Though I wasn’t as close with Jeff Cole and his family, it doesn’t mean they haven’t affected my life… Because they have.
When I first came to River of Life about 4 years ago, I heard the message, “God is good,” repeatedly. Though I have been a Christian for most of my life, I had a hard time accepting it. If God is good, then why did my father have to die? My father who loved Jesus and his family, who fought Leukemia until he was brought home to Heaven far too soon. If God is good, why did He take my father away before I could process even one memory of him? If God is good, then why…?
I think this is a question that my church family is trying to fathom to the best of their ability. For those of you who aren’t River of Lifers, our congregation lost one of our dear members this weekend to a rugged battle against Leukemia. I may not have known him well, but reading about him this weekend, I can guarantee that he was strong in his faith and loved his family dearly.
This is my prayer and condolence for Christi, Emmy, Abri and the rest of the Cole family:
“I don’t want Jeff to be gone, Lord. I want Christi to have her strong, God-fearing and supportive husband back and for the girls to grow up with a daddy who loves them. But I know you will bring peace and love through this tragedy. You will mend hearts and show them peace. You will surround the girls with men of God that will act as father-figures – they will remind them how much Jeff loved them and that he fought so hard to stick around and be their father. You will surround Christi with friends and family – not just this week, but in the years to come – who will readily be shoulders to cry on, as well as listening ears for memories, and souls to laugh, pray and praise with. You will bless the family with a strength that allows them to freely share memories about a man that deeply blessed each of their lives for much too short a time. You will wipe away their every tear. You will surround Emmy and Abri with stories and pictures and memories of their father so they never question who he was, who they are, and how much he loved them. And through it all – through the tears, laughter, hugs, memories and grief – all glory will be brought to You, oh Lord, because You would have it no other way. Dear Lord, please bless the Cole family.”
I am so sorry for your loss. But I would also like to use this moment to thank you as whether you were aware or not, God used your family to help me, as an adult, process what I lost as a child. By watching Jeff (after diagnosis) hold his daughters in church and kiss their foreheads, God whispered to me, “Your father loved you so much, Sarah.” While hearing about and praying for Jeff as he fought so hard against that wretched disease, I heard God whisper, “Your daddy didn’t give up, he fought too!” While watching our church hold each other up in prayer and worship in tears this morning, I heard, “Your family had so many people praying for you! They cried as you cried. They prayed the same prayers that you have prayed for the Coles. They too were disappointed and confused when your father went home to Heaven much sooner than they hoped. Just as you prayed Emmy and Abri would have their father around to watch them grow up, they hoped the same for you.”
Through the service, as our pastor boldly lead the congregation through the fogs of confusion and grief, I was reminded of the passages of Scripture that have brought me peace throughout the years:
- Romans 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
- Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”
- Psalm 34:18 “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”
- Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
- Isaiah 40:31 “but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not be faint.”
God is good. Though I would never wish this experience on anyone, healing tends to be most effective when shared with people who have journeyed on similar paths. John 10:10-11 writes, “The thief comes only to steal kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” What is meant for evil and destruction, God uses for good. God is also there in the times of sadness and grief. He gives us the amazing ability to love and with that comes a freedom to weep. And through our weakness, He makes us stronger. Those who know loss, know the importance and fragility of love.
If you have a “But why?” experience in your life that you are trying to work through – I highly recommend prayer partnered with fellowship. As great as it is to be friends with people different than you [iron sharpens iron] it is equally important to have friends that understand and can help you work through life’s troubles. If you don’t know anyone that shares your experience or struggle, pray that God will bring you to someone – because in life, we need each other.