If you’ve missed any part of this series, click on any post directly below.
Part Two-My Storms in a nutshell
Part Four-More Depression
Part Five-Even More Depression
Part Six-Guest Post, Dan Blanchard
Part Seven-The Last Depression Post
Part Eight-Death of a Child
Part Nine-Death of a Child
Part Ten-Guest Post, Holly Good
Part Eleven-Death of a Child
Part Twelve-Death of a Child
Part Thirteen, Death of a Child
Part Fourteen, Death of a Child
Part Fifteen, Death of a Child
Part Sixteen, Conclusion
“It is simpler for us to believe that God is only orchestrating the good things in our lives, but Scripture is full of people whose most life-changing encounters with the Lord occured while they were in places they didn’t want to be:
Moses was leading sheep in the middle of a dry dessert
Daniel was in the lion’s den
Jonah was in the whale’s belly
John the Baptist was in prison
Lazarus was in the grave
The same happens today. Even difficult life circumstances are being used to give us clear reception to hear His voice.”
~Priscilla Shirer, Discerning the Voice of God
About two months after Noah died, our church began a new series of classes that would be offered on Sunday mornings before the regular weekly service. At first, Jon and I agreed that we’d take an adult class. Our friends and Pastors, Rocky and Terri Morris, were teaching a class on marriage and family—an obvious class choice for us. Not only because of the topic, but also because Rocky and Terri sort of tucked us under their wings in the aftermath of our loss. We felt the need to stay close to them.
But as I sat in church on that Wednesday evening, reviewing the brochure describing all the different classes, I was drawn to teach the two-year-old class. What? Teach?! Jon and I had never worked in children’s ministry prior to that, and really had no particular reason to have interest in teaching two-year-olds. Still, I felt a gentle nudge from God that we should pursue this opportunity.
At first, Jon was not at all excited about teaching this class (FYI, two-year-olds are hard work!), and was reluctant to commit to anything so soon after Noah’s death. After all, I was still very emotionally and spiritually unstable, and Jon would bear the burden of keeping me “together” should the commitment prove to be too much to handle. We both loved children, but felt very inadequate teaching a class, especially without any prior training or experience.
Jon and I agreed that we’d take the next few days and pray for specific direction. I was really just hoping God would speak to Jon, because I had zero confidence in my ability to hear God at that point. So for the next few days, I waited for Jon to come back to me and report what God was telling us to do.
That Sunday morning during our worship service, for the first time since Noah’s death, I lifted my hands and began to worship God. It had been two months since I worshiped God from my heart. Two months since I did much of anything in church, but sit and stare at pictures of Noah, tucked in the pages of my Bible.
But that morning, I stood up and I lifted my hands and my voice. I began to weep and thank God for His goodness to me. Sincerely thank Him, despite every horrible thing that had happened to us in that previous year. I sang from the depths of my soul the lyrics of the worship choruses, and I felt the love and peace of God envelop me. It was like a cool shower after wandering for months in the hot desert.
At that very moment, I heard the voice of the Lord speak to my heart. He said,
“If you teach the two-year-olds it will be healing to you.”
The voice was so clear that it physically jolted me. I actually opened my eyes and looked around to see if Jon heard it too.
He didn’t. He was standing next to me with his head bowed and his eyes closed. I smiled and whispered in Jon’s ear, “God just gave me our answer.”
“What did He say?” Jon asked.
“I’m not telling,” I whispered back with a smile. “I want to see if He says the same thing to you.”
That afternoon Jon went out to mow the lawn and pray—don’t you love how you can just talk to God anytime, anywhere? An hour or so later, he came back in and said, “I prayed about it, and I really don’t think we should teach. It’s just not a good time to start something new. We really need people to minister to us right now.”
For a second I was confused and disappointed. How did I miss that when God spoke so clearly? But then I realized that my emotions were all over the map. I was completely unstable, and no doubt, unable to discern God’s voice over any other. Jon was right. This was not a good time to take on any added responsibility.
So, we skipped the 5 pm mandatory teachers’ meeting and went straight to the Sunday evening church service. About half way through the sermon, the pastor stopped preaching. Literally, right in the middle of his sermon, he stopped. And he looked out into the 4000 member congregation and said,
“There are two people here who need to teach the 2-year-old class. I’m not looking for volunteers. I’m talking directly to the two people God has spoken to. You know who you are. Please see my wife after service.”
And then he went on with his preaching.
I’m totally not kidding or exaggerating. That is exactly what he said. And no, we did not tell a single soul that we were considering this position. No one knew.
Jon and I looked at each other and our jaws dropped open. I wanted to jump up right then and there and scream, “It’s us! It’s us!!!! We’re the ones!!!!” But lest I confirm every ridiculous stereo type about charismatic Christians, I chose to respectfully remain seated until the service was over. It was AFTER service that I ran up and made a fool of myself.
A few weeks later Jon and I stepped into a classroom full of twelve beautiful little children…all age-two. Some were shy and some not so shy. Some could speak well and some barely at all. Some were potty trained, others…not. But one thing was true of all of them. Week after week they jumped into our arms, and eagerly absorbed anything we taught them about Jesus. They competed for space upon our laps and room within our hugs. They ran enthusiastically to us when their parents dropped them off and cried when their parents picked them up.
Much to our surprise and delight, it wasn’t long before the parents and the children’s pastor recognized a gifting within us for children’s ministry. The children’s pastor asked us to take a permanent position in the two and three-year-old class, which we anxiously agreed to do. Before long, she asked us to train other new teachers. And about three years later, we took a position creating and running the preschool and nursery departments for a new and growing church near our home. A position we held for three years until God moved our family to Kentucky. And the curriculum and training manual that I created during that time went on to be used in five different churches in three different states.
God was right. For us, children’s ministry was a perfect fit at that time in our lives. The children offered unconditional love and filled a giant gaping hole in our hearts. They never asked intrusive questions about our faith or about our plans to have more kids. They were unable to comprehend our loss, so we never had to try to explain it to them. The curriculum we taught was very basic—perfect for us, as we grappled to come to terms with our own faith and our God.
Prior to that time, Jon and I had never ministered together side-by-side. But this was something Jon and I did together, which bonded us firmly during a very fragile season of our marriage. Truly, during the darkest days of my life, I recall the faces of those little children who God brought to us—and I recall the joy, the warmth and the laughter they showered on us.
Hearing God’s voice in the middle of the storm is vital to our healing. When logic tells us to withdraw, God leads us to minister. When logic tells us it’s too hard, God leads us to refreshing waters. Never in a million years would I have chosen to step into a brand new leadership position in the wake of Noah’s death.
It made no sense.
But God knew what we needed. He saw our lives, even years later, and the many lives He’d ultimately touch through us if we said “yes.”
What is God saying in your storm? When you lift your hands and truly thank Him from your heart, what is it that He whispers in your ear? What is it that He’s telling you would be a key to YOUR healing?
Children’s ministry may not be the answer for you, but putting your energy (what little you may have) into something of eternal value certainly is. His word promises that He will use your loss for good. (Romans 8:28) He will also use your effort to look outside yourself and actually turn it back toward your own heart to accelerate the healing. It is one of the paradoxes of scripture—when we give our life away, we reap life more abundantly. (Matthew 10:39)
Through skillful and godly Wisdom are my life, my home and my family built, and by understanding are they established on a sound and good foundation (Proverbs 24:3).
Everything I have—right thinking, right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from you (I Corinthians 1:30).
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Your word promises that you will instruct me and teach me in the way I should go. You promise to counsel me and watch over me (Psalm 32:8).
Therefore, I choose your instruction instead of silver or gold. Your wisdom is more precious to me than anything (Proverbs 8:10-11).
Though it may be difficult at times, I choose your wisdom, for it is supreme (Proverbs 4:7).
I will let my eyes look right on with fixed purpose and let my gaze be straight before me. I will consider well the path of my feet, and let all my ways be established and ordered aright (Proverbs 4:25-26).
I will lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all my heart and mind, and will not rely on my own insight or understanding. In all my ways I will know, recognize and acknowledge you and you will direct and make my paths plain and straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Then wisdom will enter my heart and knowledge will be pleasant to my soul. Discretion will protect me and understanding will guard me (Proverbs 2:10-11).
I will listen to your voice and heed it. I am your child and you call me by name and lead me out of this place. You walk on before me and I follow you because I know your voice. I will never, on any account, follow a stranger, but will run away because I do not know the voice of a stranger or recognize his call (John 10:3-5).
I will only follow you, Father, and do whatever you tell me to do about my family, my job and my ministry. I will commit my works to You so that my thoughts will be established and my plans will succeed. (Proverbs 16:3)
And whatever I do, no matter what it is, in word or deed, I will do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus and in dependence upon Him, giving praise to God the Father through Him (Col 3:17).
In Jesus’ name I pray…Amen.