4 Years: Victory, Reversal, Redemption.

Today marks four years since Jon stepped from this life to the next. That seems like a long time. It’s a quiet ache today though—a remembering, an honoring, and a cherishing. This morning I listened to the one voicemail I still have from him. I basically have it memorized.  In 33 seconds he says, “I love you” three times. And it brought a smile instead of tears.

This anniversary is markedly different than the other three. Getting married again has something to do with it, I suppose. And if I felt like emojis were appropriate for blogs, I’d follow that sentence with a winky face, a kissy face, and pink hearts. It’s been a year of overflowing light and joy. As I reflect on this year of fourths, themes of reversal, redemption, victory, and love captivate my heart.

I was tempted to hook you with story of a “trauma trigger,” a moment of deep sorrow to illustrate that they still sneak in. They are rare, yet at times still powerful. I still struggle remembering the night Jon died. I fight the fear of losing my second husband, and I fear something happening to me— only because I don’t want him to know death or to experience crushing grief. But this is not a post primarily about fear.

I may yet tell that story, but for now God’s turning my heart a different direction.

Reversal

Death is a broken thing; the result of sin, we were never meant to experience it. But God can make death beautiful. Through it he caused me to run to Jesus and to understand my desperate need for him. Pain and sorrow led to me know Christ in an all-together richer and deeper way. Through death, Jon no longer has to deal with temptation, sin, or weakness. I’ve said these things before, but important truth is worth repeating.

Christ’s death was also beautiful, for by it we know salvation; we know reconciliation, justification, adoption, grace, mercy, peace, and infinitely more.

And death can be redeemed. It will be reversed. Christ is risen from the dead. Therefore, those who die in Christ will also be raised for eternity with him.

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Talk about reversal. 

This year God also reversed my circumstances. No longer “widow.”

I wasn’t promised a second husband, but in a very real, and physical way I get to reflect what Jesus does for his people. I’m so thankful.

There were days I doubted that God still had beautiful things for me in this life. But he is a generous father. Even if he had never reversed my circumstances, he would still be good.

However, some things shouldn’t be reversed:

  • I still desperately need Jesus.
  • Christ is still my security and my stability.
  • My hope is not in my circumstances.
  • David is not my savior. He is a good gift, but not the ultimate gift.
  • My value and worth are not determined by being a wife again.

I remind myself that Jesus is the greatest treasure. The things that were true in the valley are still the bedrock when “life feels good.”

Redemption

God gave me a good gift in Jon, and he has given me another good gift in David.

Early in our dating I assured David that I would love again and just as deeply. I’m thankful God has faithfully brought this love to fruition. It’s a magnificent thing.

Some folks seemed shocked at how a second love works. I still love Jon. But I also love David. Love multiplies; there is no need for intimidation. There is no second place.

I think the words I spoke as I took him to be my husband sum it up the best:

David, ours is s a story of beauty out of ashes. It is one of redeeming grace. As Boaz redeemed Ruth, so are you a kinsman redeemer. From the start you never ran from my story. You never let the word “widow” and all its unique challenges derail you. Rather you have embraced it all with immense grace, with gentleness, with compassion, and with bold confidence. You have even wanted to know Jon and who he was. You have called my story beautiful. Thank you for cherishing me. Thank you for lavish love. God has precisely and uniquely equipped to be the man for me. And I utterly adore you.

You are my kinsman redeemer, but you are merely a picture of the Ultimate Redeemer. We all were desolate and forsaken. But Jesus bought back His own, making her a gorgeous spotless bride. May our lives ever radiate the extravagant love of Christ.

And we get to see how God writes our story. Our story that is just a tiny part of His grand story. And I can’t wait for life with you. With so much joy, I take you to be my husband.”

There is tangible redemption in this life. And it is just a glimmer of true redemption.

View More: http://markblackphotography.pass.us/093016

Victory

“And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces.” Isaiah 25:7-8

“Death is swallowed up in victory. O death where is your victory? O death where is your sting?” I Corinthians 15:54-55

Four years after death I think I more fully realize what Paul meant in First Corinthians. He was looking forward to the time when death would have no sting because it wouldn’t exist. He was looking forward to the immeasurable hope of the not yet.

In light of future glory, the trials of this life truly are light and momentary.

For a long time I could not sing “Christ is risen from the dead trampling over death by death. Come awake, come awake, come and rise up from the grave!… O death where is your victory?” without tears of sorrow. The words felt like a lie. For death surely stings, and “sting” doesn’t even being to come close to reality. But now I sing these marvelous words through tears of joy. One day there will be no sting.

Spiritual death is already swallowed up in victory, and one day physical death will also be swallowed up. Jesus is victorious, the Champion of champions.

“But thanks be to God who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him every where.” 2 Corinthians 2:14

He is the general leading the lavish victory parade. And I am the willing captive following in his triumph— set free from the captivity of sin and death, and gladly captive to Christ.

May I not be “preoccupied with the victorious Christian life, but with the victorious Risen King” (Scotty Smith)

The victory is His.

Love

So on this fourth anniversary, I’m mostly just thankful. Trials will come again. There will be future grief. But there will also be future joy.

At first I was nervous at how much Jon and David are intertwined in this post. — Would people not understand? Would they think I love one or the other less? Would they think it wrong to mention David in an anniversary post?

And then I remembered what an exceptional blessing it is to have both of them in my heart.  They are intertwined in a way that only God can do. It’s a testimony of God’s love and grace. He didn’t have to give me either.

So, I honor my past and embrace my future

Reversal. Redemption. Victory. Love. Four powerful words that point to Jesus Christ. And He is what it’s all about.


Here’s the beautiful song:  Christ is Risen from the Dead (Matt Maher)

What has gone before:

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No More Gloom

no-more-gloom“But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish.”  Isaiah 9:1

For me it’s been a year of “no more gloom.” Rather, 2016 has been mostly light and overflowing joy! How thankful I am for such a happy season, a beauty out of ashes sort of year. It’s been awhile since sweet didn’t mingle with bitter; I’m enjoying the stark contrast. I delight to be married to the second love of my life, my new best friend. And I stand in awe of the God who reverses, who brings light out of darkness. It’s been a pretty great year, I’d say.

Of course there’s been some sorrow. I didn’t expect my dad to die this year. His death has felt so different, though. At 79, he was completely ready to be with Christ, to leave the decay of old age. I dearly love him and miss him, but for me it hasn’t been “hit by a freight train, life altering grief.” I suppose, in this occasion joy has eclipsed sorrow. I guess after the death of a spouse, it’s easier to process the death of a parent.

But I also know it’s been a difficult year for many. The world is full of gloom. Wars and rumors of wars, corruption, violence, racial tension, an endless election cycle, civilians caught in the middle of a firestorm, refugees displaced from their countries—I’ve heard it called it the “worst year ever.”

For some I love dearly, 2016 has been thoroughly devastating. I clapped my hands and wept for joy when my friends found out they were expecting twins after a long journey with infertility. Then I sobbed with them as they cradled two perfectly formed, precious babies who were just too small to survive. I have family facing chronic illness. And I’ve wept with those whose marriages have collapsed. I’ve seen them reel with the pain of betrayal. These are the sorrows so deep they feel physical. 

If I could, I would jump in front of the crushing blows so my loved ones would never experience them.

The world is still broken, and sorrow comes.

Gloom. It is “total or partial darkness, a state of melancholy or depression.”¹ As 2016 draws to an end, people clamor for the new year, grasping for the hope of something better. We’re a people constantly searching for something better. What hope is there when gloom overtakes? What hope is there when darkness is a heavy blanket?

Oh my friends, there is an imperishable, unfathomable, confident and sure expectation. His name is Jesus! He’s the King who eradicates the gloom. He is something better.

“There will be no more gloom!”

For, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness on them has light shined. You have multiplied the nations, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest…”  Isaiah 9:2-3

As a smoldering wick grows to blazing flame, so the Light of the World penetrated the darkness. The astonishing, glorious rays of sunshine arrived. A Son was given. He multiplies our joy! He ends anguish and distress.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

Light will always overcome darkness. 

But wait there’s more! Have you ever had the moment when a familiar passage leaps from the page, and the words are fresh and new as if you’ve never truly seen them? Hang on to your socks kids, there’s some serious truth ahead.

Our God is precise. He reverses, He reigns, and He pursues.

The God who is Precise

“But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. in the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulon and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time, he has made glorious the was of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.”  Isaiah 9:1

Now compare Isaiah 9:1 to Matthew 4:12-16

“Now when he [Jesus] heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 

The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali
the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—

the people dwelling in darkness
have seen a great light

and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death
on them a light has dawned.’ 

Do you see it? 

I’ve read these verses a thousand times, and never before noticed the seemingly insignificant detail: Zebulun and Naphtali. This is the God who is precise. He brings redemption with the skill of a surgeon and the craftsmanship of a master artisan. Way back in Israel’s history, Zebulun and Naphtali were among the first taken captive by the Assyrians, among the first to “sit in darkness.” 

BUT Jesus went to them first. The Great Light dawned first on the ones who were captives first. I don’t know about you, but that pierces my soul, and makes me sing with joy. Even now it makes me a little teary. God not only fulfilled prophecy, but He did it with exquisite precision. 

His sovereignty is not consumed by vague maybes. Instead, “I will” is the persistent drumbeat of HIs plans. Is He not then precise in His care for you? Is He not thoroughly committed to His promises?

God perfectly orders my life. In His unequivocal concern for my good and His glory, I walked through the valley of death and made it to the other side. In His explicit care, He brought me a second great love.

More than these, God became man at a precise moment in history. The Father propelled His redemptive plan forward, and brought it to its pinnacle at the cross. He didn’t send the Savior His people wanted, but the One we drastically and desperately need.

The God who Reverses

Isaiah 8 ends with gloom and anguish, but Isaiah 9 is light and joy, radiating with stark contrasts. God reverses.

  • Gloom               No gloom
  • Darkness          Light
  • Remnant          Multiplied
  • Sorrow              Increased joy
  • Captives           Liberated, delivered
  • Oppressed       Free

This is what He does for His own.

I’m reminded of the Holocaust museum in Washington D.C. Even the architecture tells a story. At first the rooms are gloomy, cramped, and chaotic. Folks shuffle through the exhibits in reverential quiet. No one laughs, and more than one tear is shed. It’s a scene of horror, a history of genocide, and a sober indictment that we never let it happen again. 

Finally, just as despair permeates, and hope is a vapor, patrons wind their way to “Liberation,” the end of the war! The lighting and design of the museum shifts noticeably as allied forces liberate captives, righting what was wrong. There is light. Dissonant, crossing beams give way to clean, straight lines. Normal conversation resumes, and the claustrophobic soul can breath again.

So much greater is God’s reversal. He makes the world right side up. He has taken this hopeless captive and set her free, trading my sinfulness for His righteousness.

And He is also the God who Reigns.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulders; and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of PeaceOf the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and uphold it with justice and righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will do this.” 

Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor. This royal title combines the idea of “doing something wonderful, extraordinary, and miraculous with the skill of giving wise advice or making wise plans.”² He reigns in infinite wisdom. 

He is the Mighty God. A mighty warrior, His power is divine, knowing no limitations. Nothing is too hard. The Lord of Hosts fights battles for me.

He is the Everlasting Father. Literally it means, “My father is eternal.” He never begins, He never ends. He is the ideal, good protector. By exercising perfect wisdom and perfect power, He accomplishes intimate, fatherly care of His people. 

And He is the Prince of Peace. Jesus comes to make an end of war: spiritually and physically. “He will limitlessly expand His influence and create peace without end.”² The world is certainly not at peace right now, but one day it will be. And even now, my heart can know peace that passes understanding. (Philippians 4:6-8)

This is our King.  

Finally, He is the God who Pursues.

“The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will do this.” Isaiah 1:9

It’s His zeal and passion that initiated redemption. We turned from Him, but “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8

From eternity past, God planned to bring His people home.

He is the subject, the main character, the author, the narrator. Jesus pursues even to the point of the cross. He pursues even those who seem beyond hope.

With unassailable zeal, determination, and passion, God will concentrate His efforts to accomplish this marvelous deeds….[His people] can be absolutely sure that an omnipotent, sovereign God will stand behind the fulfillment of this wonderful plan.”² 

The blessing of His people is guaranteed. Victory is won.

Does He not pursue you even now? 

Therefore, whether 2016 was devastating or delightful, there is bright hope for tomorrow. My soul rests in the God who overcomes darkness, who shepherds me with precise care, who reverses, who reigns, and who pursues. 

I’ve got a sneaky feeling 2017 is going to be a great year; Jesus already defeated the gloom.


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¹ Webster’s Dictionary, ²The New American Commentary

For my sister, Builder of Bikes

Daily Quotes

Surrounded by giant cardboard boxes, bike parts, and tools (of which we did not know all the names), I could sum up the situation in a few choice words—overwhelming, infuriating, and daunting. My sister stared at the instructions, tears forming at the corners of her eyes.

But she took a deep breath, gathered her resolve, and set to work. Somewhat reluctantly, I followed suit. Building bikes is not for the faint of heart. We’re smart girls, but certain aspects left us completely bewildered, putting our ingenuity to the test. Some steps seemed to be left out of the directions altogether.

If a woman had written them, they’d be more more detailed. “Use pliers with cable cutting ability, or just use scissors.”

Trial and error. We had to disconnect and reconnect brake cables three times. We didn’t realize the handlebars were backwards. There may have been frustration involved.

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Visions of husbands deftly using wrenches and pliers with cable cutting ability danced across my mind.

We shouldn’t be building bikes.

Not because we weren’t capable in the end, but we shouldn’t have to.

I felt anger rise at the brother-in-law who left her, preferring adultery and divorce. I still want to punch him. She should not be a single mother. I watched her composure crack, tears streaming. Not many see a window into my beautiful sister’s vulnerability. But I saw.

“Sometimes I feel stuck, like I’m caught on a never ending cycle. Like God has held me to the fire far too long”

“Sometimes I feel abandoned.”

“I’ve tried to be a strong testimony of grace, of resting in God’s goodness. But sometimes I’m tired of trying.”

Yet it is with abundant grace she shepherds the hearts of her children, pays the bills, works, home schools, and shoulders all the household tasks. I think it’s easier to see grace from the outside looking in.

I had no eloquent words of wisdom. I just wanted to listen and share the sorrow with her.

Being a widow can be excruciatingly difficult, but I think my sister’s lot is harder. I want her to be cared for as I have been cared for. But sometimes, folks don’t always see those affected by divorce. They think it gets easier.

I want her family restored. I wish she didn’t have to walk this path, and I wish my niece and nephew didn’t know brokenness. I can’t fix the suffering. But I know the One who will.

So to my sister, Builder of Bikes, I want to tell you what I see.

I see the radiance of Christ in you through every soft word and patient conversation you have with your children. You live with consistency before them; God is working through you in more substantial ways than you know. You’ve given me an incredible example of parenting through suffering.

I see the sacrificial way you raise them, constantly pointing their hearts to Jesus.

You bravely face the hard things.

I see Christ reflected as you’ve struggled through deep emotions. By grace you have refused bitterness.

You’ve wept with me also, sharing grief, understanding things others cannot. And we’ve allowed each other to struggle with faith. Invaluable.

I see mercy and compassion for others. I see a daughter of the Most High, clothed in righteousness, being transformed exponentially in Christlikeness.

I believe God is doing good. And I believe He will give you beauty for ashes, not only in eternity, but in this life also. I pray for grace to surround you. I pray the love of God overwhelms you. I pray you will be guarded with peace.

I see your strength. But I want you to know you don’t always have to be strong.

You have a great High Priest who gets it. He knows your weaknesses. He carries, and He has promised never to leave you. I know it doesn’t always feel that way. I struggle sometimes also. So I need truth too.

But we can stand on this—God keeps His promises. 

He will not leave.  He will never be unfaithful.

“He will tend his flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in his arms; He will carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” (Isaiah 40:11)

It seems like you bear the weight of the world, but your Shepherd bears you. You are cherished, and you are loved.

He gently leads. “A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick He will not quench.” (Isaiah 42:3)

How patiently our Father teaches us to “ride our bikes.” When we fail to trust, still He’s there keeping us upright. And when we fall He cleans our scraped up knees.

And on the day we finally see Him face to face, we’ll know it was worth it! We’ll know for certain that He writes astonishing stories, exquisite in detail, lovely beyond comprehension, woven seamlessly into the story of stories. He’ll be resplendent in glory!

And we will also see total restoration. 

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)

Christmas morning two children received their gifts with joy. With exuberance, they couldn’t wait to learn. So my sister, Builder of Bikes, set out to teach them to ride.

 

Delight to Gaze upon Him

everythingI love when people feel at home in my home. I really do.

“Grab a blanket if you’re cold.

You know where the coffee mugs are.

Come on in without knocking.

Feel free to go in the fridge.

You’re a welcome guest. Moreover, I want you to know I consider you family.

Such delight it brings when friends know what they are to me- family, beloved!

I hope my home is lovely, and I hope folks feel loved there. But I know of a far more precious dwelling place.

“How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts! My soul longs yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. (Psalm 84:1-2 )

Now, there are some things you must know.

  1. In the Old Testament, God chose to dwell in a tent made by hands, first the Tabernacle, and later the Temple in Jerusalem. Israel could meet with Him there.
  2. The journey to God’s dwelling place was a long, arduous, and often treacherous pilgrimage.
  3. For many, it may have been merely obligation. (Deuteronomy 16:16)
  4. Common Israelites were permitted to enter only the outer court of the Tabernacle. Even more restrictive was the Holy of Holies, the very seat of God. Solely the high priest, ONE man, ONE time a year could enter it.
  5. The sons of Korah, the authors of this Psalm, rejoice even in their lowly positions as doorkeepers. (Psalm 84:10)

Now, keep all that in mind for a minute.

To be welcome in the house of the Lord, the God who created everything, the God who is majestic and transcendent is in a word, astonishing.

So, the psalmists long for God’s dwelling place, yearning for it with a sense of urgency. They understand that meeting with God offers true delight, true satisfaction, and true fulfillment.

Therefore, to dwell with God is their chief desire.

David reiterates the theme.

“One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple.” (Psalm 27: 4)

Wow. I want God to be my chief desire, the captor of my affections. I want to sing and shout for joy, knowing He far surpasses all my hopes and dreams. I know He is the fulness.

But I’ll be honest, I don’t always want God the most.

Sometimes, other things vie for my attention. The hazards of the journey ensnare me. Sometimes, weeds and thorns threaten to choke out the truth, and other pastures seem greener.

But there are things I must recall.

God no longer dwells in a tent made by hands, but in hearts made of flesh. Through the completed work of Christ, God dwells within His church. He ALWAYS dwells with me.

I get to meet with the living God. Daily. Hourly. Minute by minute. In a word, that’s astonishing.

I’m not restricted to the outer court. The veil was torn, the Holy of Holies opened. Rather than ONE man, ONE time of year, I’ve been given constant, total access to God, Himself. Jesus pleads for me. And I can expect grace. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Furthermore, God calls me not a doorkeeper, but FAMILY. (Romans 8:14-15)

How then can I not delight to gaze upon Him, singing and shouting for joy?

How then can I not recall what am to Him?

Beloved. Called. Chosen. Redeemed. Purchased. Family


This post by Ami appeared first at aNew Season Ministries

 

I stand in grace.

“And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.” Romans 5:16-18

God is in the business of glaring contrasts. Condemnation. Justification. Sin. Righteousness. Death. Life. In other words, He loves reversals. What a rich, beautiful idea. When I dwell on these thoughts, hope, comfort, joy, and peace rise within.

I mean life feels dumb sometimes. I could use reversal. Couldn’t you?

I have to view things visually. So, to see the contrasts of Romans 5:16-18, I made myself two lists. One man’s sin brought judgment, condemnation, death’s tyrannical reign, and death itself. But in my other column, one man’s righteousness created reconciliation, justification, the reign of grace, and life.

Within these lists are radical implications. Jesus reversed the curse of sin and death. Amen! In Jesus we have “abundance of grace” and the “free gift of righteousness.” I could park there for a while.

But, what is more, our conquering warrior destroyed earth’s most villainous tyrant, thoroughly reversing the reigning authority. He is the King, bringing life and grace.

Death no longer condemns the believer. Rather, we will be raised with Christ. Death and condemnation have no spiritual power over us. And someday when Jesus returns, He’ll reverse even the presence of physical death!

Do these truths blow anyone else out of the water? Surely then, the ultimate reversal indicates that infinite grace is also available for daily life. We stand in abundance of grace.

Because Jesus reversed my greatest need, He’s already reversed the suckiness of life. After all, if He went so far as to turn death into life, then I can confidently expect that the glaring contrasts of my life are good.

Jon was supposed to die: A crossroads day

???????????????????????????????Jon was supposed to die. I know that’s a provocative statement and probably somewhat controversial. Some with differing views of God, may disagree, but this blog still remains just reflections through my personal walk with grief. It’s still about setting up signposts for myself, so that when I’m through the valley, I won’t forget how closely Christ walked beside me in it. Rather how He carried me through it. But, I do want to encourage you too. My intention isn’t to be controversial, but at the very least I know what I’m about to write will be thought provoking.

Last week I met with Jon’s cardiologist. I wrestled for awhile with setting up this meeting, but eventually realized I had to. My heart in meeting with the doctor wasn’t retributive in any way. I prayed a lot about my motives before I went. I just wanted to express to him my understanding of God’s sovereignty over Jon’s death, and see if he could shed any additional light on what medically caused Jon to die.

I’ve struggled with guilt since Jon died. Perhaps this is a a battle for anyone deeply grieving. But, for me I think the rapid events that led to Jon’s death have made the temptation toward guilt stronger than had he died, for example, from cancer. Does that make sense? With cancer we would have known he was dying. But the night Jon died, it didn’t register what was happening even when the doctor in the emergency room said, “It’s been over an hour. You have to tell us we can stop.” He meant giving the permission to stop CPR. How vividly I remember my near hysterical response, “Are you telling me my husband is going to die? How can this be possible? How can you ask me to make that decision?” I think I just kept saying, “How is this possible?” over and over. As I’ve mentioned before, God did give grace to finally say, “He’s yours.”  But the temptation toward guilt sometimes seemed unbearable. But maybe someone who’s walked through cancer with a loved one can tell me if there is also a battle with guilt.

“I should have taken him to the ER sooner. I should have pressed the cardiologist harder when we were there on Wednesday. Why was Jon so stubborn? I should have taken him straight to Rockford and not Kishwaukee. When he was in the hospital in December, why didn’t they do more tests then?” I should have. I should have. I should have. And why, why, why. Satan and my mind knew how best to buffet me.

But anyway, after I left the cardiologist last week I was astounded by how much God’s sovereignty at last “sunk in.” Like at the experiential, heart level. I’ve known and maintained God’s sovereignty throughout, but now it seems I really know it. One new piece of information the cardiologist had to offer was just how drastically Jon’s valve had changed in less than a month. Of course I never knew the results of the 2nd echocardiogram because Jon died two days after he had it. The doctor told me that he had reviewed the echo on Friday (the day Jon died), and had dispatched a note to his nurse saying that she needed expedite Jon’s angiogram and get it done first thing the following week. Let me rephrase that. He was shocked at how much more deterioration he saw, and knew Jon’s more invasive tests needed to be sped up. But, he wrote that note after 5:00pm on Friday, so no one ever saw it. Jon died that night. It was too late.

After I heard these things, I realized that Jon’s valve had deteriorated much more quickly than the cardiologist was used to seeing. Jon  went from “His valve looks ok. You can definitely wait till summer for surgery” to his body shutting down. And no one could see it. There was more stress on his heart than anyone understood. So here’s my new understanding of God’s sovereignty; Jon was supposed to die.

I may have believed God’s sovereignty this whole time, but last week was the first time I could say those specific words. God could have changed any number of factors leading up to Jon’s death, but He chose not to. He could have had the doctor review the echo the day we were there or on Thursday even.  He could have enabled us to see the cardiologist sooner. Believe me, we were on the phone with the office a lot! We also saw a nurse practitioner at the cardiology office the week before Jon died.

He could have stopped Jon from getting pneumonia or the flu on top of his valve problem. For it is very likely, that one of these was the case.

But He didn’t. And He didn’t allow anyone to fully see the severity of the situation.

And yes, there could have been mistakes made. But that doesn’t matter. Mistakes don’t change the fact that God is sovereign. God even uses human mistakes to accomplish His purposes. So there really is no one to blame.

So I recognize the controversy here. There are those of you whose minds are reeling. “So you’re saying God ordained Jon’s death?” Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. Though we have live in an age of stunning medical technology, doctors still cannot see everything. They are not God.

Because here’s the truth. No person held Jon’s life in his hands, except Jesus Christ. The day and time of Jon’s death was ordained before he was ever born. Just as the day of your death and my death is already known by God.

And some might be thinking, “So how in the world is this comforting?” Well, because I also know that God is good. And because I know God’s character, I can trust His sovereign plan to be good.

So, I sat on my couch the day after meeting with the cardiologist writing and mulling over these things. And I penned the words “Nothing any human does can thwart your plans God. The ‘what ifs’ wouldn’t have changed anything. And God you do use horrible things for good. This is redemption. This is gospel.”

I sat there just talking with God and thought. “Lord I feel as I’m on the brink of seeing some truth in a magnificent way. I think I’m standing right on the precipice of something big in my heart. So you work God. Make your truth clear. And I’ll stay here with you till we hammer this out.”

With a rushing “holy stars and stripes batman” type of clarity, God flooded my mind with truth from Scripture. I don’t think I can really communicate the intensity of that moment with Him. Have you ever been there?  That place where you know you are at a cross-roads of belief where truth penetrates so deeply that it’s life changing? That place where it feels like you can identify with Moses when he took his shoes off because he was treading on holy ground?

How can one communicate these things? Feebly I think.

“I know you are working a reversal. In my eyes, Jon’s death was the worst thing that could have happened to me, but God you are changing it to something infinitely good!  Something I’ll look back on and say ‘That was good. God meant it for good. I wouldn’t change it.’ And I’ll say ‘God your plan is so much better!’ Death bringing forth life. Perhaps Jon’s death is bringing forth a life in me that I never imagined. You are using it to accomplish something great in me. And Jon would want that. Because he loved you far more than he loved me.

The theme of reversal is all over the Bible! Think of Job, Joseph, Daniel, Rahab, Ruth, Esther, the Samaritan woman, the prodigal son, and Paul just to name a few. They all experienced real, tangible reversal in their lives. Joseph was thrown in prison, but then exalted as 2nd only to Pharoah! Daniel was throw into a pit filled with lions, but his accusers were the ones that got eaten for dinner! Ruth was a barren widow, but she was redeemed and included in the line of Christ! The Prodigal squandered all of his inheritance, slept with prostitutes, and got so hungry he wished he could eat pig slop. But O how his Father looked for Him! And then exalted him and lavished grace on him when he returned. “Bring the robe. Bring the ring. Kill the calf. We’re having a party! My boy’s come home!”  And then there’s Paul. Shipwrecked, beaten, jailed, you name it, but the gospel went to Rome and then to all of Western civilization! Countless have believed as a result. Reversal.

Then there’s the imagery The potter smashes the clay and reworks it into something more beautiful. “Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles?’’ (Isaiah 45) Or “can I not do with you as this potter has done?’ declares the Lord. ‘Behold like the clay in the potter’s hand so are you in my hand?’’

There’s a beautiful sentence in Isaiah 29. “You turn things upside down.” And that’s just what God does.

And what about the vineyard? The vinedresser prunes every branch that it bear more fruit. Sometimes he must strip it down till it looks barren. Till it seems that there will be no more fruit. But the branch is still very much alive on the inside because it is connected to the vine. (John 15) I learned this astonishing thing about wine grapes the other day. The vines that struggle the most, produce the best, most high-quality grapes, and therefore, the best wine. The most intense, lovely flavors come from the vines that have had to push their roots deep to get to the water and the nutrients, in essence to struggle for their very existence. So winemakers will intentionally create “distress.” It’s true. Do a google search. So on the heels of that thought, my brain took it a little further. Wine grapes are a lot smaller, more compact, and bundled more closely together than table grapes. Therefore, the flavor is also more saturated. So here is this lovely thing in of itself. But how does it become a much more valuable product? You’ve got to crush the grapes first.

And I think about Jon. God already did the most spectacular reversal in his life… death immediately turned to life. No more faulty heart valve. No more weakness. And no more struggle with sin.

And all these people, and all the imagery points to the ultimate reversal!  On the cross Jesus reversed the curse of sin and death. He reversed the ledger of debt taking all of it on Himself, and canceling out the record of debt against me. He made himself to be sin for me, so that I might be made righteous. It looked like He was defeated. Yet He rose again! So in His is death and resurrection He triumphed openly over His enemies making Satan truly a naked dog on a leash. The serpent doesn’t believe it yet, but Jesus has already crushed his head. The reversal has been made. The victory is accomplished. He will one day reverse even the curse on creation. And there will be no more death.

Can you see me just about leaping as I type this? Don’t you just want to shout with me? “Hallelujah! What a Savior!”

So God really did hammer it all out in my heart that day.

“O Lord there have been several crossroads days on this journey with grief, and I think this is one of them. You literally, truly are making a reversal out of the “worst.” And the greater the “worst,” the greater the reversal of good! You give back more than you take. The good is always in ridiculously larger proportion than the bad. Jesus was made the lowest, and now He is exalted, supreme, in His rightful place. O God if you love me enough to reverse the very curse of sin, then surely you are reversing the ‘badness’ of Jon’s death!

I can expect something beautiful. God is working a reversal–A real, physical, tangible transfer of bad to good, not just a nebulous concept. Some things I’ll not see till eternity, but I can also expect God to do immensely good in this life.

I don’t know how God’s working, but I can anticipate that He is.

So when guilt stealthily creeps in, I can look back and say, “God you illumined my heart to these things in a radical way. I know your lessons are true.” Satan tries to sift me, but I don’t have to be sifted.

And when I think of my Jon, though he would have wanted to stay, he would have wanted Christ more. And now he would not want to come back. He’s more alive than any of us. Perhaps there was a time of surrender where he said, “God do what you want with me. Do what you want with Ami. Do what you want to make us more like you.” In fact, I know there was.

“O my soul praise you! Lord I just humbly bow and worship. That seems to be the only response I can give.”

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