Category Archives: family

Mom and Dad, Thank You

mom-and-dad-my-wedding-2007

 

In a recent post, Tim Challies shared a few practical ways adult children can honor their parents. One of his suggestions was to esteem your parents privately and publicly. So, I’ve shared the following with them in private, and now, with their permission, I share it with you in public. Thank you for taking a moment to read, I pray the lessons bless you as they’ve blessed me.

 

Mom and Dad-

The Bible says to “honor your mother and father” (Exodus 20:12). I know I haven’t always done this well, but I trust you both know how much I love you. As my years increase, I have given more thought to ways God has used you to shape me into the man I am today. I could list many things, but I’d like to share one for each of you and then one for the both of you.

 

Mom, you taught me how to make a house a home. 

From what I can remember, I lived in seven different houses growing up. But no matter where the house was, it was always home. You made sure of that. I don’t remember fancy decorations or eccentric decor. But I do remember a warmth that withstood the winters of life.

Home was a refuge for me. In my early years I was picked on and ostracized quite a bit, but home was always a safe place. I never felt the need to run away. I never feared coming home. I don’t remember there being stress, though I’m sure it was present.

Holidays were fun. I don’t know if we received many gifts, but I know what was given, was done so in love. Meals were faithfully prepared for us. Encouraging words occupied the air. You wanted us to have wonderful memories, and my mind is filled with them.

But our house wasn’t just a home for our family, it was a home for others. Our door revolved so much I’m surprised we didn’t have to replace the hinges. People called you “mom,” because you were one to so many. People loved you because you made them feel like part of the family, even if it was their first visit. You made enough food for visitors and always let people stay over if they were in trouble.

This hospitality marks our family today. Carrie and I have had people live with us nearly every month since we’ve been married. Our dinner table is often graced by friendly faces. The Lord uses your example from my childhood to help our family do this well. I love you mom.

 

Dad, you taught me to work hard and to work with hope. 

Laziness was not permitted in our family. You knew that we only have one life and that if we wanted to get anything out of it, we needed to work hard. Whether you were starting a new business, turning someone else’s around, or dreaming of what might be next—you showed me what it means to work with diligence.

When set backs came, your resilience shined. When others would have quit, you smiled and said, “there must be another way.” You worked hard because you wanted to do well, but also because you wanted to do well for us. You wanted our family to have what we needed. And thanks be to God, we always did.

You challenged me to begin working young and save money. When I was twelve, you loaned me cash to buy a lawnmower. You helped me get jobs and helped me improve when I got fired. You never let me say, “I can’t” without exhausting every conceivable way forward. You never let me quit a team. You weren’t a drill sergeant, but you were a firm and fatherly leader. You encouraged me, and pushed me to be excellent, and never to do things “half-hearted.”

This marks me today. God has taken your example and set it apart for Himself. He often brings your words to mind and I believe He will use your lessons to help me be a more faithful servant with what He has entrusted me.

And though you worked hard, you also worked hard to be present. For as many hours as you labored, I never remember you being absent. I remember fishing trips and walks with the dogs. I remember you being home at night and wrestling with me when I was younger. I remember you and mom being at every single one of my games, no matter what.

This too has marked me, though I often feel I fall far short. Thank you for pushing me to be man who works hard, yet doesn’t forget why he is doing it. You have forever shaped me dad, and I love you for it.

 

Mom and dad, you’ve stayed married through the good days and bad.

In God’s wisdom, He brought you together many moons ago. You were young, in love, and according to your stories, probably still a little stoned. You scrapped together what you needed, but it didn’t matter what you had, because you had each other.

As the days passed, God blessed you with a couple of awesome kids. Your tribe increased, and so did your joy. As I remember, you were wonderful parents. Our house was filled with laughter. We ate most meals together. We always had food, even when times were tough.

I remember dad stealing a kiss from mom any time he could. He always told her how beautiful she was. The affection you guys showed each other taught me how a husband and wife should love one another. Our kids see this today in the way Carrie and I love each other. Thank you for that.

I remember our family going to church together nearly every week (even though I only went for the girls). I remember mom singing the Old Rugged Cross and reciting Psalm 23 and the Lord’s prayer while I snuggled in her lap. I remember our beach trips to the Outer Banks, and road trips to grandma’s house.

You partnered together to encourage me in playing sports and doing my homework. I remember dad doing all he could to provide for our family, and mom steadily working at the hospital. You were a good team together, and I praise God I got to see it.

But not everything was easy. Broken bones, burned homes, car accidents, and nearly empty bank accounts put pressure on your bond that would have caused many others to break. Though you were cracked at times, you did not give way. Only you know the depth of your private pains and disappointments. There are some scars that only heaven will heal.

But as I have watched you persevere, I have learned what love is. You didn’t have a perfect marriage, no one does. But you have had a lasting one. And that’s saying a lot. God has brought to my mind, more times than I can count, the fact that love doesn’t quit.

Mom didn’t quit on dad.

Dad didn’t quit on mom.

You didn’t quit on each other.

Kells don’t quit.

We fight and pray and persevere by the grace of God. And that has marked me. And I have great hope it will mark generations of Kells to come.

You have blessed me more than you know. And I trust someday you will see when Jesus shows you.

I am forever thankful to call you my parents.

I love you both.

With eternal gratitude,

Your Son—Garrett

What Happens To Our Pet When It Dies?

buddies

 

This morning, we were awakened by the tears of one of our children. They had found our dog, Nellie, dead on the floor.

Nellie was a cross-eye Chihuahua who was relatively new to our family, but she had already brought us much joy. She was about as good a dog as a Chihuahua can be.

As the tears flowed, the questions began to flow as well.

 

“Why did Nellie have to die?” 

“Why did God take Nellie so soon?”

“Will we see Nellie in heaven?”

 

While some may think these questions are silly, I do not.

The longer we live on this fallen planet, the more sorrow we face. Some suffering is small, and other is great; but it all hurts. Some families experience tragedy early and often. Ours has been spared significant tragedy, but times like these leave their mark.

After a little while, we were able to talk about what we were feeling and what questions we were processing. Here are a few highlights.

 

  1. We know why our pets die.

Death is one of the saddest and most certain realities of this life. There are few things like death to sober us—whether it be a pet or a fellow image bearer. A cold, stiff body that lacks the life it once supported is a heavy reminder that something is wrong with our world.

So why does death happen? The Bible tells us plainly that when Adam and Eve sinned against God, a curse was put not just on humanity, but on all creation (Genesis 3:14, 19). Because of this, death comes for all of us; people and animals alike.

Some may want to shield their children from discussions of death, but we do not.

In Deuteronomy 6, God instructs Israel with His commands and then gives parents this charge, “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:7).

Discipleship in the home happens as we live life together, and as we bury pets together. We tell our children that death is in the world because of the curse of sin. All of us will die, and days like these remind us that even our beloved pets are not exempt.

 

  1. We don’t know why our pets die when they die. 

Death comes for all of us in a time and in a way that is most normally unexpected. Nellie was, as far as we could tell, a healthy little dog. She seemed to go peacefully in her sleep. I have also lost other pets in much more traumatic ways. When my daughter looked at me and said, “Why did she have to die now?” I simply held her and said, “I don’t know.”

God never tells any of us when our time is up. When we love someone, it always seems like our time with them was too short. I encouraged her that our family loved Nellie well, and she loved us in like measure. I also reminded her that we need not be afraid of losing those we love, but we must love them as well as we are able while they are with us.

 

  1. God is not cruel, He is caring. 

The God of the Bible is not a cruel, distant, absentee father who simply calls His suffering children to “suck it up.” Rather, He gives us precious promises.

One we talked about is from Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

When pets die, it is a fine time to grab a promise from the Lord and allow it to bring you comfort. Again, for some this may seem like a petty thing to bother God with. But I want to assure you it is not. In fact, if your god doesn’t care about the tears of a child who has lost their beloved pet, then your god is too distant. The God of the Bible does not scold us for the kinds of sorrows we have. He meets us in them, whatever they may be, and points us to Himself as our only sure comfort.

 

  1. God doesn’t tell us what happens to our pets when they die, but we can trust Him.

Anyone who has ever had a pet die has asked, “will I see them again?” Some give hearty assurances based merely on what they hope will come to pass. But hope is far too precious to cast it on what we desire to be true. It is safer to base our beliefs on what God says is true. And on this issue, He just doesn’t say.

Animals do not have the same hope humans do, because humans are distinctly differently. We are created in God’s image; animals (and angels) are not (Genesis 1:26-27). People have a unique ability to reason among living beings (Psalm 32:9). Jesus came as a man to save mankind, not animals.

Yet the Bible does speak about the presence of animals in the life to come. Isaiah 11:6-8 and Isaiah 65:25 list numerous animals as they describe the eternal kingdom of God. God’s promises of the world to come portray a world in which animals will know the peace they too have longed for (Romans 8:18-25).

I think this gives us good reason to assume that God will fill the New Heavens and New Earth with redeemed image bearers, elect angels, and all sorts of animals. Beyond this, we do not know much.

Will our animals be in heaven? It is best to be honest and say we do not know. I would not be surprised if God, in His generous wisdom, chose to allow us to enjoy the company of familiar animals in glory. But we can be certain of two things.

First, we can be certain that if it will bring God more glory and it will help us to enjoy Him forever, then God will reunite us with our pets. God knows what good gifts to give us, now and for eternity (Luke 11:13). As Romans 8:32 says, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” God knows what is good for us to have, so we can trust Him.

Second, we must guard our hearts and not allow love for pets or animals to diminish or love and trust in God. No matter how good any gift God gives us, we must remember that He is the One worthy of our devotion, not the gift itself. Pets included.

So how did I answer my children?

I told them that we don’t know exactly what happens to our pets when they die. But we do know God is good, we can trust Him, He will do what is best, and that I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if we saw our pets again in glory. If I’m wrong, that’s fine, there is no serious doctrine in danger, nor are my children’s hopes tied to anything other than God’s wisdom in dealing with His children.

 

To read more perspectives on this topic, consider these articles by John Piper, Randy Alcorn, Jim Daly, and Christianity Today.

 

 

Till Death Do We Part – Keeping the Vow Till the End

A member of our church named Julie recently shared the story of her Grandparent’s love with me and my wife so I thought I’d pass it on to you.Groom waiting on Bride

“My Grandparents truly had a lifetime love affair. Their marriage was imperfect of-course, but was marked by a consistent, devoted, and tender love for one another.

Their love remained steady in times of plenty and in times of need. In all the days and nights I spent at their house, I never heard an argument between them. And while I’m certain difficult days came and went, I never witnessed one disrespect the other.

Shortly before my Grandparent’s 54th wedding anniversary, my Grandma became gravely ill. Watching his beloved bride suffer made those days very difficult, but Grandpa stayed by her side until she safely reached her heavenly home.

As he grieved and planned for her funeral, he wanted to honor his wife one last time and fulfill his vow “until death do we part.” So on the day of her funeral, he stood at the altar one last time. As the doors opened and the pallbearers brought his bride down the aisle, he waited for her in the same spot he stood 54 years earlier when she walked down to become his bride.

That day he fulfilled his vow and committed her into the hand of the One who had given her to him. He was faithful, all the way to the end.”

 

“Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church…” Ephesians 5:25

Daddy, Are They Going To Kill The Christians?

 

Haddon

“Daddy, are they going to kill the Christians?”

My four-year-old son’s question broke the silence during our trip to school.

Earlier that morning he heard me praying for the 90 Assyrian Christians ISIS soldiers kidnapped from their homes during morning raids on their villages. He could tell I was distraught and began to ask questions.

“What happened to the Christians, daddy?”

I told him there are bad people in another part of the world who hate Christians and are trying to hurt them.

“Why do they want to hurt them?” he asked.

I explained that some people don’t like Christians because they follow Jesus. Jesus is the King of the world and people don’t like having a King ruling over them, so they sin by turning away from Jesus. Jesus tells us that if we are going to follow Him, some people won’t like us either (John 15:20).

He asked a few more questions and then we went back to our morning routine. But, during the ride to school, he broke the silence with the question that couldn’t escape his little heart,

“Daddy, are they going to kill the Christians?”

I told him they might. Many other Christians have already died because they follow Jesus. This happens all over the world to Jesus’ people.

“Daddy, what is Jesus going to do about it?”

These are the moments Christian parents know are important. When a child’s heart is stirred and their mind searches for answers. It’s also times like these that parents are pressed to find simple words to explain complex realities.

I told him that Jesus is going to save some of the people who hurt the Christians and He is going to stop some of the others.

“Why would Jesus want to save them?”

His perception caught me off guard. I knew the right answer, but I felt the same tension my son felt in his heart.

Why would God do such a thing as save ISIS soldiers?

Why would God save people that slay His bride?

Why would God redeem sinners who rape His children?

Why would God give mercy to villains when they withhold mercy from His people?

I told him it is because God is not like us. God is a God who loves His enemies and does good to all people, even evil people (Matthew 5:43-48). God doesn’t delight in evil people perishing, but loves to see them be saved (Ezekiel 18:31-32, 33:11; 1 Timothy 2:3-4). I told him that Jesus loved people in that way, including him and me. That is why Jesus died and rose—to rescue us from our sins (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

In that moment I was sobered by my son’s child-like wonder. Trying to find clear and simple words to help his four-year-old mind process such mysterious love pressed me in a sweet and uncomfortable way.

What wonder it is to consider that Jesus left a world filled with voices crying “Holy! Holy! Holy!” to enter into our world filled with voices that cry out “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” for one reason—to glorify His name by saving sinners (Isaiah 6:4; Matthew 27:22-23; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 John 4:9-10).

On the cross God shows us that He is a God who loves His enemies and is willing to shed His blood for those who shed His (Romans 5:8). There He put on display His compassion for compassionless killers (Psalm 103:8). What kind of love is that? It is amazing love. Worthy of our trust. Worthy of our lives.

As my son hopped out of the car and scurried off to class, I was moved by praise and to prayer.

 

Praise and a Prayer

While I’m grieved that my son has to ask those kinds of questions, I praise God that He does. We live in a world of brokenness and pain, and to watch him enter in is difficult to observe. But while that is true, I am also grateful that my son has an opportunity to consider the cost of following Christ.

In God’s perfect plan, he is learning what it means to be a Christian in a sobering time in history. Christians have been laying down their lives for thousands of years, but the modern day assault by Islamic radicals feels unique—and shows no signs of slowing down.

I praise God that my son and his siblings face the call of Christ in a context that will help him to see the cost more clearly. I pray that He will see the immeasurable value of having a Savior who does not flee from us when we are in trouble or are in danger. In fact, if the incarnation teaches us anything, it teaches us that God moves toward our danger and toward our trouble.

I praise God that this is the Savior I can call my son to follow—no matter what it might cost him.

 

Father, we pray for our brothers and sisters who are suffering around the world. Give them strength to trust you as so many of them are being asked to surrender their lives for Your Name’s sake. Give them strength to endure to the end so they might be saved.

We also pray that we would be sobered and count the cost of what it means to follow Christ. We pray that our children and our churches would learn from our persecuted brothers and sisters who are teaching us what it means to take up the cross of Jesus.

 Might you give us courage and wisdom to follow their example of faith, trusting that You are the Rewarder of those who seek You (Hebrews 11:6). And Father, I ask for my son, that you might save his soul and make him a man, who like those captured Christians, the world is not worthy of (Hebrews 11:39-40). Spare us from suffering, but if not, give us grace to endure it in a way that brings you honor.

 

Come Lord Jesus, come.

 

Remembering Dad’s Death – Peace in an Unanswered Prayer

Here I am snuggled up with dad in his favorite red chair. I miss him much.

Me snuggled up with dad in his favorite red chair. I miss him much.

This post is written by a guest author, my wife, Carrie Kell

“Dad, hey it’s me. I called to see if you know what you were doing 33 years ago today?”

“No, I don’t think I do. “

“You were looking at me for the first time.”

The silence was broken with a tearful voice, “You’d think I would remember that, huh? I guess it is August the 8th. Happy Birthday, Sis (he called me sis or sissy for as long as I can remember).

Dad actually never forgot my birthday. I wasn’t upset though, I knew he hadn’t been himself lately.

I had called him a few days earlier and he’d asked me (for the 3rd time) if I knew what “the baby growing in my belly was yet.” I reminded him it was a boy, and he was just as shocked and excited as he was the other two times I told him. I knew something wasn’t right.

What I didn’t know, however, is that the last time I would ever speak to my dad (perhaps for eternity) was on my 33rd birthday. I am forever thankful that I called and reminded him what day it was. His response was so sweet. He was emotional. I often wonder if he knew he was close to the end.

The Day

We were in Speculator, New York where Garrett was speaking at a family camp. We were there to relax and be reunited with some dear friends from Texas. I would need those friends that week more than I realized. The Lord’s timing always amazes me and encourages my faith.

Two days after we arrived, on August 10th, 2013 my sweet husband came to me in the dining area where I had just shared laughs with my friends. He led me by the hand into the hallway and said those words I’ll never forget, “Carrie, your dad died.”

My eyes widened in disbelief, but deep down I’d known something wasn’t right with him lately. But still, my dad? Mike Church? It just seemed so surreal.

You always know that your parents will die one day, but you can’t really grasp what that means before it happens. In fact, you can’t really grasp what it means after it happens. Losing those you love is very strange.

Mike and Me

My dad wasn’t like the dads my friends had growing up. Nor did he even come close to the kind of dad my children will have. But he was what God gave to me—and for that I am truly thankful.

In the early days of my life I remember curling up with him and falling asleep in his oversized red recliner he loved so much. He coached my sports teams, took us on vacations, and made sure to get us gifts we wanted at Christmas time. He tried to be a good dad, but he could only do that in his own strength for so long.

I was 11 when he left me, my mother, and my brother. He became a man of self-love and basically did as he pleased for the rest of his life. This kind of life with Mike Church wasn’t easy. There were years that he didn’t try to have a relationship with me, nor did he seem to care when I tried to have one with him. We were not his priority anymore. He was his own priority.

He thought this would make him happy. So he ran after it with all his heart, which is so sad, because it ended up being the very thing that made him so miserable and lonely. And it was my father’s misery that God used to soften my heart toward him.

The Changing of the Heart

When I was a freshman in college, the Lord convicted me about the way I felt toward my dad. Now you might think that I was angry at dad for what he had done to our family, but I wasn’t angry—I was apathetic. I seriously didn’t care. He had left us and I had no need to care about him.

The change began one evening after a conversation with a new friend. He wasn’t a Christian and was struggling to find happiness in his life. He’d been through hard things and was at a breaking point.

After my conversation with him, I went back to my dorm room with a heaviness like I had never experienced before. I began praying for him and pleading with God to save him. During that prayer I began to wonder how I could care so much about this person’s salvation, but not for my own father’s?

In many ways my new friend was much like my dad (he even shared his birthday). His self-centeredness didn’t make him easy to be friends with, but as he shared about his desire to find happiness, it softened me towards him. The Lord used that night to melt my heart and teach me not only what it meant to be broken over my friend’s salvation, but to begin to love my dad. Where my heart had once been so indifferent towards him, the Lord gave me a deep love for him. There is no explanation for this love except the grace of God.

A Father to the Fatherless

One of the first things God impressed on my heart was that if I was going to love my father, I was going to have to forgive all his sins against me. I had grown cold to the sting of those sins, but I knew they were there. In His mercy, God reminded me of how much He had forgiven me in Christ.

It was through this that God gave me grace to extend forgiveness to my father for all he had done to me. Jesus loved His enemies, and He called me to do the same (Luke 6:27-33). What I have found is that loving those who are difficult to love is only possible because the Lord does it for you as He works through you. My faith increased so much in those years, because I was certain the deep love I began to develop for my dad wasn’t my own love, it was the love Christ gave me.

The Lord also taught me that to love my father, my expectations would have to change. When I began to love him as a lost person and not a dad, it gave me freedom. I no longer expected Mike to be a real dad to me. He wouldn’t ever be that, unless God changed his heart. But this didn’t mean I would be without a father to care for me.

In Psalm 86:5 God promises that He would be a “Father to the fatherless.” Though my earthly father had abandoned me so many years ago, I have a heavenly Father who will never leave me or forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6). God had promised to supply every need of mine according to the riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19), and making me His daughter is the greatest of those riches.

The good news of the Gospel isn’t only that Jesus forgives my sin through faith in Him (which is amazing), but that He gave me grace to love my dad and gave me assurance that God would forever be my Father.

The Prayer Unanswered

Though God changed my heart toward dad in college, my prayers for his salvation had begun long before that. I knew he was a lost man and desperately needed Christ, just like I did. I wanted him to have freedom from the life he lived and the pain and loneliness I could see so clearly. I also became convinced that I was his daughter for this very purpose (Acts 17:24-30).

Because the Lord had so changed my heart toward my dad, I really believed that eventually he would see his need for a Savior. I believed he would look back over his life, see where he had failed, and find hope and forgiveness in the only place he could—Jesus!

I prayed for this almost daily. I didn’t know when it would happen, but I was certain it would. I struggled to trust the Lord in other areas, but I was sure that the Lord would hear the cry of my heart and let me see my dad come to know Him!

Because of this hope, I shared the gospel with my Father often. A month before he died, I sat in his house in tears as I shared the importance of loving God, knowing Christ, and knowing his need for Christ’s forgiveness. He wasn’t convinced. It broke my heart, but not my faith.

That proved to be the last face-to-face conversation I had with my dad. We only spoke on the phone a handful of times after that day, including the day I reminded him of my birthday.

When dad died I was certainly sad, but even more so, I was confused. Why did I not see God save my dad? Why did God change my heart toward my dad if it weren’t for the purpose of seeing him believe? What did this mean about God’s character if twenty years of prayers for my dad’s soul weren’t answered?

Peace in the Unanswered Prayer

Though I have many unanswered questions, the Lord has given me peace. Though my prayers were not answered in the way I had envisioned, my heavenly Father loves me more than I can imagine and I know that all He does is done in faithfulness (Psalm 33:4).

1. I have no regrets.

By the end, dad knew I loved him, and I knew he loved me as much as he was able. Dad also knew the Gospel. I don’t always do this well with others, but the Lord gave many opportunities for me to share the love of Jesus with him and I truly believe there was nothing left I could have said.

Sure, our conversations weren’t always easy and I often walked away discouraged, but by God’s grace I have no regrets today because I shared the Gospel with him. This has served as a great encouragement for me that I will never regret sharing the Gospel with someone—especially once they are gone.

2. I have hope in God’s mercy.

Because I had shared the Gospel, I can rest in the fact that dad knew where to go for mercy if he wanted it. I don’t know what the last few days of dad’s life were like. I wasn’t there when he died. But I do know that as long as someone has breath, they can cry out to God who delights in saving those who seek Him, even if it is with their final breath (Luke 23:42-43).

This peace did not come quickly for me. There were many days and nights of praying and questioning since his death, but God’s mercy gives me hope, no matter what happens.

3. I have trust in God’s greatness.

Though I don’t know that I will see my dad again, I know that I can trust in the great love and wisdom of my heavenly Father. Once I am in His presence in heaven, I know I will lack nothing. In this I rest and in this I hope. Until that day, I will take my anxious heart to His Word and find comfort in truths like this,

“O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. 2But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. 3O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.” Psalm 131

Losing my dad has been a sorrowful journey and one that will change my life forever. But my sorrow has been put to rest because the Lord has quieted my soul. He will hold me fast. He will hold me fast.

How Dark Days Taught a Daddy to Pray

dark days

My wife and I met Cliff and Diana several summers ago at a family camp where they were vacationing with their two children. They’re a simple family who radiate contentment in Christ in a way that draws others in and puts them at ease. Cliff’s humility toward his wife and children has always been instructive and a bit convicting. Though we don’t see them often, we’ve grown to love this family as our own.

Over the past two years, Cliff and Diana have faced a heart wrenching situation with their daughter Anna who has endured tremendous suffering at the hand of a mysterious disease. At various times during this trial I’ve been able to speak with Cliff about the pain, fears and countless questions their family has faced.

As part of my preparation for a sermon on Psalm 13, I asked Cliff if he’d share with me his reflections on that passage since he and Diana have recently faced such desperate times. What follows is an excerpt from the email he sent me.

           

When Anna first started having severe stomach pain in December of 2011, I didn’t have any idea of what the next 16 months would bring.  At first, you think it’s just some virus or infection and that the doctors will be able to quickly diagnose and prescribe some medicine for it. 

When one doctor visit turned into the next, and various specialists were called in, all to no avail, it started getting more concerning.  While I prayed for Anna every day, I didn’t do much else. I was making it through on my own strength for the first 6 months. I still had work and church and other responsibilities—none of which I let “slack” during this time. 

That started to change in August of 2012 when Anna lost the ability to walk.  Let’s be honest, pain is something you can’t see.  You don’t know how much pain your child is in, especially when Anna did almost all her crying with Diana. When she could no longer walk, it became much more real for me.  I could now see that her pain was real. 

It was also during this time that Diana began to show signs of the break down that was just on the horizon. She couldn’t carry the load on her own and even things that were “simple” started becoming a challenge for her.  I began helping out more, praying more, and trying to use the wisdom God had given me in His word. 

During this time, Diana started drifting into despair.  A lot of this was caused by her thoughts about the future. She’d ask questions like “how will this affect Anna’s wedding” and “will she even be able to get married?” Now Anna was 10, so the consideration of things that were 15 years away would seem to many to be ridiculous—at least to people who hadn’t watched their daughter deteriorate so fast. 

It was during this time that scripture started playing a significant part in helping Diana and I through each day. Verses like “don’t worry about tomorrow” from Matthew 6 made more sense and prayers like “Lord, give us today our daily bread” became about all we could muster. 

Over the next month and a half, I started to help a lot more. I had to, as Diana was losing steam quickly. I spent more time with Anna, both to comfort her, and to relieve Diana of that responsibility. In hindsight, I can see that while I was looking to God, I was still trying to make it through in my own strength—I wasn’t desperate yet. 

In September, Anna couldn’t go to school because the pain was so bad.  Diana started wondering if it could possibly get any worse.  We found out it could.  In the first week of October, Anna lost the ability to see.  Her eyes became so sensitive to light (or even the thought of light), that she had to wear a blind fold during all the daylight hours. 

Having a child that can’t walk is hard. Having a child that can’t walk or see was unimaginable for us. Having no diagnosis to any of it was unbearable. Not only was Anna going down in a tail spin, now so was Diana. Nothing I could do or say could make our situation better.  It was during this time that I truly started to become desperate.  The first verses of Psalm 13 didn’t apply to me before this time.  Now I became that man who cried out “how long O Lord?”   

I watched my “average weight” wife lose dozens of pounds. I could count every rib and every vertebrae of her backbone. I watched her tremble constantly as she was unable to sleep and unable to talk coherently. This was coupled with my daughter falling into despair because she could no longer do anything normal children did. There was no running outside or swimming in the pool. Laughter was absent. All she could do was lie in bed in pain. Our world had turned black.

It was during these days and months that I would lie in Anna’s bed for hours with her, watching her crying hysterically in pain, sobbing and asking me to make the pain stop.  I cried and cried—and I prayed.  These were no longer token prayers.  These were now prayers of absolute desperation in which I was pleading and begging God to make this stop. 

These prayers weren’t fancy worded prayers, the type of stuff you hear in church.  They were the prayers of an absolutely powerless man who was helpless to do anything other than hold on to his daughter and pray.  It was also during these times that I started praying out loud with Anna. 

When the pain got so bad, and the crying so loud, and I had prayed silently for what seemed hours, I would say, “let’s pray.” Anna would quiet down some and I would pray out loud.  Since her crying subsided somewhat as she focused on what I was saying, I would pray – and pray and pray. 

It was during those prayers that Anna got to see her dad as he really is. I’m a dad that doesn’t have the strength to make it on his own.  I’m a dad that is utterly dependent upon God.  And hopefully also, a dad that has no doubts whatsoever about the reality and power of God. 

And while God never instantly healed my daughter, as I’d asked a hundred times, there were many times that Anna quieted down, the pain seemed to subside, and she was able to fall asleep. And in all honesty, in those moments of desperation, that is really what I needed, and what Anna needed most. 

Though we were in darkness together, I believe the light of God’s word gave us strength. Our family took comfort from the promises God gave us that one day all this pain will be gone, and that we will be with our Lord.  These promises shaped our prayers and stirred our faith to keep trusting for another day.

Through all this I learned to pray desperate prayers that are guided by God’s word. Many of us might think we can make it fine through life without reading the Bible daily.  That’s just not true. If God’s words hadn’t been “hidden in my heart,” I’m not sure how I would’ve been comforted in those days.  I’m grateful for the years of scripture reading and intentional memorization of God’s word, I believe God used them to sustain our family.

While we should read scripture daily to grow in our relationship with the Lord and grow as His disciple, I want to emphasize the importance of daily scripture reading for help during times of desperation. Combat training doesn’t seem so important during times of peace, but when the fighting starts it saves your life—and maybe someone else’s too. In this case, it was my own daughter.

 

Cliff shared much more in his email to me, but I hope this snapshot has given you some ideas to consider when it comes to leaning upon God in desperate times. Whether you are in such a time right now or will face them soon, none of us escape these kinds of trials. As the Puritan preacher Jeremiah Burroughs rightly said “If you are in Christ you will never suffer, except in this world.” I have learned more about how to face these afflictions in faith because of the example of my friend.

So you can rejoice with them, I will share that, by God’s grace, the darkness has lifted for their family. Miraculously, Anna has in many ways recovered from her mysterious sickness. Diana has also recovered and she and Cliff’s marriage has never been stronger.

We don’t know why the cloud came, or why the cloud departed, but we do know Who presides over it all. Lord, willing, none of us will face things like they faced, but if those dark days do surround you, draw near to God in faith. Desperate prayers place us in before the God whose power is able to sustain us until we see His face.

 

2 Corinthians 4:6–15 “God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  8We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12So death is at work in us, but life in you… knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.”