My father passed away in June of this year. I wrote this post in his memory shortly after his death. Since his passing, I have found myself growing closer to my Heavenly Father, closer than I have ever been. I’ve put so much thought into his death, and the life that he lived, and when a person asked me how his death has impacted me and how my faith has comforted me, I took some time out to think about how it changed me personally. Because I have realized that I am a different person now than I was in the beginning of June. In two month’s time, I have changed in drastic ways. Most people may not notice the changes, but I certainly have. God has used this to teach me so many things, and I would like to share some of those things with you all today, get a little personal, and talk about this topic a bit more. Death isn’t something we like to talk about, and it is certainly never a positive topic, but with God, we can have comfort and peace. With God, we can have understanding, and we can let Him use these times to strengthen us. I think of this verse in Romans 12:12 – Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer.
1.) It taught me to live like tomorrow may not come.
I had been waiting for my father to pass away for years, as strange as that may sound. But those of you who have family members or friends currently suffering with addiction will understand this. You never know when you will get a call saying that the person has had an overdose, or has been involved in a car accident, or hurt during a bad drug deal. You never know when they will destroy their bodies to the point of no return. Death is coming closer every single day; for them, for us. This isn’t something that we like to acknowledge. Even though this world is bad, and we can see the sin, we can see the darkness, we still love this world. We have family here. We have friends here. Death is scary to most people, and even if you are saved, it can make you anxious. His death was always a fear of mine because I was unsure if my father was saved for many years. But even though I knew his death would come, probably sooner rather than later, I realized that I was not living like I should have been. I was not loving like I should have been. I had been so hurt by him and his actions, and I was not living out the gospel. I was not living like Jesus, or sharing His grace, His forgiveness and His love like I should have been. I was so focused on how his actions effected my life negatively, I refused to acknowledge how God could use it to effect me positively. I was claiming to be in love with Jesus, but I was not truly living for Him in a way that changed my heart. In the few weeks before his death, I started opening my heart to God and asking Him to change how I felt. To take away any grudges I had been clinging to, to rip the anger out of my heart, and replace it with love and grace and forgiveness. The attributes of Jesus. I had to learn how to pray like Jesus when He was on the cross; forgive them, Father, they know not what they do. My father was not aware of the hurt that he put in my life, but I was acting out, I was refusing to love him, I was refusing to forgive him. His death taught me that one day, it will be too late to fix things. It will be too late to share grace. It will be too late to forgive and tell that person how much I love them, or that I forgive them. I am so thankful that God was patient with me, and I was able to tell my father that I loved him, and that I forgave him.
Folks, tomorrow may not come. So live like it. Realize it. Go to that person that you are holding a grudge towards and forgive them. One day, you could be standing by their grave. What will you be taking? Will it be hatred? Anger? Or will you be able to go with a light heart knowing that you did the right thing for them? That you showed them Jesus by your actions?
2.) It taught me that the only comfort I could get was from God.
The day of his death, I sought out any comfort I could possibly find. I talked to my mother, my sister, my brothers. I called my best friend, I went to the barn and rode my horse for hours, searching for something to be positive in my life. I listened to music, I went for a run, tried desperately to get my mind off of what had just happened. My life had changed, and I wasn’t sure how I could see that as a positive change. Death isn’t positive, is it? All of those things helped, but only for a moment. 5 minutes after my phone call ended with my friend, I was crying. Halfway into my ride, I was so emotional I could hardly focus on anything. No one could give me comfort that would last more than an hour. Sunday rolled around, and I didn’t want to go to church. I didn’t want to face people who would be coming to me, praying with me, loving on me. I didn’t want to face my grief. I was in the middle of denial at that point; live like everything is okay, like nothing changed. To the outside world, I probably seemed okay. But inside, I was far from it. Then, that evening, as I talked about in my post in memory of my father that I linked to above, Pastor Sexton preached on When Dad Dies, and for the first time since that day, I prayed. I sat in the pew, unable to stop the tears from flowing, and God taught me a huge lesson. I was not alone, He was with me the entire time, and the only way I could get any sort of comfort that would last is through Him. Through His word, through prayer, even through His Christian disciples who would be willing to share the Bible with me during such a hard time. He used so many people like Pastor Sexton, my mother, my step-father, my siblings, and my friends, to comfort me and bring me some sort of joy. Real joy, not fake joy.
Once I saw how great His comfort was, I wondered why I hadn’t been searching for it before. God was there that whole time, through everything I went through with my father. Through every car accident, every illness, every stroke, every heart problem…God was there. Every time my father called me and I ignored it, every text he sent me that I replied to in haste, refusing to actually talk to him, every visit to the hospital…God was there, ready to comfort me, ready to give me His strength to make it through. I had felt His presence so greatly during one visit with my father, where I was able to share the gospel with him, to pray with him, and how precious that time was. But I had neglected God since then. I suppose I was angry with the lack of results. But through it all…God was there.
3.) It taught me that I am so, so far from perfection.
It’s easy to look at people who suffer from addiction, whether it be sexual, drug related, alcohol related, or so on, and think, “Wow, at least I’m not as bad as them!” We look at their actions with disgust, as if we are sinless. I did that with my father. I looked down on him because I thought I had everything together, like I was perfect, and man, was I wrong. God taught me how to be humble…and He had to do that with tough love. My mother aided Him with this when she urged me every day to love my father and be the better person, but I so did not want to do that. I didn’t want to be around him, and I used his bad behavior, his sins, as an excuse. You see, the Bible says not be unequally yoked with anyone, and unless my father changed his ways and lived for God, I wouldn’t have been able to have a close knit father/daughter relationship with him, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t talk to him, love him, and witness to him. Jesus sat with sinners, He loved them, He forgave them. He loved the people who put Him on the cross. He never acted as if He was okay with their sinful actions, and He called them to repentance, but He also loved them, and He was willing to show it. Was I showing my love? No. Were there times when my father doubted my love? I’m sure there was, and there shouldn’t have been any doubt in his mind that I loved him.
I failed every single day. Every time I ignored him, I failed to love like Jesus. Every time I was rude on the phone, I failed to love him like Jesus. God humbled me, and taught me how to love others not because of their actions but despite of their actions.
4.) It taught me that I had never been without a perfect Father.
Let me say this first; I have the most wonderful step-father a girl could ask for. But he is also imperfect. He has his flaws, as do I, as I stated above. I had been looking for a perfect Father who would love me despite my flaws, who would support me, who would be proud of me, who would be there all the time…I was searching, begging God to heal my dad so he could be that man, and I was not content with any relationship I had because I had to have perfection. I had to have someone who loved me so perfectly, and of course, I never found that person because, newsflash, no one is perfect. But because of the overwhelming grief I had felt because of my father’s passing…I found the perfect Father. And He is a good, good Father. I saw that God was there, waiting for me to cry out, “Abba Father.” Scripture tells us that we have been adopted by God after salvation. Romans 8:15 says, “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” I had been falling behind greatly on Bible study, on prayer, and so on. I had lost the close relationship I once had with Jesus, even though it was admittedly a rather brief one, but my earthly father’s death helped me gain it again because I realized that He was the only perfect Father I could ever have, without Him, I couldn’t get through this. This trial was impossible for me to get through alone…so I did cry out Abba Father, and He sustained me. And He has never left me, He has never forsaken me. He is proud of me. I’ve always tried to make others proud, especially men, and I’ve realized that I’ve been trying to make them proud because I’ve needed a father figure…God is that father figure. He should’ve been that figure all along. Every thing I do should be to make Him proud.
One of the hardest things I have ever been through is my father’s death, but I’ve learned to “Kiss the waves that throw me against the Rock of Ages.” as Charles Spurgeon once said. To love the trials that put me closer to God, to appreciate them, to be thankful. God allows these things to happen to make better soldiers, and I pray that I never let trials push me farther away, but to push me closer to Him. We can learn through every trial.
The song that has gotten me through so much, one that God has certainly used, is called “Farther Along.” These lyrics seem rather fitting…God gave me understanding through this, and He has given me the strength to “live in the sunshine.”
Tempted and tried, we’re oft made to wonder
Why it should be thus all the day long;
While there are others living about us,
Never molested, though in the wrong.
Farther along we’ll know more about it,
Farther along we’ll understand why;
Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine,
We’ll understand it all by and by.