Though it tarry, wait for it
By Randall Vaughn
"Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him."
(1 Th 4:13-14 NIV)
As I write this message, it is February 11, 2004. Four years ago today, at approx. 3:50 p.m., my wife, Rosemarie, "fell asleep". She "went home" to be with the Lord. She died.
As I look back upon that day, and the days since, I am filled with, not grief, but hope. Real hope. Incredible hope. Hope against all hope. Hope that endures even the deepest grief. Hope that triumphs over all pain.
Sounds like so much rhetoric, doesn't it? Sounds like some of those "fluffy" religious words people write that have no relevance in a "real" world. But they are not. For me, those words are very real. I have had to live them.
Did I grieve? Yes. Did it hurt? Yes, as I had never experienced before. Was I angry at God? At times, yes. Did I want it to "not have happened"? Yes. Did I have that hope immediately? No.
It took time. It was a process . But it came, eventually.
The hurt is now healed. Completely healed. Incredibly healed. God has done a wonderful thing in me, I know. And it happened for one reason, and one reason only. I chose to trust Him, regardless of what I felt or "saw". And... that is not an easy thing to do. But it is possible.
There were days when I felt that I could not go on. There were days that felt as though they would never end. There were days I wished for night, and nights I wished for day. If you have "been there", you know about those days.
The grief would come like waves, irresistible waves that I had no strength to stand against. The came, and the came, and the came, incessantly, unrelentingly. But there was something I came to understand. That understanding allowed me to endure them until they passed. I couldn't stop them, but I could endure them.
The feelings that came with those waves were real, but the feelings were not reality. The hurt and pain was real, but the "basis" of it was not. I knew the truth in the scripture above. But I also had to deal with my loss. So the waves came. And they came. And they came. If you have experienced intense grief and loss, you know what I am talking about.
I must tell you here, that I asked God to let them come. I asked Him to let me feel whatever I had to feel and endure whatever I had to endure, however painful it may be, so I could get through that time as quickly as possible.
When the waves came, I would, as it were, "float" on the surface of them. I knew the feelings would "pull me under" if I gave in to them and reckoned them to be real. I chose to believe what God said over what I felt at the height of one of those waves. And eventually, the wave would pass and I would come back to "level". That is how I learned to endure them.
I learned that I could not bypass the grief, pain, and hurt. I could not go around it. I could not go under it. If I postponed facing it or tried to deny it, it would still be there, waiting for me, until I was ready. There was only one thing to do. Face it and go through it.
So, I let it come. All the grief. All the pain and hurt. All the waves. I wanted to face it all and get through it. God granted that request, and He was there through all the process.
Eventually, the waves became less intense, less powerful, and less frequent. Then one day, I realized that it had been a while since one of those waves had "hit". And somewhere along the "path", they subsided altogether.
That was when hope began to appear.
I knew Rosemarie was all right. She was alive and well, only in another "place", just as real as this "place" - in God's presence. It was not the end. Far from it. It was for her, a wonderful new beginning.
And for me, it a new beginning of the rest of my life. I began to grow excited about what God had in store for the future. (Here, I emphasize again, that it was a process. It is always a process. But it will happen, if you are willing to believe, and to wait, and to stay in the process.)
But I could not have had that hope and reached the end of the process without understanding and believing the truth of 1 Th 4:13-14. It was not the end.
If you are in the "pit" of grief, if you see no way out, if the waves are coming, and coming, and coming, and you cannot stand against them, take courage. It will not last forever. There is hope in the end, but you must stay in the process. Even more, you must embrace the process.
You must understand that God has a wonderful purpose to accomplish in the process, and if you will allow Him, He will bring you out of that "pit", stronger, better, and more complete than you ever could have been before. But you must remain in the process.
Do not look back to what was, nor to what could have been, because what was is no more, and what could have been will never be. There is only you and God, and there is now.
There is one more thing you will have at the end of the process, if you embrace it and stay in it until it is complete. You will have joy .
As incredulous as that sounds, it is true. I am a living and breathing example. You too can have that same joy, because that joy comes from the relationship with God that you will build with Him in the process.
Love Him and trust Him now, regardless of what you feel. Believe Him now, regardless of what you "see". He will bring you through the process, just as He did for me, and you too will have hope and joy again, at the end of the process.
I close with the words of the prophet, Habakkuk,
"...though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come" (Hab 2:3)
Trust Him. Your hope and your joy will come. Mine did. And when it did, it was
worth the wait.