Our friend Gordon shares how a tragic loss of a close family member led him back to redemption and to dedicate his life to Christ.
Romans 8:28 reads, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”It’s a verse that I committed to memory a long time ago, but it’s one thing to know something in your head and another to believe in your heart. This past year, I never found this verse to be truer, more powerful, and more freeing.
The year began with our church losing its senior pastor. It was not only a huge blow to our ministry, but to me personally. About a month later, my girlfriend of two years also decided to end things. A few weeks after that, my younger sister unexpectedly passed away. In about three months, I had lost three of the closest people to my heart. After this, I decided it best to spend the rest of the school quarter at home. I retreated from my friends and my church family. Consequently, my conversations with God were less and less frequent and church attendance became a chore (especially without a pastor). This downward trend continued on for several months until what would have been my sister’s 19th birthday.
Saturday, June 26th should have been a celebration of another year of my sister’s life, but instead it was a painful reminder of how short her life was. The Sunday morning after, it was especially hard to go to church. At this point, I felt no need or want to go, but I did anyway. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, I would give a ride to a friend to church, but this Sunday, of the five people I normally drive, none needed a ride. Rarely do I ever go to church alone, but this time it was so.
I arrived at church earlier than most, and since I didn’t drive anyone, I sat in an empty pew. As people started coming in, a friend named Irene and some of her friends took the seats beside me, and as service started, I was pleasantly surprised to see Pastor Barney take the pulpit. He had guest-spoken a few times at our church and our retreats and had been a good friend. After announcing that he would be stepping up to be our interim pastor for the next six months, Pastor Barney began his message on suffering. It felt like he (or perhaps it’s better to say He with a capital H) was addressing me personally. And that’s not all. Now if you know Pastor Barney, you’ll know that he’s a bit unorthodox. As his message came to a close, instead of giving the benediction prayer as traditionally expected, he decided to “try something new” and asked us to do it amongst ourselves with the people around us. Irene and her friends saw that I didn’t really have anyone to pray with, so they asked me if there was anything specific I needed prayer for. Being the introvert that I am, I normally would not have shared something so close to my heart, but I felt compelled by the Spirit to share about my sister. In tears, I told her how the day before would have been my sister’s 19th birthday and how hard of a year it had been. Irene then began to share how she had lost her younger sister eight years back as well and knew exactly what I was going through. She and her friends then prayed over me, and after service let out we talked some more.
It was the day after my sister’s birthday, I came to church alone, was seated next to someone who went through exactly what I was going through, and on top of that, Pastor Barney just so happened to speak on suffering and then asked us to pray amongst ourselves—it was evident that everything that happened this particular weekend transpired to bring Irene and myself together. Her prayer and our conversation brought a great peace and comfort to my heart, because it showed that God orchestrated all these events for that specific moment. There is no such thing as luck or coincidence in a saint’s life, and this is testament to that. From this point on, I felt God surrounding me with a tremendous amount of grace—David Crowder said it best: “If His grace is an ocean we’re all sinking.”
It has definitely been a difficult year, but despite it all I can still joyously proclaim that God is good. I am now closer to God than ever and continue to run after Him. I am also now actively involved in the youth group at my church, and I’ve come to see them as younger siblings. Without all that had happened this year, I would not be as close to God as I am now. Sufferings and trials in our lives bring about fruit if we cling to Him. The fruit that we bear doesn’t always have to be our own personal growth, but that others can be blessed through our experiences (as Irene blessed me). Our walk is never about us, but about Him and how we can bring glory to His name. It is only through God that such seemingly terrible circumstances could bring about such beauty, because only in Him is there so much beauty in brokenness – His power is made perfect in weakness. So I hope that after reading this you are encouraged and reassured that God is faithful, even in the darkest times of our lives. Let go and let God.