Monday, September 29, 2008

Witness to Hope

For two consecutive Mondays, unexpected funerals have disrupted the lives of two separate families in my community. It has been difficult to watch the grief that infiltrated each of the families surprised by the premature death of a loved one. The circumstances seemed sudden, knocking the breath out of those affected, leaving each family member with more questions than answers, more sadness than smiles. However, the godly examples and love demonstrated by each family evidenced that our goal is not the absence of sorrow in our grieving, but rather that we refuse to grieve as those who have no hope.

News of the first death occurred while at the beach for what was to be a three-night getaway with some women from a couple’s small group my husband and I attend. Coming in from our first day at the beach, lathered in sunscreen and sand, covered in laughs that were carefree, my dear friend received the devastating news that her mom had passed away.

It was shocking and surreal, and I physically felt the pain of my sweet friend’s grief. We quickly made the decision to pack our belongings for the drive back home, knowing that there were small children to comfort and a grieving father to sustain.

It was a long drive through the late evening and early hours of the morning, but most certainly, a period of time I will never forget. There were tears and laughter, and moments of somber reflection. Wide-eyed and wide-awake we recounted stories to our friend who at times needed the distraction and at others a held hand for support.

Reflecting on the long hours in that car that night, I realized with great clarity the gift God gives to all believers. My friend grieved just like one would expect but with a distinct difference and manner than those who don’t know Christ. She was profoundly sad at her family’s loss and the undeniable void that her mother would leave behind, but she mourned as one with hope, one who knows that this ultimately ends well in the perfect plan He has for us all .

The many hours in that car, and the difficult days that followed, were not sustained by the love of family or the embrace of close friends, but instead, strengthened with the love, grace and hope of the God who calls my friend His child.

It was a privilege and an honor to witness that hope firsthand.

A few days later, a beloved first grade teacher at the Christian school my children attend would unexpectedly pass away. Sudden and complicated illness would leave a husband and two teenage children behind with a devastating emptiness that one begs to never experience.

The night before Mrs. T died, as she lay in critical and grave condition in a local hospital, the annual benefit dinner for our school took place. It is a fund raising event that not only highlights the many talents of the students, but also demonstrates how Christ in the curriculum promotes lifelong and purposeful excellence.

Mrs. T’s high school aged daughter performed that night, dancing joyfully before five hundred with a poise and determination that no amount of applause could have sustained or supported. She danced with the strength of Jesus, as one who mourned her mom’s inevitable death, but one who had hope nonetheless. I watched in awe and with great admiration, the courage of this young girl who undoubtedly questioned the timing of her horrible circumstances, but trusted Him enough to praise Him in dance anyway.

It was a privilege and an honor to witness her hope firsthand.

Today, I thumbed through last year’s yearbook, remembering the teacher who had influenced her family, first graders, school parents and community in a way that will long impact God’s kingdom. Testimony to Mrs. T’s inspiration spoke loudly in the words left by her oldest daughter - a Senior in highschool at the time - who left the following quote behind for all underclassmen. It said:

“The will of God won’t take me where the grace of God won’t cover me.”

It is a privilege and an honor to witness her hope firsthand.

“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

“…weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. “(Psalm 30:5)

6 comments:

Mom of Eleven said...

Today, her older daugher stood and spoke at her mom's funeral. It was an honor to witness her hope first hand!! Talk about God giving her the grace of God to cover her. She did an awesome job, and when my little K went over to hug her after the funeral, she was the one, not K offering hope and hugs to sweet little K. It was priceless and memory I will share with K one day.
Thanks for such a beautiful recount of both stories. Both help encourage me of a new, glorified body that is totally healed and made perfect in heaven. Both stories include that as the hope of GLORY!
It has been a busy week on the "kingdom calendar" as Beth Moore calls it.

w

Meritt said...

Joni - I'm glad you've started to write more about God and your faith lately. :)

elizabeth said...

You don't even know how very much this spoke to my heart today....I didn't lose a loved one, but this related to what I am experiencing this week. Thank you for reminding me of the important things. You are such a blessing to me...in blog and NOW IN PERSON!!! Again, thanks for this...God was speaking through you to me (and probably SO many others!). See you tomorrow.

Liz

JMom said...

beautiful!

karen said...

Joni- We were looking at the yearbook over the weekend and I, too, came across the quote left by Mrs. T's oldest. I was totally blown away! I know those girls are going to have some hard days, but after talking with them after the dinner Thursday evening, on Friday at the hospital and then the funeral home on Sunday evening, I was so blessed just by talking with them. Oh what comfort and peace Jesus brings when we know our loved ones know Him. Thanks for sharing these stories.

Emmy said...

thank you for sharing... beautiful!