombings on the mission field. He should have died there.
Why did they come back to the United States to raise their small kids, just to get hit by an intoxicated driver on the way home from church in their Houston suburb? That is like someone swimming across the Atlantic just to come home and drown in a backyard swimming pool. It didn’t make sense. It was the worst story line I could imagine. God’s sovereignty and goodness all of a sudden didn’t make any sense. Or really, had it ever made sense? Had I ever had a situation where I really had a chance to question it until now? Was I confusing an engrained culture of VBS with a true understanding of Gods sovereignty and goodness? I couldn’t even think about it without it hurting my brain. Sometimes I still can’t.
Seeing a 4 year old and a 6 year old lying side by side in a casket with their parent’s caskets on either side of them is too much. Their little faces. I remembered them running and jumping around in a hotel lobby just the year before. Lord, did you allow them to be born only to allow them to die at age 4 and 6? I wrestled with this. If someone else was telling me this same thing, I would have a biblical answer to sling at them, but as I was the standing there I couldn’t find a Bible verse or a prayer to help wrap my mind around this. I could tell myself every Bible verse I had ever heard (and I have heard many) but when the rubber meets the road I didn’t feel like it was enough. My Aunt Kay and I looked at each other and just cried and we both said “I know, I know.” That is what we said because there was nothing else to say. Except the thing is, I didn’t know.
This is when you really have to dig deep, or maybe dig for the first time because until then, most of the heartaches in life had been within a grasp of my understanding. A bad breakup, a failed adoption placement, the death of a family member due cancer; all sad, but nothing that shook me or my faith in God. All these scenarios I was able to pray and “Give it to God” as the saying goes. But this was too much.
There is a saying that people say “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” Well that is crud and isn’t even in the Bible. Gasp! I knew that before and I know that now, but it is crazy how we have made it up and twisted a truth in God’s word so much that it is not recognizable. Like a really botched plastic surgery job. And maybe even though I knew that saying was not accurate, I was somehow holding onto the vibe of it. The fact is, He can and will give you things you cannot handle. The difference is that HE can handle them. You can also throw out the window the most twisted prosperity gospel verse plucked out by westernized Christianity ….. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11. That verse, which is mounted on walls and quilted on pillows, is taken so far out of context. No one seems to quote the verses which come before or after that verse, or even talk about the context of where that verse comes from…..Let’s just say those verses are not “throw pillow worthy.” And when you are standing there looking at two little faces, the thought of that misinterpreted verse makes you want to vomit. The thought that God allowed this to happen made me nauseous. If your faith doesn’t go beyond plucking Jeremiah 29:11 out of context, you are going to be a mess.
The funeral was the most deeply rich funeral I have been to. People from all over the world flew in. The media was outside the church and the local news station left knowing how much this family loved Jesus. My cousin’s brother in law spoke and gave a sermon that was so clearly ordained it was breathtaking and even healing to listen to. Singing praise songs (I come from a family of loud singers) initially felt foreign to sing, but that is because I realized I really had never had to sing a praise song in the light of true tragedy or in the midst of questioning God. But this may have been the most genuine praise song I have ever sung.
It was time to get real. I am still working on it, I still struggle. But this is what I have learned….
-I can be angry with God and Praise Him all at the same time.
-God can handle my anger
-There are times in life you later find a silver lining but that is never a promise God gives. That is a human desire and doesn’t reflect the character of God.
-I have to be in God’s word daily. I fail at this so much, but how can we have hope without opening the Bible and being in connection with the Creator?
– The thing that gives peace, the ONLY thing that gives peace is that she LOVED Jesus. That is the one and only variable that matters whether a person dies tragic and young, or soft and cozy in their bed at age 95.
-By me questioning His sovereignty doesn’t mean He is not fully sovereign. It does not take Him off the throne as the one and only true God. He is still soverign even if my emotions do not align.
– The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18
I don’t know if I am at the point where I am thankful for what I have learned and continue to learn. Maybe I am getting there, and in the meantime my prayers are transparent to God about my struggles. I want to leave with the sweet true words of my cousin. If I were to point you to my cousin, she would point you to Jesus. That was her. That was her life. And that is the only thing in this whole situation that matters.
This was her Facebook post about 3 weeks before she died……
“Keepin’ it real in this particular status-
A song came on as I was walking through my house just now and it ALWAYS stops my thoughts when I hear it and I begin to ask: Who did my allegiance belong to today? My answer is that I want my allegiance to be to Jehovah, my Savior God; but in reality, have my actions and words today shown that allegiance? I can instantly think of many times that I failed to live gloriously for Him today. Oh Father, forgive me. This struggle is real! I need You!
If I had no voice. If I had no tongue. I would dance for you like the rising sun. And when that day comes and I see your face. I will shout your endless glorious praise –Colton Dixon”