Have you even been in a storm, a really big one? I remember years ago ministering in a Retreat Center in Wisconsin, when it was hit by severe straight line winds that took down 1,000 trees, including one adjacent to the room when I was staying at the time. But there are other kinds of storms: the ones that strike our lives and circumstances.
THE MOST DEVASTATING STORM OF MY LIFE
It began two years ago, when my son-in-law David Plaisted unexpectedly died. Traveling in Australia, with his son Mitchel, I had just spoken at a National Leadership Conference when I received the news. It was devastating, not only to me but to all his family and friends. Not long after that I took sick, was out of action for three months, ended up in hospital four times, eventually receiving a pacemaker. Since then my daughter Joy had a herniated disk requiring surgery, my wife Dorothy had skin cancer and more recently PMR. You could say we have been going through a storm. This season has been the most devastating time of our lives, but, out of all this I want to share with you some of the ‘lessons I have learned going through a storm.’
1. I learned about Grief.
I thought I knew what grief was like, but I really didn’t. Even though I had been in ministry 50 years and ministered to many people in their time of grief, I had never felt the pain and anguish of grief like I did through all this. David was, as a friend observed, like the son I never had. We also had a vision for David to become the pastor of the church I was leading and I would be his assistant. That vision died with him. I grieved his going from us. I personally discovered, it is not wrong to grieve. Indeed, it is unhealthy not to. Isaiah 53:3 tells us Jesus was ‘acquainted with grief.’ At Lazarus’ death it is stated, ‘He wept.’ You have to grieve in a healthy way. You recognize you never get over it but you get through it. It is a process and it takes time. You have to be patient with God and with yourself. We remember Paul’s admonition in I Thessalonians 4:13, ‘concerning those who have fallen asleep (i.e. died) lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.’ Yes, we grieve but we have the sure and certain hope of being reunited in heaven above.
2. I learned that God is with you in the Storm.
God is faithful for He himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrew 13:5). The words actually go back to Deuteronomy 31:7-8, ‘Be strong and of good courage. And the Lord God is the one who goes before you. He will be with you and He will not leave you nor forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.’ Those were Moses’ words to Joshua at the end of his life. The older I get the more I appreciate and depend upon ‘the faithfulness of God.’ So, I declare that even if I do not understand all that has happened, or why, I will trust God anyway, because He is faithful and true.
3. I was reminded to get a Godly Perspective on Life.
When I took sick and my wife was told by the cardiologist, ‘He just may take a nap and never wake up,’ I was reminded about a wonderful passage I heard Marilyn Hickey preach in Dr. Cho’s church in Korea, based on the word, ‘For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.’ What have I to complain about with ‘this light affliction.’ It is only for a moment compared to the glory that awaits us. We have to see our lives against the backdrop of eternity.
4. I was reminded that All Things work together for Good.
At the Omega Team Annual Conference shortly after David’s death, James Goll gave a powerful message that came out of the death of his own wife. He shared these three confessions –
- God is good all the time.
- All things work together for good.
- The best is yet to come (At the time, he was still working on that one. It is very similar to what I always say, ‘The best is yet to be.’)
I believe it. Many Christians have a superficial understanding of the goodness of God. It is much deeper than what most believers have tapped into.
Maybe you are going through grief at this time. Hold on to God and He will bring you through the storm.