Our day could be going well from the start. Our routine is set and we have a momentum. We’re feeling accomplished. But then the unthinkable happens.
There is a phone call. Or an unexpected visit from the authorities. A news flash on the TV. Our world could feel like it has collapsed in an instant.
Tragedy and loss has affected us and we didn’t invite it. We didn’t ask for it but our lives changed in an instant.
I had started a community outreach center in the summer and we knew we were on the brink of revival. But in late September 2000, after receiving the news that my brother Elias had died, I found myself walking through a fog. There were so many unanswered questions. I tried to make sure my responsibilities were taken care of, including a ministry I felt like I was neglecting, but I had to be with my family.
As our family made funeral arrangements, we remembered the good times and the bad times. Every word for the eulogy had a deeper and more profound meaning. It had to convey the best about my brother even though it would be in the newspaper next to other eulogies. I understood that each one had a family and a story, and left people who loved them behind. Some passed due to old age, while others like my brother, were tragically taken at a young age.
Questions abounded about the details of his death, and some will continue to go unanswered. As a family, we went together to the place where he was found. What were we looking for? I don’t really know, but we loved him and we wanted to say goodbye in one way or another. Everything we did had meaning, including the funeral that he would have wanted.
Friends and family sent their condolences, and I was grateful for the food and coffee people brought. I had moments when all I wanted was to be alone and hide from the world, but there were other times when I needed to be around people. At times I could cry, but then other times I hated that I couldn’t weep. I even tried to act strong in front of certain people, but then fell apart when I was near others.
Six months before Elias died, we went up to the cemetery above the small church we grew up in. Just hours before he had rededicated his life to Christ and was water baptized. We walked those hills together. He and Pop were chasing wild turkeys. I didn’t know then that the celebration would soon be turning to sorrow.
But as I grieved after he passed, those hope-filled memories were hard to grasp hold of as so many questions and fears went through my mind. I would take long walks where I cried, grieving…yelling….running. Even hiding. I would yell, “Where are you God? My family needs You!”
I even asked the question, “Where is God in my pain and grief? Where is the Holy Spirit?”
The Wonderful Holy Spirit is Present, No Matter How You Feel or Don’t Feel
We may think that the wonderful Spirit is not present, that perhaps He left us. But He will reveal Himself briefly through the grace of friends and short encouraging words. We catch that moment and hold on as best as we can to a glimmer of hope, to a ray of sunshine into the darkness we are in.
I couldn’t sense the presence of God for days, even weeks. By faith I knew He was present. But I was angry that I felt like He was gone. I was even ashamed to show how I felt, but I had great friends who listened to me, praying with me even when I didn’t want prayer.
Revival Through the Pain
We jumped into revival and every emotion I had I directed toward God. One night at a youth group meeting, the Spirit of God fell on me in my pain and mourning. I yelled out to God, crying out the name of Jesus, and four teenagers who were praying with us were baptized in the Spirit in that instant. Another time we shared what we were going through with a group of teenagers, praying for them, and a number were filled with the Holy Spirit. A few even had demonic entities reveal themselves, but in a few moments, the precious teenagers were freed in Jesus Name.
We saw revival taking place…yet I was still grieving. But I realized that it was part of my story now. I decided that my pain and grief would be turned into helping others see that Jesus is always with them. Deuteronomy 31:8 (MEV) says, “The Lord, He goes before you. He will be with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you. Do not fear, nor be dismayed.”
Psalm 139 (MEV) says, “Where shall I go from Your Spirit, or where shall I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to Heaven, You are there. And if I make my bed in Sheol, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell at the end of the sea, even there Your hand shall guide me, and Your right hand shall take hold of me.” This is something I had to keep reminding myself for a long time, that He is always with me, even if I didn’t sense it. This brought me comfort as I mourn, but I can tell others, “He is with you.”
Ask Jesus to Reveal Himself to You
If you have walked through tragedy, or maybe you are in the midst of grieving, feeling like God has left you, find a place to meet with God. Write out your prayers and questions directly to God. Then, knowing the Biblical truth that He will never leave you nor forsake you, close your eyes, asking Jesus to show you where He was during that time. And ask Jesus to show you where He is.
Allow enough time to interact with Him and be completely honest with Him. I believe that Jesus will pour His love into your heart and wash you with His wonderful Holy Spirit.