“‘For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.'” Malachi 4:1-2 [NASB]
Lately Scott and I have talked a lot about what it means for us to be “healed.” From almost the very moment Sarah left we have heard talk of our eventual healing. It’s been almost eight weeks and the wound to my heart is still just as raw as it was the very first day. Pretty much every day at some point, if not multiple points, I end up weeping, as does Scott. How can we not? Our child we have poured our hearts and lives into for seventeen and a half years has been ripped from our arms. There is a gaping hole in our family, a searing open wound simultaneously inflicted on each of our hearts and the hearts of Katelyn, Kristen and Sophie, as well.
Friends and family have offered up countless prayers for healing for us from the moment she left us, many counseling and encouraging us that healing will certainly come in time. I believe what they say in a sense, but in a larger sense I don’t. I have a sure and certain Hope that the Son of Righteousness truly will rise with healing in His wings, and we will be completely healed at our reunion in heaven. On this side of heaven, however, a precious, treasured, irreplaceable part of the body of our family has been severed from us. We have suffered a traumatic amputation. We know where that precious part of us is, but she is gone for this lifetime. As I think of healing, I think of restoration of former health, a return to completion. Healing in that regard is an impossibility for us, restoration of former health and completion as a family will not occur this side of heaven. Because a precious part of us is missing, we as individuals and a family will never again be who we were prior to June 8th, 2017.
In addition, when I think of healing I think of the absence of pain. When you’ve had an injury you generally don’t consider it healed until the pain has subsided. In the initial days after Sarah’s departure the pain was suffocating and constant. Now we find ourselves able to breathe most of the time, but the pain still remains constant. We know from others who have walked this path before us that the pain will always be a part of our lives. For the remainder of this earthly life we will bear in our souls a mark of suffering.
I find myself recoiling every time I hear mention of our “healing.” It seems to me to be a lofty, unattainable goal, something I would have to constantly strive for all the while not really believing it possible for the aforementioned reasons. For that reason my personal goal has become adapting. It is liberating for me to say that because it gives me an attainable goal to set my sights on. I don’t believe we will be healed here, but I know God can and will enable us to adapt to this new and different life. Recognizing all the while, this is just part of a journey. Sarah skipped ahead of us and we will meet her there, but for the remainder of our journey we must adapt to her absence and our pain. We are learning to do both. We are learning how to push through the pain to live this new and different life. As we do, we are offering our pain up as another fragrant offering to Him, trusting Him to redeem it and use it for our good and His glory, just as He has been redeeming the taking of Sarah’s life.
We are already seeing some of His redemption of our pain. The pain causes us to be constantly aware of our need for His grace and mercy. Though we have never been capable of making it a day in the absence of His grace and mercy, through our pain our eyes have been opened and we are acutely aware of our desperate need for His sustaining provision. At the end of each day we offer up prayers of thanksgiving for His having sustained us through another day in Sarah’s absence. We thank Him for the comfort He provides through His Word, the love of family and friends, notes of encouragement and a myriad of other sources. We are reminded though His Word that we are not promised to be spared from our affliction, but we are promised that the Father of mercies and God of all comfort will comfort us. He chooses to allow us to bear this pain, but He faithfully undergirds, strengthens and comforts us in it. Though our suffering is abundant, “so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.”
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 [NASB]
Through our suffering He has equipped us and called us to serve differently, and so we are adapting to this new role as well. Through our pain He has given us a greater tenderness of heart toward those who suffer. By allowing us to walk through the valley of the shadow of death He has made us His ambassadors there. He is calling us to speak Life in the midst of death. He has so graciously comforted us in our pain “so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” We as individuals and a family are all recognizing and adapting to our calling to be vessels of His comfort in a hurting world.
We as a family will not be healed, restored to former health, complete and free from pain, but we will adapt. That is not a statement of hopelessness, to the contrary it is an expectant testimony of His ongoing grace. The hole in our family and the pain will remain, but His comfort, grace and mercy are abundant and exceedingly sufficient. He will continue to sustain us, just as He will continue restoring our joy, His word promises us so. We are learning as individuals, as a married couple, as parents and as a family to adapt to life here without our precious Sarah. Sarah’s absence constantly reminds us that we are only sojourners here. At the end of each day we rejoice that we are one day closer to our glorious reunion with our precious sustaining Savior and Lord and sweet Sarah at His side.
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:6-10 [NASB]
Sarah’s promises and challenges taped to her laptop