Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,--Hebrews 12:1

Sunday, April 17, 2011

I Couldn't Make It Without Jesus. Could you?

It was a litle after 12:00 AM, the earliest morning hours of January 16 of this year, when my wife said, "John, wake up! Something's happened to Amanda!"

I had fallen asleep on the couch, but woke quickly to take the call. A friend of Amanda's was on the phone saying the police had just called her and left a number for us to call if she got in touch with us. She gave me a detective's number and said, "I just want you to be prepared because it sounds like there's been a shooting."

I immediately called the detective and spoke with him. He told me there had been a shooting and they were trying to sort it all out, then asked for my address and told me he'd get back to me as soon as he could. When he hung up, I began calling all the hospitals close to their location asking if they'd admitted any shooting victims. None had. I then told my wife I was going to take a quick shower and drive up there to find out what was going on.

Before I got out of the shower, every word I'd heard in my conversations with Amanda's friend and with the detective played over and over in my mind. I got dressed and told my wife, "I think she's dead." Soon after I was dressed a police cruiser pulled into our driveway and my worst fears were confirmed.

My 17-year-old daughter was dead. The worst suffering of my entire life began that night. Several days of shock and feeling an empty, numbness. Then, the onset of the worst pain anyone could imagine, a pain that will never go away. It's an agonizing pain that will haunt me for the rest of my life.

I've come to realize my friends, there is no way I could have endured this long without my faith in Jesus. I cannot imagine anyone facing this type of adversity and finding a way through it without Him. He is guiding me, and carrying me, in this walk through a world left much darker than it was on January 15.

Through all of this, I've come to realize that He has been there all along. Jesus was working for years knowing this day would come. He maneuvered all the pieces of my life into the place where I would be best situated to deal with this horrific pain. He is the only reason I've made it this far, and He's the only reason I'll be able to keep going.

"Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!"--Romans 12:33

Until 2006, my wife and I raised chickens about 70 miles north of where we live now. We had a few friends, but were pretty isolated overall. We lived and worked in a tiny community. Our kids went to a tiny school. We had few acquaintances and even fewer friends. On top of that, our nearest family lived 50 miles away. Our social circle had a pretty small diameter.

We made decent money raising chickens, but it was work that required our physical presence on the farm 365 days a year. There were no family vacations. It was even difficult to spend a few hours with family on holidays because we always had to hurry back to care for the chickens.

In 2003, I had an urge to go back to school to be a teacher, sell the farm, and move closer to family. I didn't attribute this to God at the time, but I know now it was. I wasn't sure how my wife would take the idea of me going back to school, because that would put more of the day-to-day work of the farm on her shoulders. But she jumped at the idea when I approached her with it. I didn't know what kind of a student I'd make when I went back to college. It had been 15 years since I'd been in the classroom. But I went back and made straight A's.

As things started falling into place, I began to feel more and more that I had finally started working toward God's plan for my life. We listed the farm for sale on the internet a few months before I graduated and the sale went through only a month or so before I received my degree. We found and bought a house that suited our needs perfectly. I interviewed at Vilonia and received a call the next day offering me the job. It was amazing how the pieces were all fitting together.

I realize now it was all God's will, His plan was coming together. But I still didn't realize how wise and knowledgeable God was as all this played out. That came after Amanda died.

News of her death spread quickly. We told the family, but everyone else soon knew. We began receiving phone calls and visitors within hours. My wife's family flew in from North Carolina, and old Marine friends of mine came in from North Carolina and Utah. Family, friends, coworkers, students and their parents poured into our home over the next week.

Our freezers and refrigerator were filled with food, and collections were taken up by students and teachers at school. Friends and family ran errands and took up slack for Janice and I as we wandered around, still reeling in shock. The response was something I could never have imagined. I had no idea so many people cared so much for us.

One of the biggest comforts to us through all of this was the outpouring of love shown to us via Facebook. Messages and wall posts flooded our pages and Amanda's page. We were inundated with condolences, evidence of the love and compassion so many felt for us. I had no idea how many lives Amanda had touched before this happened.

Before the shock wore off, sitting down reading the messages and posts one day, thinking about all those who'd traveled such distances to comfort us, it dawned on me that God had known all along this day would come. He knew and he saw to it that we were in the best possible place, perhaps the only possible place, where we would be surrounded by so much love and compassion.

I can't imagine having gone through this anywhere else. I can't imagine another community where so many would care so much. The love and prayers our friends, family, coworkers, students, and parents smothered us with didn't take away the pain, didn't even ease it, but they most certainly made us realize we were important to them. God knew we were going to suffer, but He moved everything into position to give us the tools we needed to persevere.

"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."--Romans 8:18

One of the messages I received in that first week came from one of my students. She told me she had prayed for peace regarding Amanda's death and that night she dreamed. In her dream, Amanda was was laughing and having fun when an angel appeared and told her it was time to go home. She took his hand and walked to Heaven with him. "She was smiling and seemed fine, happy even," this young lady said.

I really needed that. I had told myself 1000 times that I knew Amanda was in Heaven, but it really helped for someone else to tell me they had seen it. Amanda is no longer suffering, she no longer has troubles or worries, and she no longer fears anything. She is in the most glorious of glorious places, and she'll never hurt anymore.

Knowing that is what keeps me going. Knowing that Amanda is in Heaven and one day, one glorious day, I'll join her there. When my time on Earth is done, I'll pass through those gates and I'll see her again. I'll see here standing there, not as she looked in that coffin at her funeral, but in all her glory, more glorious than she ever appeared while she was here even.

As bad as this suffering is, as painful as it is, as agonizing as it is, the Bible tells us it can't even compare to the glory that will be revealed when we get to Heaven! We're going to hurt, and we're going to suffer...in this life. But, for those of us who will make the trip upstairs, all the hurt and all the tears and all the pain will be gone when we step into that new, glorious, and eternal life.

"If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."--Romans 10:9

But some won't get there. Some won't make the trip, at least not to the same destination. Because there's something we've all got to do before our spot is reserved. It's not a difficult thing to do, but many will still refuse to accept the gift of eternal life and the glory that "will be revealed in us."

Believe in your heart that Jesus is the Son of God, sent to earth to die on the cross for our sins, yours and mine, died and was buried and rose again so that we all might have eternal life. Say "Jesus is Lord," Lord of your life, and you will be saved.

You, too, will have eternal life. You, too, can have the peace of knowing that our present sufferings won't even compare to the glory we'll see when we get to Heaven. You, too, can have the peace that will carry you through the toughest of times. You, too, can have the peace that offers hope to the hopeless and rest to the weary.

All you have to do is ask and believe. Ask him to come into your life and be your Lord, and believe that He is the risen Son of God. He's right there, waiting on you, wanting you to come to Him. If you've never invited Jesus into your heart, now is a great time to do so.

You'll find more detailed instructions on our Got Jesus?, along with instructions on how to proceed after you've accepted Him. I pray, that if you're reading this and have never been saved, that you do so now.

Without Jesus, I couldn't make it through this. I hope and pray that you won't face your next trial without Him!


4 comments:

  1. Amen John. Thank you for sharing this. I always love to read what you write, but this one has some extra special meaning and purpose. Thank you so much for sharing it. Love to you and Janice. - Randi

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  2. Thank YOU Randi, for being such a great friend. It's people like you and Steve who evidence the love God has for us all, and who are testaments to His having placed us here to surround us with so much love and compassion. God bless you and your beautiful family.

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  3. I saw your post on The Compassionate Friends facebook page. It's amazing to me that you have this blog up and running so quickly after your daughters death. My son Cayden passed away at the tender age of 7 unexpectedly after an outpatient surgery on February 12 of this year. The grace of God and the strength He gives to get this through this dark valley of life has been amazing. Thank you for sharing and allowing God to use you as a blessing and encouragement to others.

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  4. You are so welcome my friend. Amanda's death was so tragic, brought out so much emotion, that I had to find a way to release it. Blogs and websites were hobbies of mine before she passed away, and though I've abandoned all those I operated before her death, the practice they gave me made this one quite easy to set up. This gives me a way to channel my energy in a productive path instead of a destructive one. God bless you and please contact me if there's every anything I can do to help you.

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