I few weeks ago I found some emails exchanged between Andrea and I and Ginger. This one was a response to an email Ginger about her pain and struggle with God after losing Troy. After reading Ginger's Facebook post about depression it reminded me of the emails she wrote Andrea and I. Truthfully, those emails were hard to read and we were at a loss at what to say.
If you are in a dark place today, I pray God will use these words to remind of the depth of His love God for you.
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Wednesday, March 14, 2007 7:30 AM
I saw that report about the propaganda and Andrea and I were praying that you would not hear about it. Of course we are lifting your name before our Father and Creator. I'm at work and decided to write you what has been on my heart this past week.
I'm not sure how to respond. First, I don't know if you are swamped with e-mails when your time is so precious. Second, I don't want to assume or come across as telling you what to do in a time and situation that very few have had to deal with. Third, I worry that my written words will come across without the feeling and prayerful spirit in which I write them. Sometimes it is hard to have a conversation via e-mail because you loose the expression and feeling.
My understanding of what you are struggling with is the "why". Why did all this happen, why are you having to deal with losing your husband, why are you alone, and why are your children without their father. In that I can relate a little although not to your degree. Please know my comments are from my heart and what I felt the Lord put on my heart last night. As Andrea and I did a bible study I just thought of you and your situation as we read and it related to what I had sent you about faith previously. I know you asked me to send that again and I will find that e-mail and resend it to you. First let me explain how I feel, not to compare but to share how I felt the Lord helps me everyday.
I too ask "why". I wish Andrea and I did not have to go through this trial. Our struggle is different in that it is slow and drawn out, there is no suddenness to cancer; it is a slow killer that you battle everyday. I think of it has a relentless pursuer who hounds us everyday, always there, some days in the background of you mind some days consuming your every thought all over you. As much as I wish I can’t go back to Aug 2003, to the day before we heard the news, to just have my life back. There are days I long to have a day were we do not think about cancer. I see friends who help us so much yet at the end of the day their worries are just life's normal worries. And there are days I wish I had just those worries.
But at the end of the day it is Andrea and I and we have to live with cancer. To get through days of pain and extreme fatigue, to see Andrea without hair is a constant reminder she is a cancer patient. At times it is hard for me to believe she has cancer. It just seems crazy. Andrea is the last person who should have cancer, no family history, always in good health, ate well, a strong believer who served the Lord. How can this happen to her, how can this happen to us? But life's trials are not reserved for the unbeliever; strength of faith does not determine life's difficulty or ease. And truthfully that can be hard at times.
Why us God? As if we are above such difficulty. But God has helped us everyday, even the days were we prayed and prayed for healing, even days when we just prayed for relief from constant vomiting only to hear silence. I remember praying for Andrea to have relief from vomiting, I was holding her hand believing with all my faith knowing God could stop this only to have Andrea vomit while I was praying. I have spent countless nights praying for the day she is healed; only to see another CT scan showing the cancer remains. I can relate to wondering why.
Ginger, I had to first sit down and think about the God I believed in, was he all he said he was? Was he my creator? Was he my savior? Did he love me? Did Christ die for me? If He loved me enough to die for me as a sinner He loved me now. His love did not wane and I had to know that was the truth, despite what I was seeing or hearing. God was God and He was in control. Somehow this all made sense and I had to believe even if I never understood how. For me the attack was on our faith. Satan was not after Andrea's life but our faith, our witness, our effectiveness as believers. I think Satan will do all he can to keep us from coming to salvation in Christ, but if he can't then he will do all he can to stop us from being effective witnesses to a lost world so others will not believe. So we are never immune from his attacks nor are we ever immune from the effects of living in a falling world.
But we are also never separated from our Father, who sealed us the day we believed and wrote our names on the palm of his hand. This was the truth I keep coming back to when I don't understand life, or wonder why?
I have had to just feed on the bible and God's word and truth. So that what I know about God is the reality I live by. Not by what I see but by my faith. Trust me this is not a one-time decision and I got it. It is an ongoing battle where at times I feel I'm walking on a beam just a fraction away from falling into despair. And there are days I have given into the despair and confusion of what is happening to us. It is very easy for me to fall into despair and self pity, it as if that takes no effort at all, but to believe and have faith requires effort, effort to read and study His word. On those days I find the friends around us and the prayers of others lift me up and let me know we do serve a risen God and He is everything He says He is. He is so great that I can never comprehend Him and His love. So when I don't understand I have to just trust and fall back on what I know of my God and his character, and know He loves me more then I know and in fact He loves Andrea more then I do.
The study Andrea and I were doing was Beth Moore's "Believing God". Yesterday's lesson was about how we react in life to what we remember, and how we need to remember the God we serve. Here is part of the lesson:
"Anytime we agree to see God accurately in any portrait, all else dwarfs-bow down in His presence. The difficulty soon becomes little more then a short measuring stick by which we estimate the size of a huge God."
This is not to belittle your trial, which is far beyond what I have had to deal with, but it is nor bigger then the God you serve. And praise God Troy was a believer who now is with the Father we serve by faith.
Ginger, this pain will not go away in an instant and the daily routine of life goes on seemingly without feeling so we pray for your faith, and your witness to a lost world. Neither of us would have asked for the events in our lives but they are ours, and ours to use for God's glory. Maybe one day we will see how God used our lives to help others maybe we will not see until we stand before Him, but He will use all things for His good and His glory. You do not struggle alone, the Body of Christ, all your friends and believers are with you and your Father is beside you, even in the silence and darkness of the toughest days. He cannot be otherwise.
There were days when all I can do is hang on by my fingernails, to the simplest truth that God loves me just to make it through the night or the next hour. To help Andrea and I have made note cards of scriptures that remind us of the God we serve and His love for us and when it is hard we flip through them and remind ourselves of the God we serve.
I'm sorry for the long email. I know your time is precious and I thank you for allowing me to share this journey with you. You are in our prayers. That seems too simple of a statement, and does not capture the bond we have as believers. Please know that Andrea and I are with you in spirit and we are praying for your strength. I tell Andrea sometimes I just need strength to make it to the next minute knowing the minutes will turn into hours and the hours into days and the days into weeks and the weeks into months and the months into years. That is my prayer for you in these difficult days, little by little you will feel the presence the love and the strength of your Creator who will sustain you. And he will because He says He will, and that is the truth and reality of this life despite what we see. Look for Him in the smallest of victories you have and the blessing you receive. It maybe a thought or just a feeling. Write them down in a book to read and remind yourself of God faithfulness, you might be surprised how often He is there. You have the faith Ginger, and you serve a mighty God!
In Christ, Jim
Below is Ginger's response.
Jim (Andrea too),
I am touched by the time you always take to help me, a total stranger in this painful journey. I am hanging on by my fingernails. What an accurate description. I have asked the basic questions again, as if I am 9 years old again and just trying to establish my faith. I feel shaken, rattled to the core. My faith has taken a mighty beating. I love the Lord but am constantly angry with Him. That is exhausting in itself. I have increasing difficulty at church for several reasons; we were right in the middle of serving the Lord in our growing church, busy, involved, not ever contemplating sitting on the sidelines. I am on the sidelines. I watch the worship, the couples that are our friends sitting side by side reading the Word together from a shared Bible, I see others joy. I covet what I lost.
I long to have their daily struggles which they think are so big just like I used to but now know are vapors of whining from spoiled Believers. I don't want to have false worship. How can I sing praise songs to Him when I am so baffled at how He led me to the place I now dwell?. A very dark, lonely and confused place. I don't know if I am so physically exhausted with raising 5 small children (still with help-I cannot fathom without) that I am not thinking clearly. How can He expect me to raise them like He wants, like Troy and I wanted with just me? The math does not add up. Troy worked a lot but when he was home he helped so much. I had someone to hand them off to.
Troy and I fell into bed totally exhausted every night. But we knew it was for a season. They would grow and we would look back on all of it and laugh. But we were doing it together. We were a family. We never intended on having five children. We certainly never intended on ME having five children alone. I put them to bed and then I cry and ache and grieve and feel more lost and lonely than you can imagine. This was our time to unwind, talk about the day, talk about our future.
Is this darkness from Satan or just the darkness that accompanies earth-shattering loss? I have written down hundreds of scriptures and put them in flip cards too. They help a little. I see the promises but those promises might not be for me. Just like I never thought being a widow at 36 with five children was not for me. He might just choose not to fulfill this one or that one in my life. I have hope in my eternity. I have failing hope in my life on earth. I can't see the sunshine. I try to sleep but am still unable without taking medication. Just one nap on my own without help. I am not asking much now, am I? The electrician today noticed Troy's "hero" shadow box on the wall. He asked if that was my husband. Then a light came on and he said he now recognized me from television. How did I become a celebrity of a tragedy? I have emails from around the world. My loss is so great that it stretches around the world and back to me again. I hear familiarity in your view of minutes to hours, hours to days, days to months, months to years...It envelops me in its enormity. I try to pray for and focus on the next half of the day I live in. But that is virtually impossible to do too. I hear the echo of my former life in my house, my head, and my heart. It is so loud. It drowns out much else.
I wonder all the time what Troy would tell me right now. What would he be doing if it were him sitting at the computer right now crying and typing and searching for hope. I cannot bare the thought of it. I believe in the basics of my faith in the Lord. Those areas are black and white. I know He loves me, whether I feel it or not. I know He is able to do anything. But He was able to do anything that day and did not save Troy.
So He is able but what is He willing to do? Do you feel that He having our days numbered meant He would have taken Troy to be with Him on that day no matter what, no war, no Iraq, no flying...anywhere in the world Troy would have been, would he have taken Him that day? We prayed for wisdom in Troy going over there. Did we mishear? I know we are in different places, Jim. You in the long suffering and me in the sudden shock... But God is God in either situation. Thank you for listening to my ravings and my ranting’s and my sufferings. I do not forget you two are suffering too. Please know I will pray for Andrea and for you as I close my eyes tonight.
Thank you my brother in Christ,