Today starts our monthly series on resting in God’s sovereignty and love. These two attributes aren’t at odds. God is in complete control of all things ordaining all things for his glory and he does all things out of love for his bride and for her good. Christ has come alongside of us in our suffering and when we share our stories we take part in His story. You will read stories of suffering and pain that will drive you to the foot of the cross.
On July 27th, 2011 I sat in a stiff wooden pew in a funeral home weeping as hard as my frame could bear. I was in a room with five caskets-four siblings, a sister-in-law, and a floral wreath in remembrance of the tiny unborn child whose life was ended before it began. Two of the deceased were my friends and co-workers, Trini and Michelle. They had been brutally gunned down at Trini’s son’s birthday party by her violent and abusive husband. The entire situation was unbelievable, just mind-numbing and surreal.
This was my first encounter with such reckless hate. I am no stranger to death and the oppressive weight of grief.
When I was eleven, after months of pretending nothing was wrong, my father walked through the door of our house and said to me through tears, “You know something is wrong with me, right?” I nodded wordlessly and we wept together. A year and a half later on March 7th, 1996 he succumbed to his battle with a vicious form of kidney cancer.
The next four years were a whirlwind of teen years-friends, boys, sports, dances, clothes, makeup, drama-all mixed with my own grief and the confusion that accompanies living with a younger sister and widowed mother who were also grieving.
Then on August 5th, 2000 after a slow descent into a worsening fight with rheumatoid arthritis, my mother suffered an intense seizure and a few hours later the doctor was asking me if I wanted to pull the plug. She was brain-dead, suddenly just gone. I was seventeen.
What ensued were long, dark years of struggling through grief. I was not a Christian in any real sense. I only held on to the understanding that yes, there is a God and yes, this all happened for a good reason. Though I had no idea what it could be. The anger and bitterness I would cling to would be a quiet cancer in my heart, one that would eat away at me and cause me years of unrest and exhaustion as I tried to get my mind around why my life was what it was, while simultaneously trying to put on a front that I was okay.
Then in 2010, a decade after my mother passed, fourteen after my father, I decided on a whim to read through the entire Bible, left to right. And there, somewhere between the Psalms and Isaiah I encountered the One True Living God. My life was changed so completely I’m still trying to get my mind around what happened exactly. After years of running, fighting, denying and pretending, I was able to rest. I understood then that the all-powerful God of Creation held me in His hands. He had the entire time and I could finally find the peace for which I had long been fighting.
I still couldn’t give you the definitive reason as to why my sister and I were orphaned. I have a few ideas I can throw around, but I suspect that in reality there are about a million. Honestly, knowing all of them would neither change the fact that my parents are gone, nor change my understanding that my heavenly Father ordained it from before the foundation of the earth for His glory and my good.
In light of the violent murder of my dear Trini and Michelle and the loss of my parents, I remain devastated and heart-broken but hopeful. These deaths are a horrifying reminder of the fallenness and brokenness of this world. I weep with those who weep. I am sorrowful, but always rejoicing. I do rejoice knowing that “weeping may tarry through the night, but joy comes with the morning” and if my Abba Father has ordained this pain, then it is ultimately what will bring Him the most glory and draw me closest to Christ.
Renée is a Texan married for a decade to her best friend Cory, the mom of three rambunctious children, Eli the Scientist, Joss the Contemplative and Jenny the glitter-sprinkled Princess. She’s a graduate of Midwestern State University, and serves at Pantego Bible Church in the high school ministry to the Glory of Christ.