I wish my kids could have met my dad. He was a really neat guy, fascinating and faithful. He truly loved me. I know this because he carried me on his shoulders on mountain hikes, he listened compassionately to my teen angst, he helped me with my math and physics homework in high school, and he taught me that the only person who can truly make you unhappy is you, yourself. My dad was alive and healthy long enough to walk me down the aisle when I got married, but just a few months later, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. A couple of days after my one-year wedding anniversary, he was already gone from this world. The loss of a father when he was only 51 and I was 21 continues to impact my life decades later.
That January night that Dad died I sobbed in the dark in my young husband’s arms, foremost in grief for my mom, who was suddenly without her life partner at age 49, after 28 years of marriage characterized by markedly passionate love and teamwork. When dark things happen in life, we have a choice. We can walk through the dark with God’s powerful help, or try to fumble our way through without it. So was I going to turn toward God for comfort and strength, or turn away in anger and bitterness? The premature loss of a father could push a person to do either.
Neither cancer nor chemotherapy is fun to experience or watch a loved one suffer through. Eight months of witnessing desperate illness leading to death takes a huge toll. My widowed mom and I both turned toward God for help in our sad, tough time of recovery. We called out to Him in our grief and loneliness for my dad. Whatever darkness I face in life, I’ve realized that whether I understand why it’s happening or not, I want to be like Peter in John 6:66-69 NIV:
From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
Peter realized that when we don’t understand hard things in life, there is nowhere better to turn than to Jesus. Hard times will come no matter what. I certainly don’t want to throw away the peace and help God is offering me in the valleys of life, just because I don’t understand why the bad stuff is happening. I choose to trust Him even when it’s dark and hard. He knows infinitely more than I do. I know He loves me, because He didn’t shy away from facing an excruciating death for me, and for some reason He also sings in delight over me. So my one realization about life is that whether in good times or in bad, Jesus is the only truly good place to go. He’s got the words of eternal life. I’m so very thankful for my earthly father and the beautiful years I had with him, but I’m even more thankful that my God didn’t leave me when my dad did–and He never will.
Climbing out of grief is a hard-won battle. The loss of a father can really knock you down. But I’m thankful I have an eternal Father who can’t be conquered by death, and He’s got bigger plans than mine. I’ve realized that life is made way better by clinging to God, both in the light and in the dark.