Monday, January 24, 2011

On Death and Faith

Yesterday at church, I heard the testimony of a man who had grown up in church, just like me. He spoke about how when his devout father died, it shook his faith and caused him to be angry with God and run away from His calling. I had the opposite happen to me when my father died.

As you know, my father died suddenly about four and a half years ago, at the age of 61. To say that his death was unexpected is both true and untrue. He had been not well for a long time, though you never really expect for that to happen. I had tried to prepare myself, somewhat, for his death, but when it happened, it was quite shocking. I won't go into the details because I did that in an earlier post, but I will say that the circumstances of his death were very devastating to me.

My dad was not "devout". He was a Christian and loved the Lord, but he didn't attend church very often. Later in life, this was due to difficulty in getting around, his feet hurt and swelled because of the diabetes. He still sent in his tithe to the church, though, and he read his Bible daily, prayed often, and listened to gospel music frequently. My dad was not a perfect man. When I lived at home, I absolutely hated him. He suffered from depression and was often not a very nice man. We got along much better when we were both older.

The night I found dad dead, I remember lifting my face to the sky and whispering, "I'm sorry, daddy." I knew then that he was in heaven. But, as time went on, I had to really examine this belief. Did I really believe that my dad still existed in some form, somewhere? My brother believed that what was left of him was lowered in the ground at his funeral and that's all there was. My heart broke that my brother had no hope. But, did I? I really searched my heart and soul to determine what I believed. It's easy to say that you believe in God, heaven, Jesus, but do you really when it's put to the test? When someone dies, can you trust them to God until you see them again? I finally decided that I could. I remember standing in church and longing for heaven and home because it now felt like home to me, with someone I loved there.

I still had struggles, of course. I had a sick feeling, thinking of my dad dying alone, choking for breath, struggling. But, my then-husband's foster dad, a missionary who happened to be in town at the time and performed the funeral for me, gave me a wonderful gift. He talked to me about other deaths he had been witnessed. He assured me that in cases of believers, they had all died peacefully and some had even spoke about seeing someone there in the room. He said he believed that either an angel had been in the room or Jesus himself. He told me that he believed that my dad had not been alone. That gave me peace.

I also had struggled with the question of why did my dad die at that particular time? I was doped on medication and forgot to call him. Why did God choose to take him at THAT time? That is a question that I still have and will not have answered until I am in heaven myself. But, that's okay. I have been able to let that question lie dormant. I trust that God had a reason and it does not affect my faith. I am not angry, I trust Him.

The guilt I struggled with for a long time. Sometimes I still feel it, but it's something that I can deal with. The sermon at church yesterday was about guilt. Guilt is something that the devil causes. When we have done wrong, God brings conviction so that we may confess and turn from our wrongdoing. But when guilt comes over something that has been forgiven already or was not our wrongdoing in the first place, it is Satan, trying to bring us down.

None of my struggles over my dad's death ever caused me to doubt my faith. I learned recently that one of my spiritual gifts is faith. I have seen God do too much in my life NOT to believe Him and trust Him. My faith is very strong. And I think it was only strengthened through the fiery furnace I went through when my dad died.

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