This afternoon (Sunday) my dad, my sister, my brother-in-law, Michelle and myself walked to the top of the local mountain to scatter mam’s ashes and pay our last respects. As I’m sure you can imagine it was a very poignant time for all of us. The last few months have been both traumatic and also inspiring, as we experienced the depths of grief alongside the amazing, sustaining grace of God. However, it feels that now is the appropriate time to write the final instalment in the Grace That Shines series.
I could have written so much more, but time and circumstances prevented me from doing so. However, I have personally found it very helpful (dare I say – therapeutic) to write about the multiple ways in which the light of God’s grace has shone brightly in the darkness and I hope it’s been a blessing and a help to you too. I have decided to make this last post a personal testimony about the way that God dealt with me a few days before mam’s death.
It may surprise some (though not many) to discover that I used to be a VERY aggressive young man. I wasn’t so much a fighter (though I have had my fair share of scraps!) but more a smasher! When anger rose within me it would often manifest itself in punched walls, violently hurled objects, smashed pictures, threats, curses and the like. When God saved me at 15 the Holy Spirit had a lot of work to do to in me and to my shame, I certainly didn’t become a man of peace overnight! However, over the years I have mellowed considerably – by the grace of God!
Therefore, it caught me by complete surprise when a few months ago, as mam’s health started to decline, that I started to feel rage rising within me again. At first I just thought a quick prayer would sort it out, but day after day I just found myself getting more and more angry. I started feeling violent, confrontational and aggressive, and while by God’s grace the rage never came to the surface (nothing got smashed, bashed or even sworn at) I didn’t feel like a man in control! I remember a couple of times just looking at mam dying in her bed, crying my eyes out and just wanting to destroy something – a glass, a window, a vase – anything! I’m not proud of any of this by the way. In fact to be honest I was both confused and ashamed of myself. What I was most concerned about was what was going to happen when mam finally died.
Was I going to go berserk?
Was I going to do something I’d regret?
I confided in a few trusted people and asked them to pray and to keep me accountable. However, it was Michelle’s advice that I think was the most helpful to me: “Try to find the source of the rage. Who or what are you angry with?”
It was on a Monday afternoon that I came home from the hospital emotionally wrecked and still angry. Mam was so weak and so sick and I didn’t feel like I could cope with it anymore! However, God in His mercy had left me with an empty house (I love my family to bits, but I needed some space to meet with God!) I opened up my Bible and read Deuteronomy 33v27:
“The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”
God used those words to reassure me that mam would soon be stepping into His presence to enjoy the reality of her eternal dwelling place, and I drew great comfort from that. I then spent some time asking some searching questions:
- Am I angry with God? – No!
- Am I angry with the medical staff? No!
- Am I angry with my family? No!
- Am I angry with myself? No!
- So why the dickens am I so angry?
It was in that moment that God spoke to me – clearly and powerfully. He told me that it was sin, satan and death that I was angry against. That my rage didn’t have to be destructive but could be focussed against the powers of darkness and actually used for God’s glory. (I later learned that when Jesus wept upon hearing about the death of Lazarus – the Greek word for ‘wept’ could also be translated ‘raged’. Jesus literally raged against sin and death!) All of a sudden I felt a profound sense of fresh evangelistic zeal – that I needed to preach the gospel to as many people as possible. I also felt the huge weight of responsibility that God has commissioned me to prepare the saints of Hill City Church to die well!
As all this sank in I was overwhelmed with joy and the peace of God literally flooded into my heart. The rage vanished instantly!
Two days later mam died – and when I got the call I knew only the peace and presence of the Holy Spirit. I didn’t clench my fists but rather gave my big sister a hug! Three weeks later and the peace remains, as does the renewed urgency of gospel!
Thank you LORD for taking my rage away and replacing it with peace! Please use me to proclaim your Word and prepare your people to die with the same dignity and grace that you gave to my mam. Thank you for getting me and my family through the darkest season of our lives.
You are my awesome God!