This year has been one of the most challenging of our lives. Due to the five-year-old illness that has been part of my life and my family’s, I needed to step away from the ministry role that has been–to this point–the most joyous and fulfilling of my life. The University was overwhelmingly generous in continuing my salary and most of our benefits until December 31, which helped significantly with medical bills and other needs. But God has kept the pressure on with health issues, being turned down for disability income (something we’ve been appealing with Mutual of Omaha for two months), and in numerous other ways.
But as we look back over the year, we wouldn’t change a thing. God has drawn us closer to Himself, and He has drawn nearer to us. We’ve learned about prayer, trust, hope, dependence, God’s provision and faithfulness, the ministry of Christians to each other, and numerous other lessons that have breathed life into concepts we’ve known about intellectually or heard about in the testimonies of others. We’ve experienced renewal as a couple and greater closeness as a family. All these lessons have made the trials of the year worth experiencing. We have no regrets.
These lessons have also impressed upon me the Fatherhood of God to the point that I didn’t feel right allowing Father’s Day 2015 to focus on me. Instead, I told Erin and our kids several weeks ago, that I don’t want any presents. Instead, I asked each of them to write down a list of ways for which they’re glad God is their Father and how they’ve seen Him show His Fatherly love to them and our family this year. After church and lunch, we’ll each read our list aloud, in praise to God. I don’t know if this will become a new tradition in our house or if the Lord will use this idea in other families, but I wanted to share with you my list of how my “Father, which is in heaven” has become more dear and more near in my life this year. I pray that my personal list will bless your heart and remind you of God’s tender, Fatherly workings in your own life.
Here goes . . .
This year, God’s omnipresence has meant more to me than ever. God is always with me. While that’s sobering, and should inspire me to make every action one of which He would approve, it is also immensely comforting. God is with me at every moment—every doctor’s visit, every attempt to minister to someone in person or over the phone, every moment with Erin, every moment with each of the kids. He is with me in dark hours of discouragement, available to give comfort even when everyone else is sleeping or away from the house. And every day as I read my Bible, God’s presence with me makes it an act of worship. He opens the Word to my understanding, using it to convict, instruct, and change me. God’s presence is the one constant in this trial, where my body is hurting and changing daily, and it makes me long to be present with Him in the Home Jesus is preparing even now.
God’s unlimited knowledge and power also mean more to me than ever. There are things in my life beyond my control and beyond my understanding. I do not know why God has led our family through my sickness, and I ache for all the times I’ve been unable to attend one of the children’s functions. I feel guilty every time I have to move a commitment or cancel a meeting. But I’ve begun to learn that–while God expects me to do all the things I can do–He has a purpose in the things I can’t. I can’t be ashamed of those. He is working even those things together for His glory and my best.
Though there are countless other things I can say about how God has especially revealed His Fatherhood to me this year, I want to close with what I’ve learned of His provision (a function of God’s love, His omniscience, and His omnipotence combined). There are things He has asked us to let go of that we were more attached to than we knew; but every “sacrifice” gave us an opportunity to see God provide sweetly and personally for each thing to which we’d been clinging! He has given us a great home back campus, with all the room we need; He has given us more time being near the children because the rooms are closer together; He has provided friends on our street for the boys, placed us closer to the fields, continued to allow the kids to walk to school, and gave our daughter with her first summer job. He has made it possible to get a loan on the van we love, and my one paying insurance policy covers our lease on campus and a few other needs.
In His provision, God has almost exclusively given help exactly when it has been needed. Right now we have an ongoing need created by a disability insurance company that has refused to honor the policy BJU bought in my name (as BJU does for each employee). That would double the amount I receive each month, allowing us to pay off the van more quickly and take care of almost every other bill we have. We have engaged a company to help, but all of this has dragged on since January. Like our other needs, we have taken this one to God time and again; but there seems to be no answer. That no longer makes me fearful, because God has answered every one of our prayers for provision just in time and–usually–in unexpected ways—keeping us faithful and persistent in prayer, as well as reminding us how precisely He hears and answers His children with provision.
I believe all of us as a family know God better, trust Him more, and care less about the things of this world. That makes this past year priceless–something we would never undo! Thank you, Father, for being “Our Father, which art in heaven.” Even in hardship, we pray that You will do whatever it takes to draw us and our loved ones closer to You. You are our Joy; You are our Hope; You are our Strength; and one day You will be our Reward.
Thank you for so amply showing us Your magnificent Fatherhood this year. We love You all the more for all You have taught us! Be honored this Father’s Day with our praise and overflowing hearts’ gratitude!