I cried nearly the entire time during church Sunday...both during assembly AND during class. This is not an exaggeration. I was really quite a mess. I know God's hand was especially at work in my life that morning, tugging at my heartstrings. He had a message that I desperately needed to hear. I can say this with full confidence because I know that if we'd gone to assembly first like we usually do (Our church has 2 morning services.), and then to class, I wouldn't have been listening as intently. I probably would have missed it.
I also know it's true because (I'm ashamed to admit) we'd considered just going to class and then going home, partially because of the busy day we had planned and partially because of the rain. I know those are really lame excuses. Sorry to disappoint you, but I'm not a perfect person. I can rationalize things just as well as anyone. "We're going to small group tonight. That's still church. I go to a bible study group once during the week and another church-related group that meets every other week so...I'm good. I'm covered." I don't think God would have punished us if we had just gone to class. We would have been punishing ourselves by missing it, though. Of course, we assemble to worship God but I believe He designed this day for our benefit. We need each other. We all need encouragement, edification, and a mandatory call to be still so we can hear God speak to us (Otherwise, would we really ever slow down, much less stop? I probably wouldn't.). Remember when Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27)? It's one of His many gifts to us. He doesn't need anything from us, not even our worship (and we can worship Him anywhere at anytime). We are the needy ones. (But this is really a topic for another day. Sorry, I digress.) Anyway, I'm really glad we stayed.
Have you ever heard a word from God that completely and totally applied to you and spoke to you in that moment, something you needed and didn't even know it? I liken it to an unrecognized illness. Sometimes we feel like something is just a little...off. You can't quite put your finger on it, but maybe there's a slight pain or symptom that's been bothering you. Maybe it's a recurring headache or a tender spot on your foot. It doesn't require emergency surgery and you don't feel like you're in danger of dying, but you are uncomfortable enough to go see a doctor in the hopes that maybe he will prescribe a pain pill and then you'll be on your way, back to your normal day-to-day routine. But once you're examined, he or she pinpoints the problem (possibly a tumor or a broken bone?) and only then do you realize the depth and severity of your affliction. Something that was once just bothersome is now a very real malady which is not simply solved with a pain pill and that reality smacks you in the face without any warning. Sunday was kind of like that. I've known my brother's death had a profound and everlasting effect on my life. I thought I had worked through much of the grief (and I still think that's true.). I have many joyful days now and it may seem strange, but sometimes I forget that he's really gone. But then, something is said or something happens and wham! Reality smacks me in the face.
I mentioned in an earlier post about this last week being rough. During class Sunday, I was thinking about our kids and what we should do next. We were listening to prayer requests when one classmate mentioned that someone she knew recently lost a dear friend to suicide and asked if we'd pray for him and his friend's family. Naturally, I immediately thought of Matt. We (Justin and I) also asked for prayers for wisdom and guidance as parents. During the prayer, I could not stop the tears. They just kept coming. I tried to leave quietly to get some tissue and pull myself together. It took a while (and a lot of kleenex), but I managed to compose myself...until I stepped outside the bathroom door and saw my dear friend, Mandy. I guess she saw me leave and came out to see if I was ok. We talked for a minute and I cried some more. Then, another friend showed up to check on me too. By this time, class was over and people began to scatter the hallway. I walked back into the room to see Justin sitting with friends on either side of him. He looked like he'd been crying too. We are both so very thankful for friends who genuinely care about us. :)
Justin and I were "kidless" during the service since our young ones had children's church that day. Considering the amount of crying their mama did, I'm glad. The sermon was about the events before, during, and after Jesus resurrected Lazarus (John 11), focusing primarily on belief and Jesus saying He was the resurrection and the life. Do we believe Him? I sympathize so much with Mary in this story. She ran out to Jesus, apparently wailing, and basically said, "Where were you, Lord? Where were you when I needed you? Where were you when my brother needed you? You could have saved him. YOU could have saved him!" I know that feeling. I've written about it before. I just kept crying during the whole service. The poor people around me probably didn't know what to think...or do. I literally could not turn off the tears. But what did Jesus do after Mary confronted Him? He wept. And would you believe me if I told you that it rained all day Sunday...and particularly hard during certain times of the service...like right then? Unless you read the posted link above, you won't catch the significance of that. I was transported back in time to a familiar place in that moment. I was standing in Dasher Cemetery again with the rain pouring down on me, desperate for a shred of hope. It was December 13th all over again. Here He was comforting me, again. Reminding me, again. His promises never fail! His promises never fail.
I have more answers now than I did two years ago. Will I see my brother again? Absolutely! Jesus said, "He who believes in me will live, even though he dies."~John 11:25 Matt was a believer. He loved our Lord. He is absolutely saved! Plus, and it still sounds hokey to me even now but dang it, God told me so! I don't question that anymore. If I remain in Him, I'll be saved too, and Matt and I will once again praise our Lord together! Our God is amazing! Truly amazing how He speaks to us through His Word. How He speaks to our hearts to comfort us, hold us, and pour out His love for us. Even more amazing that He pursues us! I wasn't expecting a spiritual smack in the face on Sunday. I didn't even know I needed it. I wasn't expecting class and service to be so perfectly connected and perfectly personal. I wasn't even expecting that I'd go to service! That is not, cannot be coincidence. You know, the older I get, the more I believe that "coincidence" is just a pagan word for "Divine intervention". :)
While worshiping Sunday, with the songs, the scriptures, the fervent prayers...a thought kept running through my head..."To think that I almost missed this. To think that I almost didn't come." God gently reminded me of how much I need Him...how much I need His people...and how much they need me.
**I've included three of the songs we sang during the service that particularly resonated with me. They are all fairly new to me but oh, so powerful.**
"Sin is broken, You have saved me. It is written, 'Christ is risen.'"
"Say to the weary one, Your God will surely come. He will come and save you."
"Nothing has the power to save, but Your Name."