This is a kayak. The picture was taken on May 3, 2014. The owner of this new kayak had just turned 49. We went to the lake as a family to celebrate my dad and his new kayak. It was a pleasant evening, good weather, yummy summer barbecue for dinner, and lovely sunset views as the day ended. He only enjoyed the freedom of being out on the water in his new kayak once.
August 23, 2014, was not a pleasant day. It began earlier than expected because my mom barged into my room frantically mumbling about calling 911. Later, I held the phone with trembling hands and tried to figure out how to be strong enough to tell my sisters and brother that he didn’t make it.
“He’s gone, Susannah. He didn’t make it.”
The disbelief in my mom’s voice is still crystal clear in my memory today. She was almost breathless. The man she had loved was gone. How do you break that kind of news to younger sisters that are desperate to find out what has happened to their father? I certainly didn’t know as an 18-year-old, and frankly I’m still not sure. I have no idea what I said to them, but it got the message across. What I do remember is the incredible thing that happened next.
My 12-year-old (and youngest) sister pulled out her bible. She began to read and pray. My 15-year-old sister went to the computer to search for and listen to the lyrics of the hymn “It Is Well”. I prayed for the strength to begin letting the right people know what had happened. In the moment of our deepest lost, we each turned to God in our own way.
Turning to God
I think it was the only thing we knew how to do. What else was there? So today, on August 23, 2017, that is what I have chosen to do yet again: turn to God. Today, I am choosing to remember His grace and goodness during that difficult day, because it was present in more ways than one. Here is a small list of how God was good on that not-so-pleasant day:
1. God gave us a family to begin with.
Our family was whole. He gave us a good home. He gave us more laughter than fighting. He allowed us to be strong enough as a family that when He shook our life, we turned to Him. And even the night before, we enjoyed a perfect family movie night: no fights or whining, no bad moods, no difficulties.
2. We were surrounded by love.
There was a long list of people that day who jumped into action to help us process, to bring us comfort, and to listen when we cried. I knew there were people I could call to take us to the emergency room where my mom was waiting so I didn’t have to drive. Less than an hour after we got home from the ER, our home was filled with our loved ones. Food was on the table for lunch without us having to ask or lift a finger. We were surrounded by the caring hands of our community.
3. Our Heavenly Father made sure we knew our earthly father was with Him.
As a believer, I know that when loved ones who believe pass away, they are not gone forever. I will meet them again in heaven in their perfect forms. The kind of relief this knowledge provided us that day is indescribable (but I will try). We lost a large piece of our hearts, but we knew it was not gone forever. We grieved all the days we would never spend with him, but we knew that he was experiencing only joy in the presence of God. We were shaken by the discomfort of what would become our new normal, but we were glad that he had met his Maker.
Thoughts on Today: God is Still Good
Today marks the three-year anniversary of the day of our deepest loss. God is still good. His mercies are still new. His love is still great. And He reminds me of these things by continually showing me the goodness He had planned in spite of the hardships He allowed. Because of my father’s death, I did not attend university that fall as a freshman. I began my college career in January 2015 instead, where I met an awkward (sorry friends, but we all know it’s true) group of people who decided I should be their friend. One of these freshman friendships turned into a romantic relationship. That man was the first man I ever dated, and I had the pleasure of marrying him just a few weeks ago. I firmly believe that things would’ve turned out very differently if that fateful day had never occurred.
God allows accidents, decisions, and events to shape the plan He has already designed. This particular design is not what I would have preferred, but I choose to look at the goodness He has brought instead of the hardships He may have used to bring it. Earlier I mentioned the hymn “It Is Well”, which has become very dear to my heart, partly because of these lines:
“Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.”
The Good and the Bad: Hardships Help Us Grow
Anything God gives me, I will learn to say, “Okay, God. It is well with my soul.” Accepting good and bad is part of the deal. Not just part of living life, but part of what it means to hold fast to the God of the universe. God allows hardships in our life because His plan is way bigger than the stuff we are going through right now. Job suffered hardships greater than what most of us can imagine, but even he knew that God’s design was bigger and better. In the midst of his suffering Job never lost sight of the truth.
“‘Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?'”
Job 2:10, NIV
No. We will accept the good and the bad. I will accept that God can use my deepest loss to bring me closer to Him, to inspire me to share His goodness, to bring about His grander plan. I don’t always love the path He leads me down, but I know it will shape me into a better version of myself. Just like that kayak is looking out across the water toward what is yet to come, I will look ahead instead of behind at the waves and waters I have already crossed. Hardships help us grow. We need to be tested in order to be strengthened. God tested my family and I three years ago, and we leaned into His grace. Because of that, today is not only a day to remember the sorrow in which God has comforted us, but also to remember the joy He has brought us since then. Today, I can feel joy in the midst of my loss, and I can honor my father in heaven. Both of them.
Author: Susannah Judd
Hello, my lovelies! I am the author and owner of wearethelovelyones.com. I am so excited to share in this journey through life and faith with you! One of my favorite things we are called to as believers is sharing life together. I also love cookies of any kind, my darling husband Caleb, and of course, Jesus himself. Check out my “About Me” page for more. 😉