This past week my cousin returned from a 20 month stint working in Afghanistan to come home to his beautiful family that lives on the east coast. His wife and their nine children had been anticipating his return with such excitement. I noticed his wife posted a darling message on her Facebook page last week letting the world know how excited she was that the love of her life was coming back home again. My cousin arrived safely home on Thursday. The Saturday morning he awoke to find that his sweet wife had passed away during the night. She was just a few years younger than I am. She was as kind a person as I have met and it is heartbreaking for her husband and children to lose her so unexpectedly, and so soon after their family was reunited again.
When tragedy like this strikes we immediately ask “Why?” Why did this darling mother and wife with so much to live for have to get taken so suddenly, especially right when she was finally going to get to be with her sweetheart again? Why would a loving Father in Heaven take her when she had so much to live for, when so many people here needed her?
I asked those same questions when my best friend Steve died a few years ago. I was devastated. I was so saddened that this healthy, amazing, kind man would be taken so quickly and unexpectedly from my life. He was such a dear friend with so much life to still live, and then one day he was just gone. No explanations, no seemingly good reason. Why had God taken him? What purpose could that serve? Why are good people taken from our lives?
I don’t know the answer to those questions. I honestly don’t. But what I do know is that God is a loving Father and I trust that whatever happens, it happens for a reason. Even when we can’t understand it, even when it seems so nonsensical to us with our limited understanding of his plan, I still trust that whatever happens He is in charge. I suppose I came to truly believe that more and more as I experienced pain, trials, hurt, and loss throughout my life. Each time I was tested I had to ask myself – “What do I believe here?” And with each experience my faith in a loving God grew stronger and stronger. Many positive things can come into our life as a result of our trials, but the one that I believe to be the most positive is what trials can do to strengthen our belief in God, and to solidify our faith, if we allow them to.
C.S. Lewis explains this principle best in his quote:
“You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth of falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it?”
Trials help us discover how much we trust God. They allow us to discover how much faith we have.
My heart aches for my cousin and his children and I wish I had words to make their hurt go away, but I don’t. I can only be grateful that both my family and his family believe that our life doesn’t end when our physical bodies die. We believe that our spirits go on to the spirit world to continue to live there while they wait until the day when we will be united with them again. I am grateful we believe that families can be together forever. If it wasn’t for our faith in then I don’t know how we could get through difficult times like this. I am forever grateful for my faith. And I am forever grateful for the belief that families can be together forever.
In loving memory of Michelle, a Memorial Fund has been set up in her honor for the benefit of her husband and children for family and friends who wish to donate.
The Michelle Brooking Rees Memorial Fund