FIRST-PERSON: Since Betty Jo ...
EDITOR'S NOTE: Larry Lewis, president of the Southern Baptist Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board) from 1987-97, penned these reflections a year after the death of his wife Betty Jo on Feb. 14, 2008.
SAN DIEGO (BP)--On this first anniversary of Betty Jo's homegoing, I would like to share some things God has been teaching me as I travel the dark valley of recovery and renewal.
1. The value of friends and family
Never are friends and family so important as in the time of grief and despair. The hugs, the tears, the sympathy, the cards and phone calls, the assurances of concern and prayers -- these are what get you through! We need to be there for one another.
2. The power of prayer
I am more convinced than ever that the tremendous covering of prayer was key to Betty Jo's miraculous healing in 2003 when her medical team gave her less than a 20 percent chance of survival. I thank God for those extra five years, the most precious of our 44 together.
3. The true meaning of faith
The Bible says that without faith it is impossible to please God. Faith is not saying "God will" but "God can." God is sovereign and we cannot dictate His Will. But we know He can do all things. There is no prayer He cannot answer or sickness He cannot heal, if it is His will to do so. It was Jesus who taught us to pray "Thy will be done."
4. Don't muddle in the "Why?" and the "If only" syndromes.
It is not wrong to ask "why" -– and probably impossible not to. After all, Jesus Himself on the cross cried, "My God! My God! Why--" But it is futile to do so. In heaven we will have opportunity to ask "why," but it probably will not be "Why did you take my loved one?" or "Why did you let this happen?" but "Why did we fight so hard to keep from coming here?" When Jesus delayed His coming until after Lazarus had died, Martha greeted Him with these words, "Lord, if only you had been here!"
"If only" we had done this and not that, we might think, or not done this or that, but rest assured that at the moment you did the best you knew how; you prayed for wisdom; you took the counsel of wise doctors; and that is all God or your loved one expects.
5. Stand on the promises
We know "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord" and that Jesus has prepared a place for prepared people. We also know we are never alone if we are in Christ and He is in us. "I will not leave you nor forsake you," He said. "Lo, I am with you always."
6. Claim the victory
"When this corruptible has put on incorruption and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written 'death is swallowed up in victory!' O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!" (1 Corinthians 15:54 & 57).