I’m a widower. A father to two girls who lost their mom over a year and a half ago. A husband who lost his bride and helpmate. I’ve been allowed to walk through some really heavy, but undeniably rich moments over the past six years. That might sound strange, but it sets the stage to start to talk about things like suffering, hope and living life.
I’ve seen God be an ever-present help in time of need by providing for physical needs, emotional outlets and spiritual resiliency. I’ve seen Him be incredibly tender toward my family, especially as we walked through some really dark and tough times in life. He slowed down moments in, what was becoming, the typical fast-paced American life.
So, here’s a little bit of our backstory:
In the summer of 2017, my wife, Ashley, and I were expecting our second child. There was so much excitement around God providing ways for us to grow our family. As quickly as that excitement came, so quickly it was stifled on one summer day when Ash experienced some neurological symptoms that landed her in the hospital.
After some initial tests showing something going on in her brain, it was determined we needed to deliver our daughter a month early so she could undergo some more rigorous tests and scans. When all was said and done, we sat there as a newly-minted family of four hearing the words from the doctor that Ash had brain cancer. Initially suspected to be a low-grade tumor, a difficult and nearly life-ending surgery in October of that year revealed some really hard news.
It wasn’t low-grade; it was a glioblastoma. Treatments were available, but a cure was not. It was a terminal diagnosis.
Understandably, the nearly five years that would follow were a roller coaster of ups and downs. There were glimmers of hope when chemo and radiation would provide seasons of respite; and there were deep valleys of defeat when the news of ‘Your cancer is back’ would drop. Ash’s battle with cancer would come to an end on May 14, 2022.
The entire journey was filled with some intense moments of wrestling with the depths of grief, seeing the loss of a life that we’d dreamed of together, but ultimately, it brought us to the throne of grace. We were afforded an opportunity to know Jesus in ways that we otherwise would’ve never known.
Even though the past several years have been anything but easy for me, my girls and our families, I am more confident than ever in the following things. God can be trusted at all times. He is willing and working in countless ways. It’s all for His glory and for the good of those that love Him. He is sovereign over everything; the highs of life, the deep valleys of grief, when life is firing on all cylinders and even when there doesn’t seem to be a moment of reprieve. His character is unquestionably good; the very definition of the word.
In the past year and a half, I’ve walked through a gamut of emotions and situations. From being numb, to surviving, and then simply existing, to now feeling like I’ve (sort of) got my feet back under me. Along the way, though, I’ve wrestled with (and to some extent still wrestle with) questions like:
- What am I supposed to do now?
- Can I ever get back to a place where I’m enjoying life?
- How do I navigate this place where I don’t fit into my ‘old’ life, but I’m not sure what this ‘new’ life looks like?
I think it’s safe to say that widowhood has brought a complex set of emotions, questions, and circumstances where it’d be easy to sit back and just coast through the day-to-day grind. There have been times where I’ve been guilty of taking my foot off of the gas with my own spiritual disciplines; the very disciplines that helped to gird up a stable foundation in the throes of walking with my wife through cancer, caretaking for my entire family, running/cleaning a household, working full time, and all of the other aspects of living life.
When the seasons changed and I became a single parent to two girls (who were also dealing with their own trauma of losing their mom), I was also having to learn how to live again. I lost my helpmate, my bride, my love. I lost a sense of purpose and resolve and even a bit of myself that had become entangled with what my wife and I had been blessed to build, together. In the depths of grief and feeling like I’d never feel this deep-seeded ‘home’ feeling that I once knew, I realized I also lost something far more valuable: I lost sight of Who my eyes should have been on all along. I had shifted my gaze off of Jesus and on to my circumstances. I stopped running the race set before me and, instead, stood still and marveled at the fact I no longer knew what to do or where to go.
But God, who is rich in mercy and so very gracious in how He cares for us, was patient with me; incredibly patient. He allowed me to wrestle with all kinds of difficult moments and reminded me over and over that He ‘saw’ me. It took some really desperate moments to see that He was walking alongside me the entire time.
I found that even when I couldn’t see which direction to head next, He was faithful to lead the way, even if only the immediate next step. He surrounded me with a handful of people who spoke life into my weary soul. He provided encouragement through spontaneous moments with my girls. He continues to faithfully reveal more and more of Himself through His Word.
Does that mean that things are easy? Absolutely not. Do I still struggle with all of those questions above? Yep. The difference, now, is that (by God’s Grace) I have a renewed confidence that He is so concerned for His glory and His love for me is so deep that I can trust Him to never abandon me or ‘forget’ about me.
I know that His Word proves true; because, it is true. It’s the only dependable thing we can rely on in a tumultuous world. His promises are spelled out. I can read them and know that even if I can’t see them tangibly in front of me, He is faithful to keep them.
Summed up, this is what I know:
God is good. He is faithful to sustain. He is gracious to provide. He is big enough to trust for all of the details. He is near enough to know the innermost details of our lives: the hurts, the confusion, the doubts, the pain, the hopes, the dreams, etc. He truly is our ever-present help in time of need. In His providence, He is working His purposeful sovereignty to the ultimate goal of His Glory and because of Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection, we share in the inheritance of that Glory.
We say things like this in our house all the time, and I know that my story, our story, is not exempt from that providence. Be encouraged that wherever you’re at in life, that God loves you. He is in the business of making His glory more renowned and part of that includes being abundantly gracious and merciful toward us. He is worthy our praise, our thoughts, and our lives poured out in obedience.