Fear. With the force of many waters.

fear not“What if something happens to him?”

My friend’s voice broke, her tears flowed. Fear. Anxiety. Unknowns.

We put our hands on her and prayed that test results would come back negative. We prayed for God’s protection. But we also affirmed that God is good even if He chooses not to heal.

We prayed for peace, rest, and calm hearts. We prayed that ultimately God would be glorified, that He would use this circumstance for the sake his kingdom.

My own tears formed. Empathy was deep in that moment, and I understood the struggle. Her words took me back to when I asked the same question.

I thought of the journal entries.

12-26-12
Father consume our hearts with you. Use us as instruments for the sake of the gospel.

12-27-12
Because I deserve every ounce of God’s wrath, any drop of blessing makes my cup full and overflowing. It overflows because Jesus has imparted all of his righteousness to me and has given me every spiritual blessing.

12-29-12
Lord, thank you for protecting Jon. At the emergency room, you kept our hearts in peace. There is still time to prepare for surgery. For now, it’s as simple as a change in medication. Truly my cup runs over.

Following the first trip to the ER we had a time of overwhelming tenderness and affection. I remember my husband pulling me into a bear hug as he said, “I just love you so much. I can’t even contain how much I love you. I just want to be near you and never let you go.”

Jon was always lavish in his affection, but these days were radically sweet.

It was a Saturday. I sat with my coffee and Bible in hand, having time with God while Jon slept in. Anxiety trickled at first. But then the dam broke, slamming me with the force of many waters.

1-12-13
Oh God, what if you’re giving us this sweet time because something is going to happen to him?

At that point, there was no reason for me to consider that he would die. The question was born solely out of fear.

Lord, your word says ‘perfect love casts out fear.’ You are perfect love. I don’t want to even imagine  facing death, but I know you would give grace. I will love him and cherish him as long as you allow me to, but Jon is yours. Oh Father, I need your help! Please cast this fear from me.

And He did.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy one of Israel, your Savior!…You are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you.” Isaiah 43:1-4

1-19-13
Father, I’m still so overwhelmed. Waiting for answers… I feel helpless. God, we’re both emotionally drained. Why can’t they see what is wrong? Please help us to trust you—to trust that you are sovereignly in control of all things, even congestive heart failure and pulmonary edema. Please provide the right timeline for surgery.

Fear not. 

You are mine.

When you pass through the waters—Trials and suffering will come because the world is still broken. We still live on a fallen Earth. Brokenness and deep waters will be there until Jesus restores all things and makes them new. But for his chosen ones, there is great promise. ‘I will be with you.’ The God Who lovingly and masterfully formed me also chose me, purchased me. This God says he will be with me. The God whose love has no boundaries says that he will walk with me. He will protect. This God says my soul is secure. On the cross, Jesus already absorbed all of God’s wrath toward me.

It seems that a season of suffering is coming. We may be tested as silver is tried, but Lord, I believe you will bring us again to the place of abundance (Psalm 66:12). If we need the fire to more accurately reflect you, then it is good. Your name be glorified.

Jon died a week later. Though my mind had flitted to death, it still came unexpectedly. No one thought he would die.

Tonight I asked God to protect my friend from this path. Our God is big, and he is able to do abundantly above what I can ask or think. He is able to heal.

However, with confidence I could say, “No matter what, God is still good. He is big enough when fear hits with the force of many waters.”

This God was with me. This God carried. Even now, my cup runs over.

And if her biggest fear becomes reality, this God will carry my friend also.

Journal Entries: I’ll let them speak for themselves.

IMG_20130717_112154_853I have kept a journal since I was 14, and I’ve learned that I need to use a leather bound book, lest it fall apart before I’ve adequately filled its pages. These journals are nothing spectacular, just a compilation of written prayers to God, notes on sermons I’ve heard, and reflections from my alone time with God. When I look back though, I weep at all God has done in me.

I see the foolish little girl with her extremely specific list- “Characteristics of My Future Husband,” whose consuming desire was to marry immediately upon finishing college.  I can look back on new-believer zeal, yet lacking wisdom and grace. But I also see the faith that knew nothing was impossible for God. I could look upon the college girl, questioning and seeking to develop her own convictions. There are the single years of longing and learning contentment in Christ. I could find the book that marks a fundamental shift in belief, that is, when grace really started to make sense.

There are pages for financial pressures, family crises, and pages pleading on behalf of loved ones. There are pages of struggle, fear, and doubt, and pages full of joy and thanksgiving. And there are many, many pages filled with Jon.

I started a new journal after Jon died. For how could I possibly write about such agony on the last pages of an almost spent journal? Something as big as death required a new volume. This morning, however, as I searched in a brown, leather book for some notes I’d written on Isaiah 40, I was quickly drawn back to 2012 and the beginning of 2013. To the year leading up to Jon’s death. That was not so long ago, of course. It’s not even been nine months since I last got to kiss him and tell him I loved him.

So, let me step back to the time before life was radically altered.  I’m calling this post “Journal Entries.” I’ll try to let them speak for themselves. I’m not exactly sure why I even want to share some glimpses of them with you. But just so you know, I open this window into my private world with a little trepidation.

3-3-12  “Jesus has abolished death for me, and that truth is a consuming fire. You are the God who is guarding me. If I can completely entrust my soul to you, I can entrust the rest of life to you as well. Lord help me not to run from trials or try to short change the work you’re doing in me. Thank you for financial difficulties. Thank you for the possibility of endometriosis. I trust you will provide for the surgery. Thank you that we have not been able to get pregnant. Teach me what you want me to see.”

3-23-12 “God you are sovereign in all things, Lord even in the results of surgery. It is odd because when a doctor says you have a healthy reproductive system it should be cause for praise and rejoicing! But I admit I’m frustrated because it seems like the surgery was a waste and for nothing. I still have pain, and we don’t know why. Lord speak to my heart. Jon prayed right before surgery, “And we will praise you regardless of the results.”  How ludicrous it is that I’m having a hard time praising you for ‘healthy’. I suppose it is that it gives no answer to ‘why no children?’ Help me to praise you God.

O God! My eyes just landed on the verse I wrote down a couple days ago– Your thoughts are precious toward me. You think tender, loving thoughts. You are a good Father who always does right.”

4-11-12 “Lord you are beautiful. You are holy. You always do good. Transform me by your grace. I know you don’t need me, and that I don’t deserved to be used by you. But thank you for letting me ‘play in the sand.’ I want to be where you are. I want to be a part of what you’re doing. ‘Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord; His going out is as sure as the dawn; He will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains water the earth.’ (Hosea 6:3) God you desire ‘steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6) God you want me to be near you. You desire that I delight in you as much as you delight in me!”

6-4-12 “Redemption is not about me God, but about you! ‘Behold your God!’ I want to gaze on you and adore you. You are mighty and powerful. Yet you are also a shepherd. ‘He will tend his flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in his arms; and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that area with young.’ This incredible description of you in Isaiah 40 is too big to comprehend. ‘The Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.’ I rejoice in who you are! Surely, you who have chosen me will also protect me and uphold me. When I think on who you are, there is no room for fear. You uphold me with your righteous right hand, the hand of blessing! You reminded me that you delight to give. Forgive me for slipping back into my faulty perspectives, for thinking you are a ‘begrudging’ Father.

Yesterday you gave an abundant gift to my husband that was not a need or anything important. It was just a beautiful, tangible reminder of your overflowing joy, generosity, and delight to give good to your people! Thank you for the Rockford Air Show tickets! And not just any tickets- VIP chalet tickets, front row seat! This is incredible. God you are marvelous. We hadn’t even prayed for them, yet you delighted to give something that gave Jon immense joy. It was so awesome to see his face light up like a kid…

Thank you for teaching me experientially! You are always good in blessing, joy, and in sorrow. And you will do what brings you the most glory. There is great confidence in knowing I can pour my heart out to you with boldness. I know that all the ‘plans’ I’ve conceived in the past were nothing compared to what you had in store. When things don’t happen the way I think they should, your way is better. Yet you delight in the asking, in the total dependency on you.”

6-8-12 “Lord I am radically dependent on you today. Already this morning I have failed and relied on my own understanding. Thank you for the transforming power of the gospel. Thank you that the blood and righteousness of Christ covers me. It’s amazing that you can look on me as perfect when I still sin every day. Thank you for the freedom to fail because I can rest in Christ’s perfections. God I’m struggling again with intense desire for children. How do I know if it has become an idol? Lord I think it comes back to an accurate perception of you. Everything you do is good. So if it is good for us to conceive, you will not withhold it. If it is good for us to NOT conceive, you will not withhold it. Lord, above all I desire for you to be magnified! The desire to feel life inside me and to be a mom is a good thing. It’s a desire put there by you! But that desire must not be my chief end or consuming passion. I know honestly, though, that sometimes it is. I need the power of Christ to want YOU the most! Thank you God for not withholding yourself from me. The request to know you more deeply is always answered affirmatively. Lord you have abundantly blessed me far more than I can ask or think. I praise you!”

8-1-12 “I’m sorry for my stubbornness. I have so much more selfishness than I own up to. Lord my husband works so hard, and I so often take him for granted. I remind myself of all that I adore, his tender heart before you, his consuming passion for the gospel, his quick forgiveness, how he makes me laugh, how he leads me. You have blessed me with an incredible gift in Jon. Thank you that marriage is based on promises not performance.”

10-3-12 “Father I admit that I have been deeply struggling the last couple days. I thought with great hope that this would be the month for children. Lord when it was not, it knocked me down much harder than I anticipated. Lord I couldn’t understand why it seemed you were answering every prayer except the one most near and dear to my heart. I know my emotions led me to a deep pit, and I wasn’t sure how to get out. Forgive me for falling into the trap so often labeled “If I respond right this month, God will bless.” I know I can’t earn favor, and that I don’t need to. Lord I settle my soul on the Rock of the Gospel. I am chosen, reconciled, cleansed, forgiven, adopted, and purchased. This is who I am in Christ.”

10-20-12 “Thank you that I am already beloved. It is not about me doing anything to gain more love. Because of Christ and the cross, I am free from a performance driven life.”

12-20-12 “Do I still know that you have dealt bountifully with me if another month the answer is no? God I want to. I want to exalt you and praise you. I know you always deal bountifully with me. You gave your Son. But do I believe you are more than enough, that you satisfy? Will you be enough if my arms remain empty? My head knows truth, but my heart asks questions. Lord I don’t claim to understand our continued childlessness. You are beyond my understanding, but you are faithful. You are my inheritance. The joys of this world are temporal, fleeting, but you are eternal. My soul praises you even in my questions. I willingly turn them into worship. The place of highest joy is with you. This I know.”

12-27-12 The gospel reminds me that what I legitimately deserve is a cup full of God’s wrath. This would be mine to drink if I was given what I deserve each day. So to be handed even a completely empty cup, is cause for gratitude! The tiniest drop of blessing should blow me away by the unbelievable kindness of God. My cup overflows. Because I deserve every ounce of God’s wrath, therefore any drop of blessing makes my cup full and overflowing. Rather, the reality is that Christ has already given me every spiritual blessing.”

12-31-12 “Father you have brought us so far this year… to a new church where we are so blessed by the gospel emphasis, by a pastor who loves and cares for us, by new and deep friendships, by abundant ministry opportunities. God you have not only given Jon a new job, but a much better job. And you have brought us to a new city! 2012 stands out as a year of blessing… Lord you don’t need us, but I pray you would use us. Father expand the work you want to accomplish in us and through us…”

1-1-13 “God here we are on the brink of a new year. But you already know what this year will bring! I praise you for the “good” and the “bad,” the trials and the blessings because truly everything is good with you. ‘Teach me your way O Lord’  My prayer is to grow in passion and intimacy with you.”

2-9-13 “Lord how do I even begin to put into words where my heart is? How do I write about the death of my love? How do I describe the depth of emotion? How do I write that I am living my worst fear? I didn’t know I would kiss his face, his hands, his hair and weep in indescribable pain. I don’t understand, but I know this: you are good. And you are doing good…Though my flesh doesn’t want your will, I still know you are faithful. You are still abundant grace and mercy. You are still peace. You are still my God. Jesus I cling to you.”

I see no need for extended commentary. I’ve already tried to cram an entire year into 3 pages! But I’ll say this. It is God’s grace that Jon and I remained childless. I’m well aware that had we conceived before Jon died, I would soon be having a child. Though I longed for a little person who looked like Jon, a piece of him, it was God’s grace that said no.

I can see God using tragedy to utterly transform me, and i can see how He is answering countless prayers through these unfulfilled dreams. “Lord be exalted. Be magnified. Let your gospel shine through Jon and through me.” He’s not answering the way I thought, but  He’s answering nonetheless. He’s replaced my fear with peace. Of course, I still struggle. but He’s transformed my thinking. God delights in me. Nothing changes that. I’m astonished at the zeal of God’s transforming grace. It’s uncomfortable grace, but surely my cup overflows.