Before that day, tears had been hard to produce. Up until then I wanted to cry, but couldn't seem to squeeze the liquid out of my eyes. I knew enough by then to understand that tears can be a sign of emotional health; but, for me, they had always...always (as an adult) been hard. When the dam broke, I found myself standing in a hospital hallway wracked with sobs. I didn't care who saw or heard the awful picture of my grief.
I was 25 years old at the time. My 20 year old sister, Carol Beth, had just been removed from a ventilator. Within a few moments, her heart stopped, her lungs exhaled their last breath and she was pronounced dead. Frail since childhood, her heart had been ravaged by an infection that couldn't be eradicated. Her cardiologist, a Christ-follower, said to my parents: "Her heart is beating as long as we keep pumping air into her lungs. However, her brain activity makes me think that she...your cherished daughter...is already with the Lord."
How does a person walk through such a dark valley? How does one endure the loss, the loneliness, the "Why?" that seems to scream from every fiber of being? The answer to those questions is what I began to understand that day as I stood in a hospital hallway sobbing. The Bible puts it this way, "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." (Romans 8:28 New Living Translation) As my tears flowed, I knew from somewhere deep inside...
"...God causes..." God wasn't asleep at the switch and He wasn't passively sitting by while we suffered. The very chapter where this verse is located has some of the greatest love promises in the world located there. I knew that God wanted to cause something to happen through this tragedy. I knew that the "something" He wanted to cause would result in "good."
"...everything..." The sinner wants to take credit for the good in this world and blame God for the evil. The saint wants to do the opposite; credit God with the good and blame humans for the evil. Both can lose sight that God is in the business of taking even the darkest of this world's events and turn them into something right and good and redemptive. It was the darkness of the concentration camps that gave us Jews like Elie Wiesel and Christians like Corrie Ten Boom. God is in the business of turning tragedy into triumph.
"...to work together..." No, everything is NOT good. My sister's early death was NOT good! But God had good that He wanted to bring from it, and He did! That day in the hospital hallway, I heard Him whisper to my heart: "I am teaching you about grief. I am shaping you to help people who are hurting." Not long after that, I began talking with families in times of great loss. I stood with parents who lost their children and children who lost their parents. I couldn't begin to imagine the depth of their individual pain. But I could understand something about grief and what it does. I also had learned first-hand how God pours out His grace to people when they are in one of the dark valleys of their lives.
Whatever your challenge, regardless of the intensity of the pain, God wants to use your broken times to prepare you for a future you can't imagine. It's a future in which He will take the very hurts that attempted to destroy you and use them to shape you into a conduit of His love and hope for the world. Trusting Him for that future is critical for you to get out of your rut. It's what we will talk about this weekend at Stone Ridge Church. Can't join us? Catch our podcast here.