It was unexpected and swift, yet it seemed like an eternity. The phone rang: “Sis is in the hospital.” Initially, I wasn’t too concerned. I told my husband that it sounded serious but felt sure she would be released. Moments later, another call: “It doesn’t look good.” A few hours later: “She’s gone.”
I barely had time to process the reality of what had just happened. That was two years ago. It was her birthday—she was 40—and she had passed on to eternity. Needless to say, that night and the weeks ahead were difficult. I was tasked with taking care of things that must be done when a loved one passes, which I’d never thought I’d need to do so soon. My older sis had a heart that broke and failed and took her life, and we were all left with broken hearts. My fear of premature loss and death, which I hoped would never come to pass, was coming true. We knew she was sick but had hoped for healing.
Over the past two years, I’ve mourned her death in various ways. There have been moments of incredible hope. I know one day death will be swallowed up. I know that death has already been defeated because of our Savior. The truth of these verses leaves me longing for heaven, anticipating the day when there will be no more tears or sorrow but, rather, rejoicing forevermore. That day is coming, and it will be glorious. But there have been days when my tears could fill a river. I weep for our loss. I have no words. Yes, I have hope, but I still feel an indescribable heaviness, so I don’t try to explain. I simply cry.
The Promise of Trials
Someone once said that if you live long enough, you will experience trials. Christianity doesn’t promise ease; rather, God promises forgiveness and gives us rest, mercy, and grace. In his kindness, God also warns us that trials will come. And some of these trials may indeed be your worst fears come true. I have had some of those fears come true. When that happens, then what? Is God still good? How do I reconcile his sovereignty with the trials in my life? How can fearing the Lord bring comfort and peace when your fears come to pass?
You’ve trusted and waited, yet you remain single. You got married, but a few months later you lost your spouse. Even though you rarely get sick, you got bone cancer. You raised your
kids in a stable, loving environment; you taught them Scripture, but they grew up to be a prodigal. You got in financial trouble and lost your home. These aren’t imaginary scenarios or simple illustrations. They are stories of the trials of my friends, people I know personally who have walked through difficulties despite all their attempts to live a healthy, Christian life. Though all situations are different and each deserves unique attention, all require a level of trust in the Lord that can come only from the Spirit. We all have the same Bible and the same gracious God to call upon during times of distress.
Knowing God and his Word allows us to face our fears with faith. We know that God is real. As the sun sets, fading behind the clouds and leaving a red-ray hue that lights the sky, there is no question that God is the transcendent Creator of the universe. Paul tells us that God’s invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world, so we are without excuse (Romans 1:20). No one can truly deny the existence of God. Creation sings of God’s majesty and mighty works. God’s creation shouts his glory—yet another reminder that he is set apart, holy, and majestic.
And because God is different from us, we can trust him fully. Along with his creation, God also reveals himself through his Word. In Psalm 19, God’s people celebrate the Law (the Torah) as his supreme revelation of himself. The Lord’s Word is perfect, refreshing, and reviving to the soul. It stands forever. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that the whole of Scripture is useful and perfect:
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12–13, ESV)
Grace, Truth, and Comfort
The Word is living, active, sharp, piercing, and discerning. It reveals the intentions of our hearts. Christians experience this revelation of their hearts and an awareness of their depravity at the time of their salvation and throughout their Christian walk. As we understand the holiness and majesty of God and the commands of his perfect law as compared to our sinfulness, we can’t help but discern our error and moral failures, as the psalmist did (Psalm 19:12–13). Like Isaiah, we humble ourselves and cry out: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5, ESV).
And in the end, the psalmist offered up a sacrifice of acceptable words and meditations. You and I can often try to offer up our own sacrifices of good works in an effort to earn God’s favor. But we no longer must offer up sacrifices, for the ultimate sacrifice has paid the price. Jesus is the friend of sinners. Jesus, the Son of God, died, fulfilling both the law and the promises of his coming. We can now receive his grace and sing Psalm 19 in celebration of his perfection and redemption.¹
Because God is a generous and loving God, he also provides his Spirit and his Son to comfort us. Paul ensures us of this comfort:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. (2 Corinthians 1:3–6, ESV)
We can’t truly know the fullness of all God has for us and is for us—if we don’t first feast on the Word. We can’t wait until our fears come true. We have to prepare now. You can read book after book, but it’s only in God’s Word that he is truly revealed, and it is there that he gives you the tools to face tragedies.
Trillia Newbell is a TCW regular contributor and the author of Fear and Faith (Moody Publishers, April 2015) and United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity. You can find her at TrilliaNewbell.com and follow her on Twitter at @trillianewbell. This article was adapted from Fear and Faith: Finding the Peace Your Heart Craves. © 2015 by Trillia Newbell. Used by permission of Moody Publishers.
¹Trillia Newbell, “Creator, Redeemer, Friend,” in ESV Women’s Devotional Bible, © 2014 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.