There are some things we’ve known to happen to others but never desire or imagine that it would become a part of our story. For those who’ve had the opportunity to say “I do until death does us part,” never know when the death part will arrive. We somehow fantasize and hope for a “forever” will never come to an end. Life’s tendency is to interrupt our fairytale and, unfortunately, requires us to say goodbye – often abruptly and always before we’re ready.
For the past five years, I have used the time approaching Christmas up until New Year's Day in deep reflection. I find that it helps me to appreciate how far God has brought me and to celebrate in anticipation of what God has in store for me as well. While it is easy to recount all the wonderful things that have happened, it is still tough to peel back the layers of the "public facing me" to relive moments that have caused great pain. And yet still, I am able to rejoice.
Eleven years ago, my husband was killed in a car accident by a young driver who was fleeing the police. I questioned God about how He could allow it to happen. After all, he was young, we had only been married for three years, and the children and I needed him. I was angry, hurt and confused! There well-written sympathy cards or words that could soothe the gaping wound that had once occupied my heart. I was a young widow! It was not the life that I saw for my future, but suddenly, it was my reality.
I just wanted to give up on life, but God would not let me! In the midst of trying to wallow in anger and pain, God showed His mighty hand. I was promoted and received my first assignment as a principal. I paid off my new car and was able to refinance my home at a lower interest rate. The children and I were forging ahead as we began to replace our sadness by creating new pleasant memoriesI was trying to come out of the intense weight of grief, but my heart was still aching.
I started attending First Baptist Church of Glenarden and on one Tuesday night during Bible study, Pastor Jenkins called us to pray out loud in the sanctuary. I called out to God in an earnest, desperate cry because although I was able to keep my home together and things were "looking good on the outside," I still felt like I had a hole in my heart. With tears streaming down my face, I began talking to God. More importantly, I started listening. He wanted me to know that He loved me first; before anyone else loved me, He loved me. He needed me to know that He will always love me and that I belonged to Him. I saw images of all the blessings that I had received since my husband's death.
I heard God’s still voice say to me “You are never alone because I am with you during every season of your life, and I have you in the palm of my hand." It was at that moment I understood the answer to all the questions about why I had to experience one of the most painful losses of my life. God is faithful, true, lovable, a keeper and a deliverer! The answer was so simple, yet so powerful. What God wanted from me was my life, my commitment, and my service. So, I surrendered to God’s call, and I walked to the front of the sanctuary and rededicated my life to Christ. And as I began to study His word, I grew to know the love of Christ more each day and His love healed my wounded heart.
Tonya’s story is a demonstration that life, in its unpredictability, causes us to experience heartache and grief that can’t be put into words. In spite of these types of tragedies, our God never leaves us or emotionally abandons us. He is near and is never caught by surprise when these tragedies arise. For those hurt or shaken up by life’s happenings rest assure … God is near. “… And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 NIV).