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8 Unforgettable Lessons I Learned from My Dad’s Death

A few month’s ago was the anniversary of my father’s death. His birthday was on May 18, he died on May 23 and we buried him on May 26. I literally watched him die five years ago this past Saturday. His heart beat it’s last as my family and I watched helplessly from near his hospital bed. It’s a season of life that I reflect on with mixed emotions.

8 Unforgettable Lessons I Learned From My Dad's Death

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On the one hand, my father’s death was the most painful experience of my life. I was 23, my brother was 20 and my mother was still in her 50’s. We were too young to be fatherless. She was too young to be a widow.

To make matters worse, my sister lived in another state and didn’t get to see her dad much. I can’t imagine how she must have felt. The pain was unbearable. I cried for 36 hours straight, even in my sleep. It makes my heart ache writing about it.

On the other hand, God turned my darkest hour into one of my fondest memories. The Lord made himself known during that time in too many ways to count. Paradoxically, I walked away from those dark days with a radiant joy that eclipses my happiest moments on this planet.

Here are eight reasons why.

1. God is the only constant.

Everything changes. People die, kids grow up, economies collapse and friends move away. The life we live now will not be the life we live 20 years from now. God, however, never changes. He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). The Lord used my dad’s death to convince me that he is my only reliable constant.

2. Jesus is enough.

I think it was Corrie ten Boom who originally said, “you don’t know that Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.” She was right. My father’s death stripped from me all of the security and strength I thought I had. It exposed my inadequacy. It also revealed Christ’s sufficiency (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). It was through my dad’s death that I learned first hand that Jesus has secured for me everything I need in this life and the next. Not even death can take that away.

3. The Lord is undeniably sovereign.

God revealed his providential care to our family in ways beyond number. He gently reminded us that he is on the throne, he is not surprised by anything and he accounts for everything. He works all things out for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28-29). God used my dad’s death to show my family and I that he is in complete control over and actively involved in the details of life.

4. God’s glory is our joy.

A diamond shines most brilliantly under a spotlight and against a black backdrop. Similarly, God’s glory is most highlighted against the black backdrop of suffering (1 Peter 4:12-13). Suffering puts God’s infinite worth on full display by showing us that nothing else compares to the greatness of knowing him. (Philippians 3:7-8) Likewise, we enjoy most what we value most. God used my dad’s death to enhance my joy by giving me a deeper experience of his great worth.

5. Pain reminds us of what’s important.

Our lives are littered with trivial pursuits. Sporting events, movies, social media and online gaming to name a few. God used my dad’s death to rid my life of so much trivial drama. He refocused my attention on what’s really important by reminding me that life is too short to waste on silly things. (Isaiah 48:10)

6. Suffering well is a Christian’s best witness.

Many of the people who came to my dad’s visitation and funeral seemed hopeless. The joy the Lord gave my family caught many of them off-guard. They couldn’t believe that our lives weren’t unraveling at the seems. This gave us a huge platform with which to tell people about the goodness of God. God used my dad’s death to make Jesus known to more people in a more powerful way than any other time in my life. (1 Peter 3:14-15)

7. Death is inevitable.

Even if the doctors could have saved my dad’s life, he would have died eventually. This is true for all of us as well. We will all die. It’s unavoidable. God used my dad’s death to make me feel the weight of eternity. We will all eventually cross the threshold of eternity. When we do there’s no coming back.

In fact, we’ll spend more time on the other side of eternity than we will on this side. That’s sobering to think about, but it’s important that we take the time to decide what we believe about the afterlife before death comes knocking. When it does it’s too late. Also, those of us who are believers in Jesus Christ should live with a sense of urgency. People need Jesus. We don’t know how much longer they have to put their faith in him. We need to be telling people about the good news before it’s too late. (Hebrews 9:27)

8. Life’s trials are not God’s fault.

My mom has a plaque in her home that reads, “Don’t judge God’s character by your circumstances, rather judge your circumstances by the character of God.” This statement was foundational for me during that tough time. When suffering comes our way, our first response is to blame God, but it’s not his fault. Suffering isn’t the result of our God being bad, but our world being broken. Our world isn’t as it should be because sin has messed it up. But we have a good God who is actively making all things new. He did it by sending Jesus to the cross and he’ll do it again by establishing his kingdom at Christ’s return. (Romans 8:18-39)

All in all, God used my dad’s death to give me a deeper experience of grace, a greater delight in his glory and an increased confidence in the person and work of Jesus Christ. I miss my dad dearly (and wish everyday that he were still alive), but what I lost in my dad’s death doesn’t compare to what I have gained in Christ. Plus, my dad didn’t lose anything in his death either, he gained eternal life in the presence of God! (John 12:25)

You might also like:

  1. The Top 3 Regrets of The Dying
  2. Why I Always Feel Depressed on My Birthday
  3. Charles Spurgeon on The Sweet Sovereignty of God

About Trevor Nashleanas

Trevor Nashleanas is the Director of Student Ministry at Coram Deo Church in Omaha, NE where he lives with his wife Tierney, and their two children Valor and Sylvie.

7 Replies

  1. R McD

    Your message is very powerful. So glad you found Jesus, and can be an inspiration for others to have Him in their lives. Your father’s passing is so sad. Your love for him will always be there in your heart. Thank you for reading my blog ‘I BELIEVE GOD IS REAL’, Follow Jesus post. Blessings for you and your family, my brother in Christ. I will read ebook.

  2. Great post. Quite true and I can most definitely relate. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Trevor Nashleanas

      You’re welcome. I’m glad you can identify. May God’s grace be increasingly evident in your life!

  3. Amen to all of that! Particularly 1-5. My dad passed away when he was just 50 and I was 22. I was in China at the time on a month long trip, and my Mum called me (at 5am UK time) to say that dad had died. What you said near the start of your post – “… God turned my darkest hour into one of my fondest memories. The Lord made himself known during that time in too many ways to count. Paradoxically, I walked away from those dark days with a radiant joy that eclipses my happiest moments on this planet.” – perfectly sums up the way I feel about my dad’s death. I still miss him – his bear hugs, his terrible jokes, his wisdom, his infectious love for Jesus, his deep love for his family – but God is also still good!

    1. Trevor Nashleanas

      Hard times always seem to happen at the times we are must vulnerable and unable to do anything about them, don’t they? Thankfully, we have a God who subjected himself to our suffering so that we can share his joy! It’s refreshing to hear that you’ve experienced God’s grace in a similar way. I’m sure the Lord has used your father’s passing to profoundly shape your life as well.

      1. Dorothy Blalock

        Wow. “we have a God who subjected himself to our suffering so that we can share his joy!” That is incredibly comforting to me. We lost my beloved Daddy suddenly less than 2 weeks ago, and though the pain is unbearable at times, the truth of the gospel and the hope we have in Christ has given me inexplicable comfort and joy. God has shown me a sweetness about Himself that I have never seen before and I know for certain that Christ is alive in a way that I never would have understood had not I lost someone close to me who now lives with the Lord. My husband and I were in the beginning stages of planting a church and I want this experience to change me the way that it changed you. Right now, I’m having a hard time being around a lot of people and I worry that this timidness and grief will keep me from being the bold leader and disciple maker that I need to be.

        1. Trevor Nashleanas

          Hey Dorothy, my heart goes out to you and your family during this hard time. The sting of death isn’t pleasant, even when we know that death isn’t the end of the story.

          Don’t feel bad about needing your space during this season of grief. The gospel gives us freedom to grieve knowing that our God was so grieved by sin and death that he entered into our circumstances on the cross. He inspired Psalms and the entire book of Lamentations to give us hope in our times of despair. There is certainly room for sorrow and separation in the Christian life.

          This season will pass, so don’t despise or fear it. When God delivers you from your time of sorrow, I’m confident you’ll soon rejoice knowing that, for the Christian, death does not have the final word, Jesus does. Psalm 34:4