But those of you who knew my Jonathan can testify of his persistence and exuberant passion for anything he set out to do. Things were done with wholehearted devotion or not all. So, before Jon died he felt strongly that he needed to start writing again. And I agreed. My love had a fantastic way with words, and I knew without doubt that God would use his words to encourage others and spread the gospel. I always told him that someday he should write a book. Blogging was perfect for Jon. And I was content to be his cheerleader, his behind-the-scenes “editor and chief,” as it were.
Even as I type these words, I smile because I imagine him with a smirky grin saying, “I told you that you should write, lovee.” You see, though we had no idea Jon’s earthly life would end so suddenly, it seems as though Jonathan planned his blog for me. In my mind I hear him saying,”Ok, now you have no excuse. The blog is already set up for you.” Of course, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, he had persistently told me for months that I was the one who needed to write. Stinkin Jonathan Andrew! I love you, but this is not funny! However, when Jon set his mind on something, he usually got his way. So, somewhat reluctantly, here we are. My first blog post ever.
My desire is to continue what Jonathan started. I want his legacy to spread as far and as wide as God wants to take it. He would not want himself praised though. He would want Jesus exalted and magnified. My husband lived with reckless abandon for God and the gospel. He was captivated by Christ. He lived and breathed that others would know the truths of redemption, propitiation, and adoption: to have the same hope and confident expectation. Oh that I would have even half of his passion! I always told him that God had great things planned for his life. This is still true.
Even in my grief and sorrow, by grace that only God gives, my soul cries within me, “My life is yours! Take it and do with it what you want, Lord!” I recognize my utter need for and dependence on Him. I’m a big mess. I can’t even get myself out of bed in the morning, nonetheless express thoughts and feelings for others to see! God has seen fit to strip my faith and life down to only Himself. He is teaching me the reality of “Hallelujah, all I have is Christ! Hallelujah, Jesus is my life!” He is teaching me to trust Him when the bottom falls out, when all I hold dear is gone.
However, I must admit, I still selfishly view this endeavor as merely for myself. I’m writing for solace, comfort, and healing. But I suppose I give you permission to look over my shoulder.
In the weeks since Jon’s death I’ve been brought to questions that I never thought I’d ask. “How can this possibly be good, and how can you possibly expect me to praise you? Why didn’t you save him God? Have we struggled to live faithfully and obey you for nothing? Do I still believe you are who you say you are?”
And in answer God keeps taking me to a journal entry I wrote a week before Jon died.
“Father, I bow my heart to you, and I recognize my deep need for you. Lord I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed because of Jon’s health. The not knowing and waiting for answers and a timeline for surgery is hard. Lord he just coughs and coughs at night, and I feel helpless like there is nothing I can do to make it better. His cough has definitely gotten worse over the last few days, and nothing seems to be providing relief. He feels achy and exhausted. I think we are both feeling emotionally drained. Father I pray you would help us trust you. To trust that you are sovereignly in control of all things, even congestive heart failure and pulmonary edema. Lord, I pray that surgery would be in your timing. If we can’t wait till summer, I know you will take care of us. I know you will provide. You are faithful. You have always met our needs. Help us to draw near to you. Continue to strengthen Jon spiritually. Give him abundant grace to to be dependent on you. To know that you are strong when he is weak.”
And after that prayer, God gave me overwhelming truth from His word:
Isaiah 43: 1-4 “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 shalt 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. I gave Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored and I love you.”
“You are mine.” — ‘What defines me is not my guilty blindness, but the Grace of the One who chose me. I am secured by God’s resolve to be glorified through my salvation.’ (From the ESV Study Bible)
“When you walk through the waters…” Trials and suffering will come because our world is still broken. Because I still live on a fallen planet. Though God has put a new spirit within me, my physical body is still broken. The brokenness and deep waters will always be there until Jesus restores all things and makes them new. But to His chosen ones, there is great promise. “I will be with you.” The God who lovingly, artfully, masterfully formed me also chose me and purchased me. This God says He will be with me. The God whose love has no boundaries says that He will walk with me through the water and fire. He will protect me, and He says my soul is secure. Jesus already absorbed all of God’s wrath for me on the cross. I was the “worm” from Isaiah 41, but Jesus died for me! And now, though I can’t fathom it, He calls me precious, adored, chosen, His own possession.
Psalm 66:10-12 ” For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried…We went through fire and water; yet you have brought us to a place of abundance.”
There is such beauty here! “place of abundance”– after the fire and water! Lord I believe you will bring us again to a place of abundance. I know we must go through dark times–the water, the fire– to be more like you, and in order for your reflection to shine accurately through us. For your name to be glorified.”
All of this I wrote a week before life crashed around me. God knew what He was doing. I didn’t know He was preparing me to face inestimable pain. But even these words are grace.