When Life Takes a Turn

08/26/2007

Have you ever been heading in one direction, and suddenly life takes a turn, and all that you thought and hoped for disappears like mist in the morning sun?

Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city,
spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not
even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist
that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say,
"If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." James 14:13-15 (NIV)

Who can know the ways of God? Who can figure out why things happen as they do, and are we supposed to? Or are we simply to say, “Thy will be done.”

Yesterday, we packed our bags filled with the excitement of spending time with our children and grandchildren in Oregon! We loaded the car, and off we went, rejoicing in the day the Lord had given us! With Jim having work to do in Portland, we decided to enjoy some time away together visiting with our kids, while also accomplishing the work that needed to be done! It was a perfect plan…or so we thought.

About four hours out of town, we switched drivers, which allowed Jim to pull out his laptop and check his mail. Modern technology is great…sometimes… As he pulled up his e-mails I heard him exclaim, “Oh man…” and then he said, “Pull off at the next exit!” Obviously, I knew something was up! Jim made a quick phone call to confirm what he read, and it was correct. Not only had they sent him the contact information that he had requested before we left home that morning, he also received the “revised schedule” about the job he was going to Oregon to do. It had been postponed for two weeks.

It is a very strange feeling to be heading north for hours, to pull off the freeway, stop for a moment, and then pull back onto the freeway and head south…there’s just something inside that screams, “This is not right. We haven’t accomplished what we came to do!”

"I heard all this plainly enough, but I didn't understand it. So I asked,
'Master, can you explain this to me?' ‘Go on about your business, Daniel,' he said.
'The message is confidential and under lock and key until the end, until things
are about to be wrapped up. The populace will be washed clean and made like new.
But the wicked will just keep on being wicked, without a clue about what is
happening. Those who live wisely and well will understand what's going on.'”
Daniel 12:8-10 (The Message)

It seemed as I read through the Book of Daniel this morning, that Daniel came to a point on his journey with God where he questioned what was to happen, what was to come, and God’s answer to him was, “Go on about your business.” In another translation it says, “Go your way, Daniel.”

What was Daniel’s way, or business? Was it to accept what the Lord had shown him many times over in his dreams about the end of the world--and not worry about it, not fret about it, not try to control any of it because it was beyond what he could comprehend, really? After years of faithful obedience to his Lord, because Daniel was over 90 by this time, he was told to “Go your way.” Interesting…

The reason I turned to Daniel this morning is because recently as a friend and I prayed together, she talked about this, about God telling Daniel to “Go your way.” I felt very drawn to what she was saying, and I wondered if there was anything there that God wanted me to hear? Was it for just such a day as this, when what God is doing seems disturbing, and yet, we are to trust and understand what’s going on because God is in control of all things? I’m here today, searching, seeking, asking, and wanting to understand, because God asks us to come to Him with our lives and surrender them to Him in all things…the joys, the disappointments, the hurts, and the many twists and turns that life will take. God asks us to “live wisely and well,” so that we can understand what’s going on.

This doesn’t mean we’ll have all the answers for everything, but it does mean that we can focus on God, ask Him, listen to Him, and if He does have anything to whisper to our hearts, we will be ready to hear it.

Jim and I did hear one thing after arriving back home last night--we were awakened at 3:00 a.m. to an alarm going off in our RV! Quite shocking! The beeping started and Jim got up to investigate. It seemed there was a carbon monoxide problem somewhere. We had the windows open and the vents going, so even though when this happens we are URGED to get some fresh air and call 911, we didn’t take such drastic measures. After checking things out, it looks like we might have a battery problem that caused it, and Jim is looking into fixing that. But, if we hadn’t been here, would it have resulted in a fire? Who can know but the very God who turned us around on our journey from north to south. We can only accept what is, and know that God is watching over all things.

I know there is one person, if not many, who will read this message and stop right there…who will read that last sentence in that last paragraph and swallow hard, because “accepting what is” and knowing that “God is watching over all things” is so very, very difficult, considering what has happened in her life. I share her story below, with permission.

Dear Diane,

I just want to take a moment to tell you I thank God for your ministry and the encouragement it is giving me in my darkest days of grief. Our beautiful 22 year old son died on April 7, 2005, and as a Christian I am totally devastated as to why and how GOD COULD ALLOW THIS.  He died as a result of smoke inhalation due to a stove that was left on and resulted in a fire in the middle of the night by his roommate. My son Todd never woke up. His roommate was able to escape. Please pray as I deal with my anger at the roommate, as well as God, as well as myself, for not checking on the battery in the smoke detector. I've been a Christian for 25 years, even with faith, the loss is very difficult to bear. Thanks for sharing my burden, and for your ministry. -Renee

From high in the skies God looks around, he sees all Adam's brood.
From where he sits he overlooks all us earth-dwellers.
He has shaped each person in turn; now he watches everything we do.
Psalm 33:13 (The Message)

Renee may want to say, “Yeah, right…where were You Lord, the night that Todd died?”

I don’t know Renee personally--I only know her from the e-mails we have exchanged in the past couple of years. She lives in New York, I live in California, and we will probably never meet face-to-face until we meet in Heaven, but our hearts understand the pain of this world and the difficulty that can come in trusting and praying to our God, the very same God Who was there on the nights both our sons went Home to Heaven.

One reason that Renee’s story about Todd also speaks to me is that the very same God who was watching over Todd, was watching on the night that our middle son Chris could have been taken Home to Heaven in much the same way. It was not long after our youngest son, Phil, lost his battle with Leukemia, that we were out of town and Chris was home alone. He had put some fries in the toaster oven, and then went into the other room and proceeded to fall asleep. He only woke up because his girlfriend (Who is now his wife!) called him. He woke up to a house so full of smoke that he had to get low to the ground to be able to make his way into the kitchen and stop the flames that were now leaping out of the toaster oven! If Holly had not called Chris, we may have had two sons living in Heaven on this day. So, when Renee shares her story with me about Todd, I too wonder why Todd, but why not Chris? Why Phil, but not another child with Leukemia? Why any of this Lord? You are watching, aren’t You?

And what did God answer Daniel after He had shown Daniel what was to come in future days on this earth? He said, “Go your way, Daniel.” And what was Daniel to do with that? What are any of us to do with life when there is a huge turn in the road that we don’t understand? We are to trust God and go on our way even if it means turning the car around and heading in the exact opposite direction we thought we were going in--living wisely and well in this world until Jesus comes back!

Easier said than done, that’s for sure! As I will continue to share more of Renee’s story and the healing of her heart in this message, I want to take a moment right now and interject what she wrote to me after I asked for permission to use her words. I believe to live “wisely and well” in this world it is important to “understand what’s going on.”
This was Renee’s response to me:

I wanted to say that my healing will be an ongoing healing, probably for the rest of my earthly days. I don’t want my words to sound too la-di-da, or pie-in-the-sky. It happened with a lot of work on my part and constantly giving it over to God. You are more than welcome to use my writings…(but) I guess my words to me don’t measure the depth of grief I felt and the process it has taken. Everything I wrote is exactly right, I just want to make sure it doesn’t sound too easy. -Renee

Jesus was called to the most difficult task of all, to go to the Cross and die for our sins. We too have our difficult “tasks” on this earth, and having a child leave this earth before us is beyond what any human being can bear on our own. That is not to be denied, but to be understood. Renee sweat “great drops of blood” in prayer to be able to now say, “Thy will be gone.” It can scare us, hurt us, confuse us, and seem to destroy everything that we have planned--but the results of our obedience to continue to believe in our God through it all can only be described as miraculous. We find that we serve a God who can do miracles every day of our life as we continue to trust Him.

What happened to Daniel when he was told not to pray to anything or anyone but King Darius? He continued to pray to his God three times a day, which was his normal routine, and he was thrown into the lions’ den, but he didn’t die.

For he is the living God, and he will endure forever.
His kingdom will never be destroyed, and his rule will never end.
He rescues and saves his people; he performs miraculous
signs and wonders in the heavens and on earth.
He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.
Daniel 6:26-27 (NLT)

Renee may question, as I may question, “Yes, Lord, but how does that whole ‘rescue’ thing work when it comes to our boys?” I think Renee will agree with me that we aren’t really sure, we don’t really know, and we will probably never know why some are rescued and some aren’t while we are still alive here on earth. But what we do know is that we have prayed to our God, and He has rescued us from the “power of lion’s den”—the devastation that we were thrown into--and we will praise God all the rest of our days until we meet Him face to face because Jesus has made a way for all of this to not eat us up alive. It goes beyond what we can really even begin to understand or fully explain. This does not happen overnight...let me share a bit more of Renee’s journey with you:

…I know he is a God of love. I have to consciously hold on to God's promises. I have never been this jolted in my life and it is scary. I pray God will use me someday to benefit others as you are doing so that Todd's life and death will be glorified. I worry I will be not functioning forever. After 3 months what is normal?  Is there a normal? I can't seem to get back in the flow of life, and I have many wonderful friends wanting to assist. I’m pushing them away. Please pray I don't isolate myself too much longer…

Three months of grieving for a dearly loved son is just a sliver of the time that is needed to work through what it seems God “hasn’t done.” It is so hard at that point to just “go your way” when the way has been shattered in front and behind, and you seem caught in the middle, unable to breathe because of the debris all around you. To turn south when going north is one thing--to go on in life without your child is quite another. It seems when that happens, that our children have not accomplished what they came to do…but that’s in our eyes. What about in God’s eyes? Here’s what Renee wrote to me as they were coming up on the first anniversary of Todd’s death:

Todd died last April. His birthday is coming up on March 6th, the first without him here... there is healing taking place in our lives that I never would have imagined... it is still very difficult ...  But truly with God all things are possible...and His grace is proving sufficient...  Without the unspeakable brokenness after losing a child, I don't know if I could have ever experienced in all fullness God's promises... the price has been very high... but I continue to trust Him, and a healing I never thought possible is slowly taking place. Life as I knew it will never be the same. I wouldn't want it to be... I didn't think it was possible in those very early months, and I wasn't sure I even wanted to survive…

And now, more than two years later, this is what Renee is able to say:

Just wanted to share…just yesterday I had lunch with a friend (her son died a year ago almost to the day) and I was sharing with her the same things you just wrote to me about leaving the grief behind, but not your child, etc… God just confirmed that talk by what you wrote to me… Not surprising of God, but I continue to be amazed by His grace and love in the healing process. I never, never could have imagined my heart healing after such brokenness…the healing comes, but with many bittersweet moments, and the missing and longing continue. I remember you saying the missing doesn’t really go away, but then, why would it or we even want it to…

These words are priceless, because they speak of our God who rescues us from the power of the lions’ den, even today. Daniel had nothing on Renee--they knew/know the same Mighty God. And that same God just had my brother, Steve, call me in the middle of writing this because Steve had something to share with me--and yet he was very surprised that I was even home…when I should be in Oregon. This is what he shared:

He said that in reading Philippians 3:10, and on into 11, “As a result, I can really know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I can learn what it means to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that, somehow, I can experience the resurrection from the dead!” (NLT)

And that after reading this, God gave Steve these words for what knowing God means:

Knowledge of God
Negates
Our
Works or wisdom with

Heights of
Immeasurable
Mercy

Just as Renee said, Without the unspeakable brokenness after losing a child, I don't know if I could have ever experienced in all fullness God's promises, she and I, and untold numbers of others are beginning to KNOW HIM, and to experience all the fullness of His promises because of the mercy we have been shown.

In still talking with my brother, he reminded me of the story he had told me a few days ago about going into the home of a woman, about ninety years of age. (Daniel’s age) Steve was there to clean her windows, and she began to tell him how an owl had recently crashed through her window. Only the day before the incident, she had been entertaining two of her women friends. They had been sitting on the loveseat just under that window, and if the owl had flown through the window when they were there, it could have been disastrous. This woman had saved a sampling of the glass from her window, in a small box, and as Steve looked at the pieces, he could see that they were as sharp as razors. In discussing the difficulties of life with her, Steve mentioned Psalm 116. She immediately went and got her Bible, wanting to read what God had written there.

Psalm 116:1-5

I love the LORD, for he heard my voice;
       he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me,
      I will call on him as long as I live.
The cords of death entangled me,
       the anguish of the grave came upon me;
       I was overcome by trouble and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the LORD:
       "O LORD, save me!"
The LORD is gracious and righteous;
      our God is full of compassion.

This elderly woman asked Steve an interesting question in their discussions. She asked, “Do you think we’re entertaining God right now?” What did she mean by that? Did she mean was God amused at their conversation, or was she asking if Jesus was there, sitting with them as a guest in her home? Perhaps, she spoke of God in a very familiar way because she knows the Lord to be full of compassion--He has probably heard her cry many times for mercy. She has probably seen many times when the Lord spared her and her friends and family from the lions’ den, and many times when they were called into the den and needed the Lord’s compassion to see them through…perhaps she’d seen the “heights of His mercy were immeasurable” more times than she could remember.

Have these things in life made this woman “Bitter or Better,” as was shared with me recently? I believe she has probably walked with God long enough to have seen the many facets of His glory, and has learned to “Go her way.”

She would probably be one of the first to tell us that out of dark coal comes one of the most beautiful of jewels, because she knows diamonds in life. Most times, they are not easily come by. To see “life” sparkle takes digging and blasting and cutting and polishing. As Jim and I recently watched the series “Ice Road Truckers,” some even lose their lives just in bringing the supplies to the diamond mines so the coal can be excavated. Up in Canada they call it the “Dash for the Cash,” because truckers can make a year’s salary in a very short couple of months, driving on roads that take them over frozen lakes before the Spring thaw comes.

Has Renee’s son, has my son, lost their lives because of dark coal being excavated?
Will the many facets of God’s glory be revealed through it all?
Only God can know.
Only God can truly understand why here, why now, why this?
But through it all, God may be telling us to, “Go your way…” and trust the One who knows. It may seem so wrong, it may seem like we should fight against it--as I wanted to do when it was time to turn south instead of driving north--it didn’t make sense that God would send us in one direction, only to turn us around and have us come right back home again.

How can we understand the road we travel?
It is the Lord who directs our steps.
Proverbs 20:24 (NLT)

It doesn’t make sense that God would create a child, only to take them Home before they have lived a full life. It can all seem so wrong…but God knows, and God cares, and when we KNOW HIM, we will know that the power of the lions’ den will never be greater than the power of our Mighty God! Daniel trusted God and found that to be true…and we can do the same, even today.

This suffering is all part of what God has called you to.
Christ, who suffered for you, is your example.
Follow in his steps.
1 Peter 2:21 (NLT)

Until we meet again,
Diane