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
Daddy to Diana Jane
Deceased at age 4
And author of A Grace Disguised
Journal entry dated sometime in August, 1999
Well, it has taken me over a year to get the courage and strength to “finish” this baby book…my feelings are like a pendulum. On the one hand, I am so thankful for the nine months God gave me with Noah. On the other hand, I thought that God healed him!? I never thought Noah would die. I did everything I knew to move God to heal Noah.
A time eventually came—sometime after the first year—when the daily anguish of the loss subsided. When life settled into “normal.” I began to feel peace and joy on a more consistent basis. Things certainly weren’t perfect or pain-free, but I was back on my feet and looking ahead to my future. It was about that time when I came to my knees in prayer and approached the Loving Father with one of the most sincere requests of my life. I still remember the place, kneeling on my family room floor in front of my couch. This prayer came from the depths of my heart, between groans and sobs. It wasn’t worded this eloquently, but here is the general idea:
“God, I don’t ever want to go through something like this again. I wish I would have never been given this trial to endure in the first place. But since it has happened, use this loss for my ultimate good. Do not allow Noah’s death to be in vain. Please allow me to get everything out of Noah’s death that I am supposed to get. Use it to purge me of everything that is impure, unlovely and unholy. Do everything in me that You need to do…so that I do not ever have to suffer like this again. I want to be changed.”
Almost immediately, a thought came to my mind, “Love God. Love people.”
I honestly was not expecting to hear that. Wondering if God was trying to speak to me, I went to my bible to search for something that sounded like this. I found the account of the Pharisees and the Sadducees asking Jesus which commandment was the greatest.
From that day, I began a year-long quest to fully understand this commandment…and God began a gradual transformation in me that started with the most basic instruction: Love God. Love people. For years I had been a Christian and had missed the importance and the enormity of this, the Greatest Commandment. And now, in the aftermath of my storm, God had assessed the damage, cleared away the fallen debris, and began building a new foundation in me. He showed me that more than anything else, He wanted me to love Him with complete abandon…and then He wanted me to love the people He placed in my life in the same way. Literally, every change in me flows from this decree.
It has been a gradual reconstruction that has taken every bit of the last eleven years, and it still continues today…but I have changed in ways that would not have been possible had it not been for Noah’s death.
I realize at this point in your journey, you probably cannot wrap your mind around that. You may never foresee a day in your future where you actually feel thankful for your storm. I understand. For quite some time after Noah’s death I, too, cared little for how I might be “changed” through my ordeal. But I feel like our series would not be complete without including this information. If anything, I want to give you hope that because of the promises of God, you will not need to spend the rest of your life cursing the day you entered the storm.
While I’m sure this crisis permanently altered every area of my life in many ways even I do not realize, there are some quite obvious and wonderful ways God has allowed Noah’s death to transform me. Briefly, here are just a few:
1. One of the immediate changes was in my compassion toward others and my sensitivity toward those who are hurting. Suddenly, I awakened to a world of hurting people. I found myself weeping during the nightly news (especially news stories where children were hurt) and at the prayer request of a friend. I don’t know what I was doing prior to this loss, but I was never so aware of all the pain that people around me were enduring. It felt like blinders came off when I buried my son. I also became very sensitive to what comes out of my mouth when I’m talking to someone who hurts. I’ve made it my passion to reach out to those who are suffering fresh loss.
2. I’ve become more merciful to those who appear rude and distant. When I’m out in public, I often recall trying to shop for funeral clothes or for groceries a few days after Noah’s death, remembering how impossible it was for me to interact appropriately with strangers. I remember thinking that I hurt so badly, I wanted to vomit…just get me out of here! Now when someone snaps at me or fails to make eye-contact I wonder if that person is really in pain, not rude. It causes me to pause and remember…and then deal with them more gently.
3. I’ve become completely free from the trap of “people-pleasing.” I’ve become very aware of God’s purpose in my life, and I’m not bound by what others expect of me (trust me, this is a huge one!). After living most of my life trying to gain the acceptance of others, I now have little concern for what people think of me or how I spend my time. Since my main goal is to serve the Lord and love the people God has placed in my life, I’ve become bolder and completely uninhibited to share our story and our testimony of God’s love and grace in our lives.
4. I am a better mother. I cherish the little things more. I’m aware that every time I kiss my children good-bye or good night, it could be the last time…which makes me kiss them longer and more sincerely. Often during times of stress with my three small children I’ll ask myself, “If this were the last day of their lives, is this how I would respond to them?” Only a mother who has had a “last day” can understand the impact of that question. I’ve embraced the seasons of life as they come, knowing how quickly, and sometimes prematurely, they pass.
5. I have a stronger marriage. Since Jon and I have weathered this storm together, we’ve learned to drive our stakes deeply into the ground. During times of stress and tension in our marriage, I am able to remind myself of the things we have already made it through…and everything else seems small in comparison to it.
6. My priorities are in better order. I still catch myself losing perspective sometimes, but for the most part, I have a very clear picture of what is important and what is not. Time is precious, and I’m fully aware of every minute that I spend. I take great care to protect my time and the time of my husband and children. I often ask myself the question, “Does this thing that beckons my attention have eternal value? Will it matter five years from now if I do this? Am I storing treasures in Heaven or treasures on earth?” And then I do the hard work of storing my treasures in Heaven.
7. And speaking of that, I have a better understanding of this place called Heaven and of the concept of eternity. Noah’s death caused me to research these topics like never before—I wanted to know everything about my baby’s new home! I’m now more confident in my final destination, and I’ve never been more excited to go there!
8. Finally, and most importantly, I’ve attained an intimacy with God and a love for His Word that I never had prior to this tragedy. I’ve known this for years, but it became especially obvious to me in the original writing of this series (in 2004). As I wrote the chapter about Noah’s death, I remembered at Noah’s funeral the minister asking me if there were any scriptures that were especially meaningful to me that he could share during the service. Other than salvation scriptures (that I shared with “unsaved people”) and healing scriptures (that I memorized only in the months of Noah’s short life),
I had managed to live nearly my entire Christian life retaining almost nothing from God’s word.
But when I began to write the chapters that followed our story, the scriptures just burst from me like a broken dam, because I have spent years clinging to His word like never before. I learned the beautiful practice of “praying” the scriptures as a direct result of Noah’s death. Now, I have a passion and hunger for His Word that I can’t seem to satisfy. It truly has become like daily bread to me. I hear God’s whisper. I sense His presence. I talk to Him constantly throughout my day as a person would talk to a best friend. Before I seek counsel or direction from any person, I go to Him first.
As we conclude this series together, I realize that many of you are standing at the beginning of the long road ahead—looking with uncertainty into your future—hoping and praying that things will get better than they are now. I know many of you are enduring unthinkable hardships and heartaches, even as you read this. I remember how horrifying that place is. In my mind’s eye, I have embraced every one of you and cried with you. I’ve imagined your faces and your tears. I’ve pictured myself sitting with you, holding your hands, and telling you personally everything I’ve written in this series thus far.
If there is one thing I want you to take away from my words, it is hope—hope that you also can come through your storm whole and restored. I want to stand as a testimony of the power of the Living God. But I don’t want you to just look at me as an example…I want you to look past me—into the face of God. My story and my words cannot restore you, but God can.
I used to believe that my defining moment was the moment Noah died. But Noah’s death did not define me. It was my response to his death that defined me and allowed God to change me. Had I chosen to respond differently, I would not be the woman that I am today. I am completely aware of how difficult this decision may be for you.
I confessed previously that my sole motivation in turning toward God at the beginning was my burning desire to see Noah in Heaven when I died. It was not my love for God. I knew that if I ever wanted to see my son again, I needed to continue to serve God. The amazing thing is that God met me there! Even in my pathetic spiritual state, God embraced me and comforted me…and eventually completely restored me. That is the unconditional love of God!
So, dear broken-hearted, weather-beaten friend, I leave you with a question:
Will you succumb to the anger and bitterness that threatens to overtake your soul? Please don’t. Will you demand an explanation from God and refuse to be comforted until you receive one? You may never get an explanation good enough this side of eternity. Will you distance yourself from the God who allowed this storm, declaring that He is undeserving of your love because of the pain He has caused? That would be a worse tragedy.
Or will you turn to the light of the Word and run into the arms of your Heavenly Father? Will you admit that you don’t understand why this happened, but you will try to trust the God who does? Will you allow the truth of the scriptures to take root in your heart until it becomes truth to you? Will you receive the love and grace that God longs to extend to you? Will you run toward God or away from Him?
Two different directions. Two incredibly different outcomes. Your decision will determine your destiny.
I am praying continually that every individual who is reading this series will be drawn closer to Jesus Christ…that wherever you are today, you will take just one step closer to Him. He promises to restore you and change you …and I am living proof that His promises are true…just reach out to Him.