Count it all Joy

There was a moment five years ago when it truly felt like my heart was shattered into pieces with five short words, and I was forced to scream out of the uncontrollable pain inside of me. It was as if my soul was being strangled, and after that moment had passed, it took a long time to feel human again. People like to say that time heals all things, but in my experience, time only numbs, and for me, I lived a very numb life for many years after.
I remember praying, even after I knew Isabel was gone, that somehow The Lord would take me instead of her. Although this sounds very selfless of me, I can see now that it was very selfish. I couldn’t process the turmoil within me, and so I wanted to die to escape from my regret and grief.
The time in between our parting of ways as friends and her death had truly been the final step for her to turn to Jesus as her Saviour. At her funeral, I was told by many of her close family and friends that Isabel had grown to truly love Jesus Christ and follow after Him. Only hours before her death she asked her mom for one simple birthday gift, a cross necklace to remind herself of her purpose and to be a witness to others, and because of this I know I will be celebrating in heaven with her one day.
I often think of one of the last conversations I had with Isabel. Normally I was the one who wanted to talk about God and pointed to the Bible, but as we walked along with our Starbucks in hand, she listened to my pathetic complaints about my trials in life and said, “Hey, well look at Job! He didn’t understand why he went through the things he did either. But maybe God has a plan for you.” And she was right. God was about to set me on the path of refining through fire. And although Isabel and I didn’t know then, God was about to use her death to bring me to true eternal life in Christ.
I don’t know exactly how the mystery of salvation happens. I could give you many verses explaining the Biblical theology behind salvation, but truly it is a remarkable gift that only God can give, so how can I truly begin to explain the process of how He saves sinners who cannot be near His holiness? Truly the important thing is what He has done in order to save previous God-haters like myself, which is send His Son, the 2nd person of the Trinity, down to live among us with the flesh of a man, yet being 100% God, never sinning, only to finally lay down His life and be crucified on a cross, taking on the punishment you and I rightly deserve and conquering sin and death by receiving God’s just wrath for sin instead of us. I grew up knowing this truth, but had never truly encountered the God I claimed to know. Not because God had not revealed Himself to me countless times, but because I rejected His call to submit to Him, I did not truly know Him.
When Isabel died, I realized that although I was pining to die instead, I was already dead, because I didn’t have Christ. And although she was physically dead, she was now truly alive because she was one with the God she trusted and believed in for salvation.
As I have spent today reflecting on the way my life has been altered, I am reminded that despite the pain and loss I have personally experienced, there is no way that her death can minimize the grace and beauty of my Saviour Jesus who rescued me from my sinfulness. I can see now that any death I experience in this life, death of a loved one, death of a dream, death of a relationship, my Saviour has already had victory of death, and in Him I am truly free.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. – James 1:2-4

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