We've been tucked up into the Colorado Rockies this entire week. A whole gathering of us: children, beautiful in-laws, new family. Though I am often deeply conflicted about Christmas, each year I am astonished at the overflow of love and undeserved goodness.
This year has been no different. But the day after I received a Christmas card and letter that broke my heart. It was from a man I will call Bill. His daughter was my assistant for two summers out at our fishcamp. We loved her. She loved us. She was part of our family. Eight months after leaving us, she took her own life. This year, Bill sent us this beautiful Christmas card
Inside his letter told another story: in the spring, his wife of many years died of a rare disease. And a few months later his other daughter took her own life.
What do we do with this as we stand at the brink of another year? Can we trust God with 2018? Every New Year we laugh and eat and pray at our parties at church or in our homes that this next year will be filled with peace, joy and prosperity. We ALL at least secretly hope for this, no matter how sophisticated or reformed our theology. And yet for some, like Bill, the year brings death and death.
What do we do with this? At the start of this new year, we fly out of the country for four months of constant travel around Europe and Southern Africa. Here in the last three months of travel in the States, one son received death threats with a gun and an attack dog trained on him (in Louisiana), I was nearly run over by a car while crossing the street, an out-of-control semi-truck missed our motorhome by inches. Of course. This is our everyday life, all of us.
In 2018, I hope and pray we'll return home to Kodiak safely. In this new year, I hope and pray for peace, joy and prosperity to ALL of you, my dear friends. But maybe our lives will go like Bill’s this year. I don’t know.
And though I stand shaking before the uncertainties and obstacles ahead of all of us, I have to tell the whole truth. The whole truth of Bill’s letter and story. The whole truth about God and the year ahead of us all. Here is how Bill's letter ended:
This is almost too much for me. That a man who has suffered so much loss still trusts and clings to God, still calls Him "the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort"? And he believes that his afflictions will be used for the good of others? Yes. Some day.
There is more. I posted a part of Bill's story on my Facebook page, and within hours more than fifty people, none of whom know Bill, were pouring out their hearts before our God of mercies on Bill's behalf:
**"I cannot imagine the pain of loss that this man bears each day and yet he turns to God each day with praise. Thank you for sharing Bills story and it will be a privilege to lift him up to the Father."
*"Will be challenged to pray that my faith can match his as God continues to hold him close."
*"Lord, I lift this man up to you right now. Please give him comfort and joy in such a dark time in his life."
"May God increase Bill's trust and faith exponentially. And thank God for the Comforter."
Bill is not alone.
The same day a dear friend who has endured many losses in her life texted me: "I am so thankful for the beautiful friendship we have. Arm in arm, through many trials, we are together navigating the path to the Celestial City."
Is this not true? Together, we are navigating the path to the Celestial City.
You in your church family---together.
You in the Body of Christ---together.
The Holy Spirit who indwells us----together.
We can trust Him in 2018.
We are not alone.
These last three months in our odyssey around the country God has shown us this truth again and again: (Please listen to the song as you watch.)
"I will never leave you nor forsake you."
How can I pray for you this coming year? (You are not alone.)
Do you know someone who needs this message? Please send it on to them that they may join us here. Together.