“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory, Amen.” ~Romans 11:36
It has been over six months now since God called my dear Chris home to be with Him, and during this time, I’ve had little bits here and there to reflect on how God was intimately and regularly orchestrating the moments of our days these past few years. He does not always work this way, but in our situation He really did show us His mercy and gave us time and specific circumstances to help prepare Chris for heaven and to help us prepare us for Chris’s absence. (For some terrific examples of this, I encourage you to read Chris’s book, Power Perfected in Weakness: the Journal of Christopher J. Klicka. For ordering information, click on the Resource page.
A Big Thank You!
In all we have been through, including these past seven months, I am so very grateful for the gift of the body of Christ through which God ministers much encouragement, insight and clarity to me! Thank you, to so many of you who have written words that have felt like a very big hug to me, and thank you, for your faithful prayers! They mean more to me than all the riches this world can offer!
Furthermore, I owe a huge debt to several brothers and sisters in the Lord who have walked alongside me (and Chris) through the years in a way that allowed us to be both vulnerable and yet open to God’s ministry of grace to our hearts and minds. We could NEVER have gotten through 15 years of MS if it hadn’t been for the body of Jesus! As brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus, it is a great privilege to both encourage you in the Word, and be encouraged by the Word in you, for the glory of our God and for our joy and our good.
The Rest of the Story
Many of you have testified to my strength or my faith. I know that God has truly helped me to be strong (it is not my own doing) and has helped me to believe and trust in His Word (also not my doing), but lest you think I don’t struggle, I wanted to share and “set the record straight” so to speak.
I recently had a good friend comment that I always “sign off” an email with a faith-filled statement, and he couldn’t understand how I was able to do that. I had to chuckle as I read that, because while I do almost always sign my emails with, “God is good…all the time,” there are plenty of moments, hours, days when I significantly struggled to believe that statement these past several years.
So that you may know the “rest of the story” as Paul Harvey would say, both I, as Chris’s wife, and my kids, carried a significant burden to help Chris the last 15 years of his life, increasingly more so as the disease progressed. I would not be honest if I told you otherwise. There were many strains on Chris’s body just to keep on keeping on, but also on our physical bodies to help him keep on keeping on (several of us have done damage to our shoulders and joints which we still suffer from). In addition, I carried an exceptionally heavy emotional load at times that literally caused me to feel as if I would break down in despair (and I’m certain the children as well felt that way at times).
I have always been a joyful person as a believer. As a child, I was abused by my earthly father physically and otherwise, and had much sadness and fear as a 9-14 year old, but when I came to know the love and forgiveness my heavenly Father had for me, I had a joy I never experienced in my life before.
Even still, I’ve had many times as a believer where I felt like God was far away from me, or at least was baffled by His plan. From nearly dying from ulcerative colitis on three separate flare-ups (I’ve had UC since our first child was born 22 years ago), to almost losing our twins in pregnancy in 1994-1995, to the many times when Chris got hurt because of the MS, I pressed into my Savior, Jesus. I was desperate to believe the liberating truth of the gospel because I had nothing else to cling to.
My Soul Would Despair Within Me
For the first time in my life as a Christian, however, I experienced depression these past several years, as the strain of the effects of the fall on Chris, and on me, on our marriage, on our family, etc. set in. I remember, just over a year ago, I was listening to Alistair Begg teach on Ecclesiastes (he is an exceptionally effective and winsome advocate for the life-giving truths of the gospel; www.truthforlife.org –you can download hundreds of sermons for free on his website!) Morning after morning as I listened to him exposit this book of the Bible, I sat there weeping as God showed me or reminded me of His truth, the very best defense against listening to the lies my emotions would have me center on, such as, “God has abandoned me,” “God is punishing me,” “His grace isn’t sufficient for me”, etc.
The reason I share all of this is because as long as we live in this fallen world, sin and the effects of the curse are going to be a burden. We cannot escape their effect; we cannot avoid pain and hardship. Our hope is two-fold, I believe, however, that 1) God truly IS working ALL things together for our good (He righteously defines good because His very essence is good–I all too often define good by what “feels” good to me–and 2) God’s grace IS sufficient for me.
Where’s the Focus?
The focus here on both these points isn’t “me” though. That’s where I get into trouble spiritually when I think “I” have to believe more, do more, trust more, press on more. That is God’s doing IN me. He doesn’t love me less when I don’t do these things, or love me more when I do these things. Even more amazing to me than that concept is this one–He is not completed by anything I do, say or think or by anything that is in me. He is perfectly complete in Himself (the Trinity) lacking nothing, YET, He longs to lavish on me His great love and mercy and kindness and grace! I usually weep about this thought every Sunday as we sing out loud this truth of the gospel in song!
This then, has become my focus–to remember what He has done for me, to meditate on the inestimable worthiness of His greatness and the unfathomable depth of His love in Christ on the cross for me!
Do I do this all the time? No. Do I still doubt? Yes. Do I resort to self-preservation, and take my eyes off the fact the Lord provides for ALL my needs (Phil 4:19), and accomplishes ALL things for me (Ps. 57:2)? Yes. Do I choose to seek satisfaction in the things of this world ever? Yes. Do I still get discouraged by my sin and the sins of those I love most, especially when they are directed at me? Yes!
What to do with Our Frail Humanity
What is my answer when I am confronted by my frail humanity and my sin? Run! Run after the truth of His Word! Run into the arms of Jesus! For there, every sin finds His forgiveness, every sorrow finds its comfort, every question its answer, every fear assuaged, all guilt removed, all hope restored. Okay, so I’m crying right now as I again contemplate this, and I’ve gone on far too long!
Dear friends, please forgive me for rambling on! I’ll leave you with this. If you belong to the Lord Jesus and put all your trust in Him for your salvation, I’m confident you are doing every day the same things I am doing. If you ask those closest to you, I’m sure they can see by your life and your words that you are pursuing God. Even more important, however, is the reality that if you are in Christ, He is pursuing YOU. And when you seek after Christ, He will reward you with Himself, He will not disappoint.
Can’t Get No Satisfaction?
I’ve discovered over the years that God is not satisfied, however, and rightly so, to allow me to be content with less than His very self, for He knows that I will only truly be satisfied when my greatest joys are found in Him.
From that comes a wealth we could not naturally possess in ourselves or in anyone or anything in our world. Can I say this more easily because some of the greatest challenges I’ve ever faced in my life are not presently at work? Yes, probably so.
When severe trials come again to test me, will I be tempted to cave in? Most likely, yes. Thankfully, He is immutable even then. He remains constant, faithful, merciful, loving. He would be less than God were He not. So on the deepest level then, I trust that He will hold me close to His heart, even when I whine or doubt. Isn’t that more secure than anything we could see, or hear, or taste, or touch, or smell?
An excellent book I’ve slowly been making my way through is The Bruised Reed, by puritan writer Richard Sibbes. One good quote from that book is this,
“Let the world be as it will; if we cannot rejoice in the world, yet we may rejoice in the Lord. His presence makes any condition comfortable. ‘Be not afraid’, says He to His disciples when they were afraid; ‘It is I’ (Matt. 14.27). Let this support us when we feel ourselves bruised. Christ’s way is first to wound, then to heal.”
If you are in the place of feeling bruised, or abandoned like an orphan, or caught in sin and feeling helpless to escape its bonds, know that you are not alone. Every human has or will experience a place(s) where they will be tempted or will question God. He is not threatened by your questions, but actually welcomes them. May I encourage you to run? Run to God’s Word. Run to Jesus, and please know that I am just like you. And if I’m feeling quite desperate to know His presence, I might just pass you up on the way to His embrace. The good news is, there’s room for all of us there. 🙂
Thank You, Jesus, that Your cross was wide enough, and deep enough, and high enough and long enough.
And again, I’m thanking God for you, your friendship, and your prayers.
Grace and peace,
“Let me seek Thee in longing, and long for Thee in seeking; let me find Thee in love, and love Thee in finding.” ~Anselm