I think I’ve already established that I’m the worst blogger in the world. I’m inconsistent, I over promise, and lie to myself weekly that I’m going to blog more frequently. Today, I’m giving up the lies and admitting that (at best) I’ll blog sporadically. Still, I do hope that what I actually write is potent and worth your 5 minutes away from Facebook.
So here goes, I’m doing a look back at these last couple of years of being widowed. 2 years ago was a big day in my life, one that I’ll always remember. It started with a trip to the hospital with my wife Danielle, one that I’d taken dozens of times before. That morning was different though, because instead of walking in gingerly holding hands, I ran into the Emergency Room with my lifeless wife dangling in my arms screaming for help. She had stage 4 primary cardiac angiosarcoma, and it finally caught up with her, despite her valiant and gracious battle against it. That morning, as soon as we pulled up to the E.R. doors, she stopped breathing. For the next several minutes, I watched the ER team strip her clothes with scissors and defibrillate her heart back into beating. Without a doubt, it’s the worst sight I’ve ever seen.
If I could describe the weeks and months leading up to that nightmarish morning, I would say that it most resembled hell on earth. The persistent hum and rumble of her oxygen machine was the soundtrack for the movie of my life and I watched her deteriorate from a gorgeous, courageous woman, to an emaciated shell that didn’t have the energy to be awake for more than 10 minutes at a time.
I was furious. I was scared as hell. In between the momentary lapses between experiencing my worst nightmare, I would muster up enough faith to pray, or think about God and I wondered how this crushing would shape me. Would I despise God? I thought I had every right to. He gave me the front row seat to watch my Dani die and I reasoned that my only chance at retribution was to hate Him until I died.
Now, why am I reliving all of this? This isn’t a therapeutic endeavor for me, trust me, I’ve spent enough hours laying on my therapist’s couch, with tears streaming down my cheeks into my mouth as I laid there, fighting to speak, fighting to grasp what happened. And in time, those sessions, combined with a lot of great family and friends and have been a salve to my wounds.
I’m on the other side of grief, this is a scar, not a scab. If you’ve hung out with me in person you would know how content and happy I am. And that’s not a front, I really am. The point of what I just wrote wasn’t to evoke sympathy from you, but to legitimize what I’m about to say. None of my assertions come from a book I read, just simply from what I’ve experienced first hand, and know to be true.
Most people live their lives and their sole purpose is to be happy. That’s an empty pursuit. I’d actually attribute the shallowness of American thought to our over-pursuit of happiness, and our valuing it as the ultimate pursuit. Your decisions, conversations, fears, pursuits, ambitions, friends, relationships and everything else that fills your life are mostly aimed at making you happy. But suffering doesn’t make you happy…at all. So when things go wrong, you’ll immediately (as I did) dismiss the suffering as something out of place, something that we want over as quickly as possible so that we can return to our pursuit of happiness, what we think is our purpose. That my friends, is a waste. God uses our pain as a part of His plan, and nothing in His hands goes to waste.
I’m not saying anything is wrong with being happy, or wanting to be happy. As I said earlier, I wake up every morning happy and I hope every day from here on out is spent smiling and laughing. But make no mistake about it, suffering (if from God), is a gift. Equally true, happiness, if not from God is a curse. I know that sounds insane, and you might want to stop reading, but I urge you to hear me out.
When we hear about things like the terrorist attack in Boston, the explosion in West, Texas, or a story about an 8 year old dying of a brain tumor, our tendency is to believe that there’s nothing good that can come out of that. And while none of those things are good at any level, God can and does use horrendous things for our good.
There’s a scripture that I had been thinking about that on the surface doesn’t say too much, but tells us a lot.
“the disciple whom Jesus loved” John 21:7
Here, the bible is referring to John the Evangelist. You may doubt whether God loves you, but it’s clear that the Apostle John, author of the gospel of John and the Book of Revelations was someone that Jesus loved. No doubt about it, God loved this dude. So, a look at his life is an example of what God loving us can look like.
Well, he suffered along with the early church, lost a lot of friends and family presumably watching them be eaten by lions and/or burned. To top it off, he was eventually boiled (alive) and then exiled. I repeat, he was boiled alive and exiled. Not the happiest life, but that’s not what God is after for you or for me. God’s love for you won’t ever prevent suffering. If God loved John, and he got boiled alive, we can’t assume to know what God loving us looks like..
I know a lot of people and have many friends that can’t believe in God at all because of suffering. It is oftentimes the hurdle to believing, and I think that’s because many people believe the goal of life is to be happy. I’d say that the Apostle John, or any other Christian that suffered at the hands of God wouldn’t agree with that, they’d say the opposite. They’d say, as I’m saying to you now that the pursuit of God and the pursuit of happiness, while not mutually exclusive, are not the same. Even more importantly, our entire purpose of being here, the only thing that will fill us is God, and knowing Him makes all things garbage in comparison.
Here’s a couple things I’ve learned in 2 years of being widowed that I wouldn’t trade for the world:
1. There’s no clearer moment in this world than when it’s just you and God.
2. God really won’t ever leave or forsake His people. Seriously. Even when I wanted to punch Jesus in the face, God was faithful to me, and walked with me every step of the way through the present.
3. God likes you. He’s not out to get you.
4. Suffering situations are the ripest soils to grow to know God better.
5. Suffering situations are the ripest soils for you to get to know yourself, your true self better.
6. God loves people that hate him. Angry prayers prayed through tears, yelling and frustrations might be the purest prayers you’ve prayed, or will pray.
7. Though painful, God never acts arbitrarily. If there’s a God, and I believe there is, than He’s infinitely more wise than us.
8. We live for God, not the other way around.
9. Knowing God is the ultimate satisfaction, fulfillment, happiness and purpose of all of our lives.
10. I don’t have a #10, but 9 things seemed weird.