My friend Julie died this morning. She was only 39 years old and has a husband and two young children. I haven't seen Julie face-to-face in a few years, but I used to spend a lot of time with her when we lived in the same city. She has been battling cancer for a long time now, and her body just couldn't do it any longer. And so God called her spirit home this morning.
I have been unable to control my tears as I think about Mark, Major, and Addi. Mark will no longer get to sit and talk with his wife, his best friend. And Major and Addi won't be able to go to their mom for advice or even a hug ever again. This is such a painful reality!
I've been thinking for some time now, as we knew that Julie's earthly journey was coming to an end, about how I would be feeling and what I would be thinking if I were in her place. On one hand, I would be thankful that I was given some time to say my good-byes. But on the other hand--the one that seems 5,000 times bigger than the "one hand"--I think I would really be battling anger and confusion. I just could not imagine looking at my children and knowing that I would never even see them reach their tenth birthday or graduation or marriage. I would miss the vast majority of their lives, and it just seems wrong.
My heart cannot take imagining my life with Kevin ending so soon. We need each other; we're a team. We're supposed to grow old together and make a bazillion memories along the way. Sure, we promised to love each other "till death do us part," but we were certain that meant when we were in our late 90s.
I confess that I battle these feelings of justice and entitlement, and not just for myself. As I have been going through this with the Mangrems (admittedly from a distance), I have felt such a wide range of emotions. Mark and Julie have such strong faith in our God; they have trusted Him even at the most difficult times. I prayed for them so often, but the only prayer that ever came was "God, be with them."
Not in the least bit coincidental is the fact that I have heard and read a few different times lately about how God doesn't promise us an easy or safe or fair life. But He does promise to be with us throughout every single moment. He doesn't leave us to fend for ourselves. He grieves with us and nods His head in that "I know" sort of way when we cry to Him that This is so hard, and we just don't understand! He doesn't always give us answers to our questions, but He does hold us while we ask them.
As I continue to pray for Julie's family and friends, as well as some of my other family and friends who are going through some difficult times, my prayer will continue to be this simple one--God, be with them. Because nothing else can provide the comfort and peace that He does through His presence. And I trust the words in Scripture that tell me that when I don't know how to pray, the Holy Spirit will interpret my groanings and will intercede for me.
God gave us these emotions--the sadness, the anger, the confusion, and even the need to question His ways. And I don't think it hurts His feelings. I think He welcomes the conversations as He offers to embrace us in our grief. And then He offers to relieve our burden by telling us that He doesn't expect us to understand but does want us to trust Him, knowing that neither of these comes easily.
He is with us.