This past Sunday another lady and I were sharing in the foyer of this Church. We were rather emotional. One of the Touch the Hem Team noticed and asked if she could pray for us. I shared with her my journey into loss. I stand before you today because of that God encounter. She had just been praying on the way to Church for God to show her who to approach to share on the deep journey of loss and so it is by Gods invitation that I share my story with you today.
After all, a few years ago I said to Jesus, “Here I am Lord. Send me! I am willing. Help me to testify and bring glory to your name.” So now He was giving me an audience and how could I say ‘No.”?
I have experienced many losses in my life. I have grown up in a Christian home and I remember distinctly that I prayed for two things regularly during my childhood. I prayed for a good husband and I also asked God to help me love Him with all my heart, all my mind, all my soul and all my strength, and to love others as I love myself. I also had a dream of being a good wife and having at least four children. I guess I had this romantic idea of getting married and living happily ever after!
Anyway, God provided me with a good husband. He was reliable and successful. We traveled a lot, he gave me many presents, he was trustworthy and he adored me. What more could I ask for?
Well, I struggled to fall pregnant. The doctors determined that we both had fertility problems. My husband knew of my desire to have many children and he always assured me that we would have many. We just had to persist with the infertility treatment until it worked. Well, it did not work and after 8 years I had enough and I told him I did not want to do it anymore. I suggested that we leave it in God’s hands.
So, guess what happened? The very next month I fell pregnant naturally and nine months later I had a baby boy.
One day I saw my 3-year old sitting all by himself in the garden, crying. I went and sat beside him and asked him what was wrong. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and he said he was crying because he did not have a brother. I consoled him at the time, but my heart was so broken…
A few months later my gynaecologist phoned me up to say that they had treatment for men, which improved sperm count and quality. He invited us to try it out. I was very excited and my hope to have more children was restored. However, my husband tried the treatment, but when they tested him afterwards, there was not even one sperm to be found. He was completely infertile.
This was an intense experience of loss for me. I grieved for the loss of children I hoped for and dreamed about, but that I could never have. How did I react to this loss? I reacted with anger and resentment. I was so angry with my husband and with God. I went into complete rebellion. Over the next two and a half years I refused to go to church, I refused to read my Bible and I refused to pray. I resented my husband. I remembered the times when he treated me badly, from literally kicking me out of bed in the mornings to how he dominated me, rejected my opinions and even humiliated me. I even thought that he had deceived me all those years as to the seriousness of his infertility problem. These thoughts festered in my mind and made me hate him even more. Yes, I hated the good man that I asked God for and that He had given me.
I broke all the rules in the Book, and through this reaction I lost even more. I lost the Light of God in my life. I lost precious time with my husband and son and I lost my innocence. Now you may say, “Well, maybe you broke some of the rules, but surely you did not commit murder!” You know, I am not too certain about that.
I took full revenge on my husband. I ignored him, I hurt him, I deceived him, I lied to him, I rejected him, I wanted to get a divorce…I even wished he was dead…! I just think by rejecting God, I had opened myself up to so much evil to take possession of me… My husband had lost me and he went on his knees to save his marriage. Every morning he would go to his study to seek God’s face. He even asked my forgiveness for all the times he had treated me badly.
During those two and a half years when I turned my back on God, I was so aware of His presence. I felt Him near me as if He wanted to reassure me that He had not forsaken me. It was as if He was whispering to me, “I am still here when you need me. Just call my name and I will take your hand and pull you out of this pit of darkness.” I know that many people were praying for me, but I was the prodigal daughter who ran away from home.
My marriage was on the verge of breaking down and then my husband put an ultimatum to me. That was when I reached out to God and asked Him to help me. So, after two and a half years I started going back to church, but I still harbored resentment in my heart. I did not forgive my husband and neither did I ask his forgiveness. I tried to justify my actions by telling myself that he deserved what I did to him.
Then, eight years later, my husband woke up one morning with a swollen gland in his groin. A month later he was diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer – large tcell lymphoma. Later on he got tumors in his brain and in the end the cancer had spread to his bone marrow as well. Over eleven months I watched him suffer from this illness. I watched how his body and mind deteriorated under the onslaught of this disease. He turned from a dynamic, confident, outgoing and strong man to someone who could not talk properly, someone who could hardly walk, someone who could not remember his best friends, someone who lost his confidence, someone who became extremely depressed. Yet, he never complained and he never blamed anyone. He was just very sad that he would not be able to see his son grow up, finish matric and get his degree. He was sad because he would not be able to see his grandchildren one day and that he would not be able to look after me and our son anymore. I remember he was lying in bed one day and he was very ill. I was lying in his arms, crying, and then I asked his forgiveness. Do you know what he did? He held me close and he told me that there was nothing to forgive… That day God showed me His kind of love.
And then my husband died.
At the time that he died I was quite strong, but my son was heartbroken. He could not understand why God had taken his father away. The only way I could comfort him was by telling him that we did not always understand why things like this happen, but that we had to trust God. We did not always know what God’s plans were, but that He always had a plan. I assured him that God would look after us.
Gradually reality struck me and I started missing my husband badly. Eventually I broke down completely. I remembered everything I did to him. I remembered all that I had put him through – all the disappointments, all the heartache, all the sleepless nights and all the stress.
I remembered wishing that he was dead. I remembered how I had asked God for a good husband and how God had answered my prayer. And then I realised that I did not appreciate the gift that God had given me and that God had taken that gift away. I started feeling absolutely responsible for his death. I felt like a murderer. I wished that my husband was alive again so that I could make it all up to him.
It was only then that I realised the extent of my loss and the consequences of the choices that I had made. Only then did I realise the extent of my sins. Only then did I say, “My God, what have I done?” I had to deal with tremendous guilt and sorrow.
This finally brought me to my knees before God, begging his forgiveness and begging for his help. I was stripped of all my pride and I was terribly ashamed. I was in a pit of depression and I wanted to kill myself. It was only my responsibility towards my son that made me hesitate. Only God could save me and He provided me with three examples from His Word and He told me to choose.
One was Judas Iscariot, one was Peter and the other was Paul.
– Judas betrayed Christ which led to His death, and Judas committed suicide…
– Peter denied that he knew Christ, but he accepted God’s forgiveness and he
dedicated his life to spreading the Gospel…
– Paul approved the persecution and the killing of Christians, but he also accepted God’s forgiveness and he became one of the first missionaries to spread the Gospel to the Gentiles…
I could not make things up to my husband, but I could choose to accept Christ’s forgiveness and live a better life than before. I could choose to love God with all my heart, all my soul, with all my mind and all my strength, and to love others as I love myself.
After all the loss and suffering I went through, I think that I am slowly becoming the person that God wants me to be. God has taught me many things through my experience of loss, but most of all, He has shown me how much He loves me. He has shown me forgiveness and he has taught me how to love Him and how to have compassion and love for others. I realised how much I owe Jesus Christ for taking away my guilt and my sorrow and for setting me free of that crippling burden I was carrying… and I am forever grateful towards Him. That is why I now try to live for Christ and not for myself anymore.
What do we do when we experience loss? We can either react in rebellion or we can react in humble submission to God. Rebellion will cause much pain to ourselves
and to others.
Humble submission to God can heal us. God sees our tears. He has compassion. He comforts us. He restores and strengthens us. God is not cruel. He does not take away a loved one to punish us. Death is part of life and life is hard. Life is not a fairy tale. But God is always there beside us, no matter what we go through. We grow through loss and suffering, so that we can encourage others.
Through my loss and my submission to God I have gained so much! I seeked God’s face and He made Himself known to me. Even though it took a long time, God has refined me like silver – God has healed my heart.
TOUCH THE HEM Bryanston