Hi y'all, its Audra and today is Friend Friday. Its in our darkest hours that our relationship with the Lord becomes the most real. He shows up in ways that we never experience in regular daily life. Today, my friend, Teryn, shares this type of story from her own life. It's taken some time, but she's ready to tell you about how God's grace has proved to be enough and how His power has been perfect in her weakness.
On the weekend of February 18, 2017, my family and I took a trip to East Tennessee to visit my sister’s family and celebrate her 41st birthday. Our families get together throughout the year for birthdays, holidays, and just because. It was such a perfect weekend spent with my husband and two kids, my parents, and my sister, Luanne, and her husband and two girls. We did nothing super special but had an amazing time. We enjoyed cooking, eating out, paddle boarding, sitting by the pool and talking (it felt like springtime), makeup sessions by her oldest daughter, playing games, and quality family time. When we left to come home, I hugged my sister and told her I loved her. Later that week, I sent her a text letting her know how much fun we had and told her how I was explaining to my kids that the sadness we feel when we leave her house from the weekend is just because we love them so much and that should make us look forward even more to our next weekend together.
Fast forward six days. My life was about to forever change. It was Sunday, February 26 around 6:00 pm. My husband and I were eating out with our kids when my mom called. I could hear the panic in her voice followed by the words, “Luanne committed suicide.” My heart completely fell to the floor. This couldn’t be true! We rushed to my parents’ house to pick them up and immediately drove to East Tennessee. That was the longest four-hour drive of my life. My mind was racing and trying to make sense of it all. Our past weekend together was nothing short of perfect. Why didn’t I see her hurt and why didn’t she express her needs to me? I had known for the past five years that her husband had had multiple affairs and that their marriage was far from perfect, yet she chose to love him unconditionally and sacrifice her happiness to keep her family together. Her girls, ages 10 and 13, were everything to her and she had told me in the past that she couldn’t imagine one night away from them.
We arrived at my sister’s house at 4:00 am. I can’t explain the horrible feeling of being at her house knowing I wouldn’t be seeing her and knowing that the sadness from leaving her the past weekend was now permanent. I asked Jesus into my heart when I was 12 years old, but for the first time in my life, in my desperation, I cried out to God asking the Holy Spirit to fill me and give me strength to face the next few days. I knew I could not do this alone. How was I going to help my parents plan her funeral? How was I going to take her girls shopping for dresses to wear to their moms’ funeral? How was I going to view her body for the first time and even paint her fingernails while she lay in the casket?
I did not do any of the above. The Holy Spirit came to me in my weakness and carried me through the hardest week of my life. 1 Corinthians 15:10 says “Yet not I, but the grace of God within me.”
As I returned to Jackson after the funeral, I began feeling sorry for myself. I was only 36 years old and was supposed to have my sister to grow old with and now I didn’t. I couldn’t even look at my parents without crying, knowing they had lost their child and knowing the agony they must be feeling. I felt overwhelmed knowing I now had to pray fervently for my sister’s girls since their mom wasn’t here to pray for them. It’s hard enough circling the right prayers around my own two kids and now more had been added to my plate.
A dear friend gave me a book called The Red Sea Rules by Robert Morgan. It shares 10 biblical rules to help you through difficult times. Rule #1 says: Realize that God means for you to be where you are. Rule #2 says: Be more concerned with God’s glory than your relief. Wow! This isn’t about me! It’s about God and His plan for me! I’m thankful I took on the task of praying for Luanne’s girls because the oldest one has followed through with believer’s baptism since her mom’s death. Thank you, Jesus, for this answered prayer!
In the weeks to come, I decided I was going to do a little research on my own to try and find some answers as to why my sister took her own life. I sure didn’t want my parents to have to do any of the grueling leg work so I began making phone calls. I spoke with detectives who were in charge of the case and I spoke with the neighbor who was the only witness that night. I called the medical examiner who gave me information I wasn’t even prepared to know. I also called her close hometown friends who told me about some things she had been dealing with. I came to the conclusion that I had to respect the fact that Luanne chose not to tell me or my parents about the continuing problems because she was embarrassed and didn’t want to burden us with the ongoing issues. I was told by a professional counselor that this is typical behavior from someone who is dealing with emotional abuse.
As I worked to piece together the puzzle, I realized how much anxiety, worry, sadness, fear and anger it was causing and then I had a revelation: I had depended on God fully the entire week leading up to my sister’s funeral and He carried me through everything I asked from Him, so why was I, once again, trying to figure this out all alone? I dropped my kids off at school, pulled into a parking spot and prayed. I told God I couldn’t find the answers to my questions. I couldn’t understand why, and I couldn’t fix the situation. I handed it to Him and immediately felt the weight I had been carrying lift from my shoulders. What a simple concept: Let go, and let God. Yet, I tried to do this all by myself.
Philippians 4:6-7 says “Do not be anxious about anything but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God and the peace of God that transcends all understanding will guard your heart and mind forever in Christ Jesus.” For the first time since, February 26th, I had peace! Peace from the Lord that is so unexplainable. It only comes from the Sovereign, Most High God, we serve, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.
Priscilla Shirer wrote in her Bible study “Discerning the Voice of God” that life's interruptions are divine interventions. She went on to say “if you’re delighting in Him Psalm 37:4, He will often stir your heart, redirecting your feelings and desires in a certain way.” I was supposed to worship God and not my situation. Knowing my God is sovereign has changed my perspective. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
While I still long for the missing pieces, and while I’m still deeply saddened by the loss of my sister and struggle with difficult days, I choose to intentionally fix my eyes on the hope of Jesus Christ. I find comfort in His promises! As the song goes, “And I will call upon your name, and keep my eyes above the waves. When oceans rise, my soul will rest in your embrace. For I am yours, and you are mine.” I’m loving my daily walk with God and his confirmations assure me that I am on the right track. I know he is equipping me now for what is to come in my future.
Rule #10 from The Red Sea Rules book is: Don’t forget to praise Him. A best friend of mine gave me a CD shortly after the death of Luanne. I put it in my car and began listening to it daily. The songs, “It is Well with my Soul” and “In Christ Alone” became my prayer. I couldn’t sing them at first without tears streaming down my face. Through it all my eyes were on Him and I wanted it to be well with me. I wanted to let go and trust God’s plan. I knew my only hope was in Christ alone. Today, I sing almost tear free as I am standing on the solid rock! To God be the glory! Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose.”