How do I cogently and concisely say these things? How do I sum up all that God has taught me in the year that life was most radically altered? Probably not concisely at all. The task feels a little like trying to catch sand with a sieve. There’s just too much. I’ve let you all view this year up close and personal. I haven’t hidden the depths or the waves. I’ve let you see the reality of grief, but also the reality of grace. So, I didn’t think writing the “anniversary” post would be so difficult. But I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to say, and I guess I just have to dive in.
The day after Jon died I posted the following note on Facebook.
“It’s surreal to be writing this post, but I feel like I must. I know that many of you already know, but my precious Jonathan went to be with Jesus last night. His heart got too big for this world. Thank you all for your thoughts, messages, and prayers. I am not ok, but someday I know I will be. When God gave me Jon, he gave me someone far better than I could have hoped for myself. Jon lavished love on me, and adored me. But more importantly, he adored his God. His life resonated God and the gospel. He was so driven for others to have the true hope found in Jesus Christ. Yes I’m weeping, I’m numb, I feel like throwing up, I can’t breathe, I don’t know what to do or how to respond, and it all feels like a really bad nightmare. But, this I know and my husband knew — God is good. He is doing good. I do not understand, but He has a plan and purpose much bigger than I can see. Jon told me this again and again over the last several days. And this is my confident expectation–Jesus Christ paid the penalty for my sin. He perfectly fulfilled God’s law. And He is my redeemer. He chose me, He adopted me, His blood canceled the record of sin against me, and He gave me all His righteousness. This he did for Jon too. And so in the midst of the greatest pain I’ve ever felt, there is rejoicing. Jon is worshiping, and his heart is perfect. I believe God used Jon greatly in life, and He will do so in death as well. I don’t know what I need right now. But I know this “Hallelujah All I have is Christ, Hallelujah Jesus is my life.” He is abundant. So, pray with me, and weep with me. I sound a lot braver in writing than I look and feel in person. I know many hard days are ahead. But no matter what comes, “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)”
It seems like someone else must have written those words. Surely I didn’t compose them. My mind was too numb, too fuzzy, and too unable to comprehend what had just happened. But I suppose they must have come from me, yet only because of God’s enabling grace. I wonder, did I believe them?
Yes. The answer is yes.
As I think about encapsulating this year, it seems fitting to revisit these words with new clarity and understanding.
“I’m not ok, but someday I will be.”
It took a long time after Jon’s death to feel ok again. And it definitely got much worse and stayed worse before it got better. I didn’t understand then just how hard the “hard days” would be. Though I’ve allowed this year of grief to be public, there’s much more that never made it to Facebook or the blog. There were more sleepless nights, more puddles of tears, more questions, more moments of anger, more irritation with well meaning but thoughtless people, more love and care from others, more deep longing, more fear, and in the midst of it all, more grace.
It’s beautiful to look back and be able to say “I’m ok.” But really I’m a whole lot more than ok! Truly grace is one of the biggest themes. There was exponentially more grace than there was grief. Grace. It’s accompanied by words such as astonishing, overwhelming, marvelous, tangible, beautiful, and lavish. Yet even these cannot quantify the grace of God. Grace, that undeserved, unmerited favor of God lavished daily on His own. And it really is new every morning. It’s staggering to think that through Jesus, God offers endless grace.
In the weeks leading up to the anniversary, I’ve felt the return of many “sorrow triggers.” It’s not wrong to be sad, to weep.. And while it’s been good for me to process through them again and necessary to grieve the last days of Jon’s life, someone reminded me, “Where are all the triggers of God’s grace over this year? Find those.”
I found them. And It would take chapters to recount them all to you.
“But more importantly he adored his God. His life resonated with God and the gospel.”
When I think about themes, another that comes to mind is “relentless pursuit,” It’s how Jon lived, and it’s how God has taught me to live this year. As God relentlessly pursues me, so do I want to relentlessly pursue Him. I had to have all my idols stripped away. I had to go to the wilderness to enjoy deeper intimacy with God.– And just how beautiful it is! So prone to wander is my heart, but He delights to bring me back. I had to learn obedience through suffering. And I had to learn by experience that Jesus really is the only lasting satisfaction in this world. I’m still learning! But more than anything else, I want God to do whatever He wants in and through me. I want my life to resonate God and the gospel.
If you were to look back at 16 years worth of journals, you’d see variations of a common prayer weaving through them.“Lord my life is yours. Take it and do with it what you will. I want to know you. I want to be consumed by you. I want to see your glory.” And God is answering. But prayers of those sort aren’t usually answered according to my “wisdom.” The way up is down. To see the beauty of stars, there must be darkness. The cross proceeds the crown. God seems nearer in the valley than on the mountain.
Most of us don’t wish for sorrow. Rather we want life to come wrapped neatly in a package with a shiny bow on top. We want the dream plan, so thoroughly imagined, that surely it will be reality. But sometimes God shatters the dream plan. Yet His shattering is never arbitrary. Loss and brokenness. They are words that fill with dread and fear, but they are also words that have potential to represent life, love, beauty, repentance, and vision.
He is teaching me to say with Paul…
“Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith–that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and may share in His sufferings becoming like Him in His death…” (Phil. 3:8-10)
The benefit so vastly outweighs whatever cost we perceive, that there really is no cost at all! As deeply as I love and miss Jon, the cost seems nothing when compared to the benefit. Losing Jon. Gaining Jesus. Far surpassing worth.
“It all feels like a really bad nightmare.”
How marvelous it is that even a nightmare was part of God’s sovereign plan before the beginning of time. I see the beauty rising from the ashes. And I realize, that though I never would have chosen for Jon to die, I wouldn’t trade it. That’s a heavy thing to say. It’s one that doesn’t come easily or flippantly. It’s one I’ve mulled over for a long time. But if I believe that God is good and sovereign, then I know the reality that He did the BEST thing.
“And this is my confident expectation.”
Jesus Christ, my confident expectation. Amen. Do I even need to elaborate? I mean you could honestly stop reading and just start praising God right now. Jesus Christ, my confident expectation. Just dwell on all those words entail. Marvel with me for a minute. Jesus Christ. Do you know Him? I mean not just about Him, but KNOW Him? Jesus is God. King. Redeemer. Savior. Friend. Master. Lord. And He became man. He lived a perfect life without sin. Take a minute and let that sink in. Without sin. I can’t say that I’ve lived without sin! Neither can you. He met all the standards of God’s righteous requirements, that is perfection. He was tempted as we are, but without sin. And He took on all the weaknesses of human flesh so that He would KNOW and be like those for whom He came to die. He offered His life up as the substitutionary sacrifice for sinners. He took my place, willingly. He took God’s wrath for sinners like you and me who have no possible hope of being “good enough” to get to God. Because how good is good enough? Instead God came to us. Jesus paid an infinite debt we cannot pay. And the best part is that He didn’t stay dead. He rose again and is yet alive. He lives. He is King. And He is coming back. Therefore, “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Ro 6:23)
And He is my confident expectation.
If you’ve read any other my other posts, you know this is the one message I can give. It’s the one message Jon could give. But it’s the best news you will ever hear.
“Jon is worshiping. And his heart is perfect.”
Yesterday I came across the phrase, “A believer’s best day is his last day.” Amen. There have been times through this year that the thought of heaven wasn’t comforting. I just wanted Jon back. But how selfish. He wouldn’t want to come back. He gets to be in the presence of God! Perfectly worshiping without sin! He gets to look on the face of Jesus. Even typing those words spreads longing through my heart. I want to look on the face of Jesus! And I can’t even comprehend how beautiful it will be.
“He is abundant.”
What better way to tie this all up? He is abundant. Jesus is overflowing, spilling over the edge abundant. More than enough. Praise God that though I deserve a cup of wrath, I’ve been given a cup of blessing. I have a generous God who lavishes me with grace and good things.
Yes, even in this year.