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.
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)
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