Sunday, December 26, 2010

Micah in Heaven

When Micah died, I had difficulty with how Micah would be welcomed into Heaven. I’ve always pictured the entrance into Heaven as a joyous event. Joyous, that is, for the deceased believer and Heaven’s other members . But Micah was of the age where he particularly appreciated the familiar faces of mom, dad and grandpas and grandmas. Who did he know in Heaven that would welcome him? Would he be startled by all of the unfamiliar faces? Micah had lived on earth for such a short period of time that there was no one he knew on earth that had preceded him into Heaven.
But, surely, since Jesus is mighty to save Micah, could not also He see to it that loving and beautiful faces also welcome him into eternity? I imagine that there are many smiling saints who enjoy the opportunity to welcome a little child who Jesus saved before adulthood.

About a month after Micah died, my cousin Chris created the illustration I have included above. The illustration depicts Micah being lead by a little bird into a boat, where Micah then travels across a large body of water. The scene on the bottom depicts Micah being welcome by my grandparents, Delbert and Irene Wessman, who preceded us into glory.
Micah’s “ship” illustration reminds of this illustration about Heaven, which is attributed to Henry Van Dyke, an American preacher from the 1800’s:

“I’m standing on the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She’s an object of beauty and strength and I stand watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and the sky come down to mingle with each other. And then I hear someone at my side saying, “There, she’s gone.”
Gone where? Gone from my sight, this is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side. And just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of destination. Her diminished size is in me, not in her.

And just at the moment when someone at my side says, “There, she is gone” there are other eyes watching her coming, and there are other voices ready to take up the glad shout, “Here she comes!” Cited by Randy Alcorn, In Light of Eternity, p. 152.
As agonizing as it is to be separated from Micah this Christmas season, how joyous it must have been for Heaven’s citizens, last summer, to welcome Micah to glory. The most enjoyable Christmas celebrations here on earth have nothing on the joy experienced in Heaven. Someday, I will similarly enter the Kingdom, by the blood of Jesus, to the shouts of joy of many dearly loved family members, including my son, Micah Robert Wessman.

Friday, December 17, 2010

True Glory

I recently watched a television show called “Who do you think you are?” Apparently the show follows public figures as historians trace their family lineage through previous generations. The particular episode that I watched summarized the personal history of actor Matthew Broderick and two of his ancestors: a grandfather who fought through, and survived, World War I; and his great, great grandfather, Robert Martindale, who fought and died in the Civil War.

After surviving the Battle of Gettysburg, Robert Martindale was killed in a subsequent battle. Martindale’s body is buried in a grave marked not by his name, but by a number—number 2469. Martindale’s relative anonymity as a Civil War casualty is particularly striking given Broderick’s acting role as Colonel Robert Gould Shaw in the award-winning movie, “Glory.” In that film, Broderick plays Shaw, the son of a wealthy abolitionist family, who volunteers to lead the very first formal units in the federal army comprised of African-Americans. While certain aspects of the film are fictional, most of the film is based upon the true story of Shaw and his regiment. At the end of the movie, Shaw leads his unit into certain death against a well-entrenched Confederate fort. Approximately one-half of Shaw’s entire unit died (including Shaw himself) or was injured or captured. The selflessness, leadership, and tenacity exhibited by Broderick’s character in that movie were certainly worthy of human award, of human notice, of human “glory.”

In light of the award-winning movie, Shaw’s leadership and selflessness have received human attention (“glory”). But while Shaw’s actions have received significant attention, what about Martindale’s sacrifice? What was Martindale’s reward for fighting and dying for his country? To be given grave stone #2469? Until the making of this television show, it appears that no one knew where Martindale was even buried.

Micah’s earthly body is currently buried in a row of graves of children in a large cemetery in Minneapolis. Not far from this row of children’s graves are some of the oldest graves in the cemetery. On these graves sit huge grave markers erected in honor of the deceased. In death so as in life, it seemed that these ostentations markers are not only a display of wealth but of the competition that likely existed between the prominent families of the day. In comparison to these ostentatious markers is the simple marker for Micah Robert Wessman. Micah’s life was so short that he had no opportunity to “distinguish himself,” from a human perspective. His earthly life was not long enough to be worthy of human recognition or human “glory.”

In speaking with other parents who have lost children, I find that like other grieving parents, I want to keep our child’s memory alive, to honor and remember how God blessed us through our little guy. Particularly around the Christmas season, it is very difficult to be missing your 2-year old son. But as it relates to what is eternally glories, what is worthy of our affection and attention, Micah is not “missing out” on any notoriety, any glory, from having lived a full life. Robert Martindale has a nice human legacy because he made the sacrifice of his life. But the legacies of the greatest political leaders, the greatest soldiers, and the greatest athletes of all time are like drops in an ocean compared to the greatness of God’s own legacy.

King David notes, “As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.” Psalm 103:15. Similarly, the Apostle Peter, citing the prophet Isaiah, contrasts the brevity of human life with the eternal application of the Word of God. “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the Word of the Lord remains forever.” 1 Peter 1:24.

In the end, we should be grateful that God’s glory will infinitely outshine any human glory. In comparison to the glory due to God, the greatest human beings who have ever lived will receive about the same glory as my son Micah. While Americans might feel that certain individuals, such as Robert Martindale, should receive greater recognition, and while parents feel like their deceased children should not be forgotten, we will someday all agree, whether we currently agree or not, that the attributes and activities of God are of infinitely greater worth than any and all human achievements. Our eternity will be defined by God’s glory, not our own.

· “Your name endures forever, your renown, O LORD, throughout all ages. “ Psalm 135:13.
· “But you, O Lord, reign forever; your throne endures to all generations.” Lamentations 5:19.
· “All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O Lord, for they have heard the words of your mouth, and they shall sing of the ways of the Lord, for great is the glory of the Lord.” Psalm 138: 4-5.
· “I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. “ Ecclesiastes 3:14.
· “But you, O LORD, are enthroned forever; You are remembered throughout all generations….Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise the LORD: That he looked down from his holy height; from heaven the Lord look at the earth, to hear the groans of the prisoners, to set free those who were doomed to die, that they may declare in Zion the name of the LORD, and in Jerusalem his praise, when people gather together, and kingdoms, to worship the Lord.” Psalm 102: 12, 18-22.
· “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” Romans 14:11; Isaiah 45:23.

From an eternal perspective, I believe Micah did not “miss out” on any opportunities to “make a name for himself.” Any attempts to do so would have detracted from his ability to find true joy, found in Jesus Christ alone. In fact, Micah already has a great head start on where all of us are headed--to be more and more consciously aware of the superior worth, praiseworthiness and glory of God over anything in creation. I pray that even now, while “waiting” on earth, we might become more God-centered in our affections.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Micah's Toys

Even though Micah's room is now occupied by his little brother, Owen, his room hasn't changed much since he died. His bedroom still has his little toys, his children's books, and his stuffed animals. When I see some of his toys, I am reminded of this old poem, called "Little Boy Blue:"

"The little toy dog is covered with dust,
But sturdy and staunch he stands;
And the little toy soldier is red with rust,
And his musket molds in his hands.

Time was when the little toy dog was new,
And the toy soldier was passing fair;
And that was the time when our Little Boy Blue
Kissed them and put them there.

"Now don't you go till I come," he said,
"And don't you make any noise!"
So, toddling off to his trundle-bed,
He dreamt of the pretty toys;

And, as he was dreaming, and angel song
Awakened our Little Boy Blue--
Oh! the years are many, the years are long,
But the little toy friends are true

Aye, faithful to Little Boy Blue they stand,
Each in the same old place--
Awaiting the touch of a little hand,
The smile of a little face;

And they wonder, as waiting the long years through
In the dust of that little chair,
What has become of Little Boy Blue,
Who kissed them and put them there."

Eugene Field, Lullaby-Land, Poems of Childhood, 1904.

Our second son, Owen, is now old enough to enjoy playing with his big brother's toys. It is with bittersweet joy that we can give Micah's toys to Owen for him to throw around, chew on, drool upon. Given Micah's short life with us, we feel blessed every day when we can wake up, and play with our Owen, whom the Lord has mercifully given to us for yet another day. Micah's toys are a daily reminder of God's blessing to us of Owen.

But Micah's toys are also a nearly daily reminder of the life with us that Micah "left behind" and the pain of our loss. Micah always had a little toy doll in his hands, and was often chewing on the head of that little doll. When I showed him one of his little teddy bears, he nearly always gave us an ear-to-ear smile while giving that teddy bear a gut-busting bear hug. Oh, how we long to see our Micah again; to see that big grin, with just those two teeth, to hear him talk again, to see him big that big bear hug.

We hold on to the promise in Scripture that Jesus will, in the end, redeem all things. In Revelation 21:5, Jesus promises us that he is "making all things new." What, then, will become of our relationship with our son Micah, if God is making all things new? What are you doing, Lord, in and through the sorrow of our loss? What will you be doing over perhaps many more years of an earthly life, while our pictures warp and fade, Micah's toys rust, relationships change, children move away and marry, and our memories and minds fade away?

Again and again in scripture, we see God using pain, sin and death for His own purposes. After God used Joseph to save his family, Joseph told his brothers who had, many years earlier, sold him into slavery, "What you intended for evil, God intends for good." Genesis 50:20. So how will Jesus redeem this suffering? Will Jesus make things just like they were before the pea clogged his throat? Or will we, in Heaven, be able to see Micah even more clearly, hold him more closely, and love him even more him more deeply then we ever did while on earth? When will you be done, Lord? How much longer do we have to wait? And when can we see our son again?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Always Giving Thanks

A friend and spiritual mentor encouraged me soon after Micah’s death that we need to be thankful in every circumstance. He encouraged us to find reason to be thankful to God as soon as possible. Ephesians 5:19&20 says, “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I found that encouragement very hard to swallow. It is one thing to give thanks when the sun is shining on your face, and “Mr. Bluebird is whistling on your shoulder.” How could we possibly give thanks for the circumstances surrounding Micah’s death?

In the contemporary version of the “Four Spiritual Laws” booklet produced by Campus Crusade for Christ, the booklet includes an illustration of a train pulling a caboose. The train is entitled “Fact,” and the caboose is entitled, “Feelings.” The booklet stresses the importance of the historical life, death and resurrection of Christ on the cross on our behalf, and to trust in that “fact,” regardless of how we “feel” about the circumstances of our lives. In other words, we must look to the scriptures for promises and to trust in those promises even when we don’t feel like God loves us. We must allow the facts of God’s promises to us in scripture to “pull us through” all of life’s circumstances when we have no reason to believe, based upon our circumstances alone, of God’s great promises for us in Christ Jesus.

Last year, on Thanksgiving Day, Heather agreed, on purpose, to work at the Hospital all day. I went to the cemetery and then posted some thoughts entitled, “Thankful for the Living Hope,” in which I expressed thankfulness for our future hope, through Jesus Christ, in the resurrection of our deceased son Micah. But with regard to our particular circumstances, I didn’t particularly feel much like celebrating. Our circumstances didn’t lend themselves to allowing the “caboose” of feelings pull our faith. Our long-awaited son had died that summer, and now we were left on our first holiday without him. God had seemingly answered our prayers for a child with Micah, and then, very suddenly, took him away under tragic circumstances.

On this Thanksgiving Day, I am amazed and thankful for what God has done since I wrote that post last year on Thanksgiving Day. We’ve gone through the myriad of emotions accompanying a sudden death—shock, avoidance, despair, depression, and anger. We have maintained a faith in the goodness of God by focusing on the “facts” of God’s sovereignty, His goodness, His mercy and His love.

This year, from an emotional perspective, we have seen a gradual turning (or returning) of joy in our life. Particularly in the birth of our second son, Owen, we have had occasion for our home to be full of laughter, smiles, and baby sounds once again. This Thanksgiving Day, we continue to be thankful for the same things we were thankful for last year, namely, the goodness and mercy of God demonstrated to us through Christ. But in addition to being grateful for these eternal promises, we are also thankful this year for our new son, Owen. We are thankful for how God has maintained and strengthened our marriage. We are thankful for a family who has supported us in our grieving. We are thankful for friends like you who have loved and supported us so well. On behalf of Heather, Owen and I, Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, and may you be able to “give thanks in all circumstances,” whether those circumstances easily lend themselves to praising God, or because of your hope, that through Christ, we will someday be grateful for what God has done in and through more difficult circumstances.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Thanks Friends

In 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, Paul says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”

Over the past 15 months, Heather and I have experienced great sufferings. Our world has been turned upside down; there is no adequate description for the grief that accompanies the sudden death of your oldest son. In many ways, we’ve lost our lives. We have lost our hopes and dreams. While we have much joy in our second son, Owen, we have not “moved on” from the death of our oldest son, Micah. We have, and will always have, a hole in our family; that hole in our lives, that spot at the dinner table, that empty bedroom, will always be there, this side of Heaven. It will not be filled until the day when we see Micah again in Heaven. We will not be healed from our suffering until we see Jesus and Micah.

But just as we have experienced great suffering by reason of Micah’s death, we have also been greatly comforted by all of you. God has graciously provided the love and support of family members and friends, both old and new, who have been vessels of God’s comfort to us. We have received the comfort of God through you, friends and family. And for that, we are so grateful.

As many of you know, we decided to create the Micah Wessman Foundation to try to comfort those who are in the affliction of the death of a child. We are using the same ways in which God comforted us, through you, to attempt to comfort others. When we hear about the death of a child, we have been sending care packages to the parents. The care packages are currently comprised of two books on grieving, written from a Christian perspective, as well as gift cards to local restaurants. The care package also includes information on a scholarship offer we have with Smile Again Ministries in Brainerd. In the near future, we plan to add a third book as well as contact information for local Christian grief groups and counselors.

Heather and I have come to think that our efforts in creating this little ministry has become inseparable from the way that we grieve. In other words, we grieve our son's death through the actions we take in helping comfort others. We think that it is good for us to grieve in this way, and we thank you for your many financial gifts and the many other ways in which you have encouraged us to minister in this way.

We would ask that you help us in this ministry be making us aware of any families who have lost young children. By word of mouth alone, we have been put in touch with approximatley 14 families over the past year who have lost young children and experienced a stillborn death. It has been our priviledge to pass along care packages to these families. We have also provided 2 scholarships to Smile Again Ministries. This next year, our goal is to create a professional website to include some of the writings from my blog as well as numerous links and resources for grieving parents. Through the website and the traffic we hope to generate, we hope to significantly increase the number of care packages sent over the next year.

Thanks again for all of your support. We have shared abundantly in Christ's comfort through you, and for that we are so grateful.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Second Birthday

We miss you, Micah, our first born son
Another year without you on your birthday
We wish that our life here, with you, had just begun
That God had not taken you away

How I would love to see
Your eyes turns bright and wide
As you open a gift from me
And to see you giggle at my side

How I would delight in you, my son
To see you smile, walk and then run
To hear your voice again, or just your cry
And together watch the years go by

But I am stuck here in this world
So far from Heaven, from God’s glory fully unfurled
Not able to see what awaits
Beyond our graves and Heaven’s pearly gates

Oh, how we wish we might
Be free from this sin and death
And in the land of unending delight
With you, my son, with life and breath

For while my gifts for you would one day break
I can only imagine what gifts you now receive
From God, who loves to give and make
Such wonderful gifts for you, we can hardly conceive

Gifts large and small, just for you
Through Jesus, who makes all things new
Even after everything that went wrong, when you fell
We know that Jesus has made you well.

So while we can’t sing you a birthday song
We hope and pray it won’t be long
‘Till we laugh and play and sing together
And marvel at God’s love and mercy forever

Monday, October 11, 2010

Micah's Legacy, Part VI: God Owns It All

Sixth, Micah’s death has taught me that God really does own it all.

Over the past year, we have sometimes struggled with God’s power and Micah’s death. God, if you are in control of all things, then why, God, did you allow this to happen? If you are in control of all things, then we did you allow our child to die? If you could have stopped him from dying, then why didn’t you? Doesn’t that make you like a murderer, God? If you took life, when you could have saved it, doesn’t that make you a murderer? Are you a murderer, God?

When we turn to scripture we find that, unlike a murderer, who has no right to take the life of our son, God does have the right to take life. In scripture, we see that plain truth that God has the right to take Micah’s life not just because he is in control of all things, but because he owns all things. In Job 41: 11, God tells Job, “Everything under heaven belongs to me.” Even when we live like God isn’t around, or when we think we can do anything with “our” money or “our” kids, that doesn’t change the fact that God does indeed own everything.

After God took everything away from Job, Job continued to praise God. In the midst of his sorrow, Job said, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21. Nancy Guthrie says, “Evidently Job, long before, had figured out that his extreme wealth and blessing not only came from God but also were still God’s, while Job himself was just a steward.” Nancy Guthrie, Holding on to Hope, p. 23.

Indeed, Pastor Skip Heitzig says, “We don’t own our children. They are entrusted to us from Him, but we are only stewards of them. And since God entrusted them to us, He may decide at any time, to say, “I want them now, and I’ll take care of them from now on. I’ll surround them with My special love and mercy. I’ll give to them so much more than you could ever provide. That’s His prerogative as Sovereign God.” Skip Heitzig, Jesus, Friend of Children, p. 21.

This coming saturday night, Pastor Kenny Stokes will, Lord willing, dedicate Owen to God. Here are the words of dedication:
“Owen Robert Wessman, together with your parents you love you dearly and this people who care about the outcome of your faith, I dedicate you to God, surrendering together with them all worldly claims upon your life in the hope that you will belong wholly to Jesus Christ, forever.”

It is difficult, really difficult, to surrender "all worldly claims" upon our little son's life. Our natural inclinition is to holder tighter, not looser, to Owen because he know that it is possible that God would take Owen, just as He took Micah. But through Micah’s death, I have come to understand that Owen, like Micah, is owned by God. We want control of our son's life. We want ownership of him. But God has staked a claim to him. In our better moments, when we can really take into account what is best for Owen, we wouldn't want it any other way. Our hope, in forsaking any worldly claims upon Owen's life is that Owen would belong wholly to Jesus, just as Micah is now wholly with Jesus.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Marathon Fundraiser Update

Thanks to everyone for your prayers and financial contributions towards my fundraising efforts for the Micah Wessman Foundation as I ran the Twin Cities Marathon this past Sunday, October 3rd, 2010.

Here is my update:

1. Last week, I was informed that I was chosen as a "Face in the Crowd" by the organizers of the marathon. The "Face in the Crowd" program highlights the stories of 4 people participating in the marathon. Last Friday, I took part in a press conference at the St. Paul convention center in which I was able to share about Micah and our desire to help grieving parents through the Micah Wessman Foundation.

2. As part of the Faces in the Crowd program, I was interviewed for the Twin Cities Marathon television show, which will air at 7 pm this Thursday night (October 7th), on Fox Sports North. I pray that, somehow, my interview and the information shared about the Micah Wessman Foundation would be passed on to some grieving parents. I hope to post the interview to the blog, once I obtain a copy of it.

3. Between donations and additional pledges, we have been able to raise $3,534.70 to date for the foundation! We are so grateful for friends and family who have encouraged us in our ministry through their generous contributions.

4. I was able to finish the marathon in a personal best time of 3 hours, 32 minutes, 25 seconds. It was a tremendous experience. The weather was ideal. I knew every part of the race course, having run all parts of the course at various times over this past spring and summer. There were approximately 11,000 people who started the marathon, and an estimated crowed of 300,000 people turned out to watch the race in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Thanks to all who prayed me through the run on Sunday morning!

Heather and I continue to be so grateful for friends, family, work colleagues, neighbors, and others we barely know who have showered us with kindness in so many ways. Thank you.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Micah's Legacy, Part V: To Walk in Faith with an Enigmatic God

Fifth, Micah’s death has meant that we must walk and talk with God even when we do not know what God is doing. In the 14 months since Micah has died, Heather and I have often struggled with God over Micah’s death. We have often wondered:

· Why us? Why do we have to bear this burden of grief?

· Why now? God, if you wanted to take Micah, and if I was required to bury my son, why couldn’t we have just a few more years with him?

· Why would you take Micah away, only to give us Owen so soon after? In giving us Owen, it is clear that you want us to be parents—so why did you take Micah from us?

· Why didn’t the doctors find the pea in his lung? Why didn’t they take out the pea? Why did the pea get lodged in his windpipe?

· Why couldn’t Heather or the EMTs revive him? Why didn’t I realize what was going on, and try to shake the pea lose? Why was I so powerless to watch my son die?

In the September 2010 edition of Christianity Today, Frank James III writes about his grief following the death of his younger brother, Kelly, who died in 2006 in a mountain climbing accident. About his grief, Mr. James writes, “There is disappointment, sadness, and confusion, but oddly, there is no retreat from God. Instead, I find myself drawn to God. To be sure, he is enigmatic than I thought, but I still can’t shake loose from him. There seems to be a kind of gravitational pull toward God. …My conception of faith has become Abrahamic—which is to say, I must trust God even though I do not understand him.” Christianity Today, September 2010, 61.

Mr. James is right in describing his faith as “Abrahamic.” God promised Abraham that he would become the father of the nation of Israel. But Abraham had to wait many years for God to fulfill his promise to provide him with a son. Then, in Genesis chapter 22, God tells Abraham to take his only son, Isaac, and sacrifice him as a burnt offering. Amazingly, Abraham was ready to do so, even after having endured so many years of waiting upon God for his son. Then, at just the last moment, when Abraham’s knife was raised to sacrifice Isaac, God provided a ram as a substitute sacrifice.

The story of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac seems to defy logic. If God knew the extent of Abraham’s faith, why did he test Abraham like this? Scripture says that God stopped Abraham once he saw that Abraham was ready to sacrifice his own son. Genesis 22:11-12. But isn’t God supposed to be all-knowing? So what is the point of this exercise?

Like us, Abraham had the capacity for logic; he could have questioned God’s demand that Isaac be sacrificed. Abraham could have asked, “God, if you are all-powerful and all-knowing, why did you give me Isaac, only to have me sacrifice him now? What is the point of that?” But Abraham, without questioning God or his ways, was ready to be obedient to God, even to the point of the death of his own son at his own hand. Indeed, it was by faith that Abraham trusted in God to provide for him and for his son. “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promised was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.” Hebrews 11:17-19.

The author of Hebrews also writes that, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation.” Hebrews 11:1-2. God was pleased with Abraham’s life because he lived an obedient life in faith, not logic. Abraham received his commendation from God precisely because he did not stop to debate God over the righteousness of his ways. Abraham is listed as a member of the "Hall of Faith" in Hebrews chapter 11 because he was obedient to God, even when, from a human perspective, he had reason to doubt God.

As Christians, we must take Abraham's example and follow God where he leads, even when we don’t know what God intends to do in and through our circumstances. We must live a life through the heart (in faith), and not just the head (by logic only). In difficult circumstances, our faith must become dearer to us than it ever has before, because in it is the “assurance of things hoped for.” For Heather and me, we have learned that we must walk with God in faith, even though we realize that we will not understand God’s reasons, on this side of Heaven, for why God deemed it necessary to take Micah home to Heaven so soon.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Micah's Legacy, Part IV: An Increased Reliance Upon God

Fourth, Micah’s death has decreased our reliance on ourselves, and increased our reliance upon God. Before Micah died, I would have been able to explain to you what it means to trust in God. But ever since that Sunday morning in July of last year, when Heather and I stood by, helplessly watching as our son left this earth, we have a newfound appreciation for our own limitations. Understanding our own limitations is helpful insofar as it requires us to place a greater degree of trust in God.

The circumstances surrounding Micah’s death clearly demonstrates the surpassing power of God’s purposes over even our best-laid plans. Regardless of how much we plan, how many professionals are involved in our plan, how wise we think the plan is, or even how much we pray to God, our wisdom and strength are utterly insufficient. Whether in our professional lives, our parenting abilities, or our financial situations, we are utterly helpless without God. While God will use our abilities and circumstances to carry out His plans, God’s purposes (not ours) will stand.

The implications to me of my own lack of self-sufficiency are far-reaching. One very practical application to my life of this has been in financial provision. While we can (and should) be diligent about education, training, and building a career, it is God who ultimately provides us with the skills, the job, and the paycheck. In the twelfth chapter of Luke, I find two passages, found consecutive to one another, to be relevant to living a life of financial reliance upon God.

First, in Luke 12: 13-21 Jesus gives a parable which has often been called the parable of the “Rich Fool.” “Someone in the crowed said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me. But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, “What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops? And he said, “I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be? So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

As an estate planning attorney, I have the opportunity to observe in many of my clients the very same mentality espoused by this rich farmer. It certainly seems wise to make money, to save, and to plan for educational and retirement costs. I don’t think that Jesus was faulting the farmer for owning productive farmland or making money; he was, however, faulting the farmer for his intention to rely upon himself and to “cut out” God from his financial life. The rich farmer attempted to rely upon his “own” finances to be rich toward towards himself, but not rich towards God.

The rich farmer was also making presuming upon a certain future with regard to his money. He thought, incorrectly, that he would have many years to “relax, eat, drink and be merry.” So many of us in our comfortable American culture think that, based upon our income, savings and retirement accounts, we will have 15 or 20 years of a “rich” retirement to relax, eat, drink and be merry. But God’s plans are not our plans. With the onset of cancer, heart attack, or life-altering accident, God’s plans are often not our plans.

In our situation, soon after Micah’s birth, one of our family members was kind enough to make a generous contribution to a college savings account in Micah’s name. All of us, myself included, presumed upon a future in which Micah would have the opportunity to college. No one ever dreamed that Micah wouldn’t have a chance to go to college. Jesus is not suggesting that we shouldn’t save for future expenses, such as retirement and college; he is, however, warning us against relying upon ourselves for a certain future.

Second, in Luke 12:22-31, it seems that Jesus anticipates (or perhaps answers) the listener’s objection from his first parable. I can imagine one of his listeners saying, “Jesus, I don’t understand that parable. If we can’t even store up crops during a good year, what are we supposed to do about money? Shouldn’t I worry about having enough money to feed myself and my family?

Jesus says, “…I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor born, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and all these things will be added to you.”

The promise that “God will clothe you” must have had significant meaning to the listeners, given that, earlier in the Gospel of Luke, we are told that Jesus demonstrated his authority by feeding the 5,000 with five loaves and two fishes. Earlier Jesus showed his listeners that He has the authority to feed and clothe them; now, he is commanding them to trust in Him for our daily provisions. Jesus is not giving us a list of commands, and then suggesting that we are “on our own.” God calls us to an unwavering obedience to him, and in his sovereignty, promises to provide all we need.

Jesus is not looking for people to stand “on their own two feet.” Jesus is looking for people on their knees, people who are in such need of God’s power in their lives that they are willing to rely on God for everything, including food and clothing. If we rely upon ourselves, we will be anxious about every life opportunity. We will have our attention divided between Jesus and the status of our own pocketbook.

In taking Micah away from me, the Lord also took away some of my tendencies towards self-sufficiency. Whether in our financial situation, specifically, or just in life, generally, we have lost a sense of self-sufficiency, and increasingly found a need to rely upon God.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Micah's Legacy, Part III: Taking the "risk" of loving

Third, God has used Micah’s death in my life so that I will not presume upon the future, but will take the risk of loving even in the full knowledge of the possibilities of loss and grief.

In his book, “Confessions of a Grieving Christian,” motivational speaker Zig Ziglar writes that experiencing deep grief following the death of a child is good in that it demonstrates a deep love for your lost children. Ziglar says that if you were not filled with grief, you would be filled with regret at never having taken full advantage of the opportunities to love your child. One of the most meaningful comments made to me during Micah’s wake came from a former co-worker of mine. She told Heather and me, “I have no doubt that no little boy was loved as well as Micah was loved by you; he was loved as well as he could have been.” As much as grief hurts, I am grateful that my life is not filled with regret at having never taken full use of our opportunity to love Micah.

Love is intended to be given. Unlike many other things in life, it cannot be stored up for later use. It is meant to be given away, and given away immediately. Ziglar says, “If you truly want to have a lot of love, you must continually give a lot of love.” Ziglar, Confessions of a Grieving Christian, p. 200. In 1 Corinthians 13:8, the Apostle Paul says, “Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.” Paul tells us that the most excellent of the gifts is love. As I have previously written on this blog, our grief at Micah’s passing is as deep as our love for him.

But I am convinced that as much as we grieve over Micah’s sudden death, God does not want us to stop loving. For me, this means that while I continue to love Micah, I also “step out” into the currently unknown future of loving our second son Owen. We are “stepping out” into the unknown because, frankly, to love is to risk loss. Whenever you love, you are devoting your finances, your time, your skills, and your emotions towards the object of your affections without being guaranteed of a particular outcome. With children, to love is to want the very best for your children, to place your whole heart into them—into their physical needs, their education, their spiritual lives, their whole lives. And yet there is no guarantee that our children will outlive us. Or, perhaps even more significantly, there is no guarantee that our children will grow up to be the men and women that we pray that they become.

We take risks because we are finite and are ignorant of the future. The author of James says, “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15. As with all parents, we had specific dreams for Micah. We hoped that he might grow up to like baseball, do well in school (especially history) and then attend Wheaton College (or, in Heather’s case, Seattle Pacific University). Until Micah was taken to the hospital by ambulance, there was never a moment when Heather and I thought it possible that we would lose our Micah.

But while we don’t know the future, God does. We take risks; God doesn’t. And not only does he know the future, he is orchestrating the future for our benefit and the benefit of our children. Pastor John Piper says, “Risk is right. And the reason is not because God promises success to all our ventures in his cause... The bottom-line comfort and assurance in all our risk-taking for Christ is that nothing will ever separate us from the love of Christ.” Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life, p. 89, 95. “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39.

Alfred Lord Tennyson said,“”Tis better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.” But love is worth the risk not merely because of any existential, “in the moment” benefit. The truth is that while Micah may be lost to us, he is not lost to God. God is sovereign. This means that God rules over both good circumstances and bad. God is just as likely to work good in us through the pain of grief as He is in the joy of hope fulfilled.

One of the legacies of Micah’s life and death is that it exploded any misconception of safety and comfort in our lives. In Christ, we can be assured that the end result of our “risking” love is ultimately for our own good. We can take the risk of loving again because God loves us and works all things together for our good.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Marathon Fundraiser

Hi Friends,

As many of you already know, my wife Heather and I created the Micah Wessman Foundation following Micah’s death. The mission of the Foundation is to provide Christ-centered resources and assistance to parents grieving the death of a young child. Since creating the Foundation in December of last year, the Foundation has already provided several care packages to grieving parents. The Foundation has also provided two scholarships for parents to attend Smile Again Ministries, a grief retreat center for grieving parents in Cross Lake, MN.

On October 3, 2010, I will be running the Twin Cities Marathon. In participating in the marathon, I hope to raise financial support for the Foundation by enlisting the support of friends and family to “sponsor” my race. If you are interested in supporting the Foundation’s work with grieving families, please consider sponsoring me in my marathon run. You may consider sponsoring me on a "per mile" basis. Based upon my goal of completing all 26.2 miles, a per-mile pledge of $1.00 would yield a total pledge to the Foundation of $26.20. Other "per-mile" pledge examples are listed below:

Per Mile Pledge/Total Pledge:


I am also open to other types of pledges. Consider incentive pledges, such as doubling your pledge if I meet certain time goals. (My goal for the marathon is 3 hours and 50 minutes). Of course, the Foundation will accept a contribution of any amount. Please keep in mind that, since the Micah Wessman Foundation has received IRS approval as a tax-exempt organization, any contributions to the Micah Wessman Foundation are tax deductible.

Since Micah’s death, Heather and I have increasingly felt a calling to use our own God-ordained circumstances to help other grieving families through their grief. We believe that your contributions to the Foundation will greatly assist the ministry’s efforts to reach grieving families. On behalf of both Heather and I, thanks for your continued prayer support, and for your support of the Micah Wessman Foundation. Checks may be written to the Micah Wessman Foundation and mailed to the Foundation at 4011 Boardman Street, Minneapolis, MN 55417. Thanks again.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Micah's Legacy, Part II: To Find Our Ultimate Happiness in God, Not Our Circumstances

Second, God has worked through Micah’s life and death to center my hope for ultimate happiness on God, and not my own circumstances. I cannot adequately describe my anguish as I sat in the intensive care unit at Children’s Hospital, knowing that while my little son’s body was lying next to me, his spirit was already gone. When we took him off the breathing machines, and his little heart stopped beating, many of my own dreams died along with him.

Over the past year, Heather and I have wondered whether there could ever be any set of earthly circumstances that can ever provide us with sufficient joy to make up for this loss. Certainly, the birth and health of our second son Owen has provided us with great happiness. But regardless of Owen’s future health and happiness, or the success of our careers or other life opportunities, I find it difficult to believe that we can ever be naturally happy again. The death of our Micah, and our hopes and dreams for him, has left such a void in our hearts and in our home that no set of circumstances can ever make us or our family “whole” on this side of the second coming of Jesus Christ.

But just as Micah’s death has removed any hope for ultimate happiness based upon earthly circumstances, it has also provided us occasion to grasp the supernatural joy found in Jesus Christ. There is reason to hope and live in joy, not in anything related to our circumstances, but in God Himself. As Christians, we are called to find our ultimate joy in Jesus Christ. Jesus told us that He came so that we may have joy in the knowledge of the saving grace found in Him alone. He said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” John 15:11.

Even though King David experienced significant earthly successes, it was God that ultimately brought him joy. “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” Psalm 27:4. David said, “I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you’…The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.” Psalm 16:2, 5.

The Apostle Paul, before he became a Christian, had reason to take pride in his circumstances. He was a zealous Jew, even persecuting the early church. And yet, following his conversion, he considered all his background“…as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…I count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:8-11.

Micah’s death has allowed me to “cut to the heart” of happiness in life. Is my joy from my job? But what happens when I lose it, or it significantly changes? Is my joy in my hobbies, my athletic pursuits or my entertainment? What happens when I lose my sight or my ability to run or walk? Where is my joy then? Is my joy in my spouse and children? What happens when my child or spouse dies? How will I have any ability to carry on in life if all of my joy was centered solely in my child or spouse?

Two thousand years from now, Micah and I will have enjoyed each other in the presence of our Lord and Savior for many, many years. Our happiness will have not been reduced by the pea that stuck in Micah’s throat. Instead, we will have spent many years together searching out the unreachable heights of the wisdom and power of God, giving praise to God for how He divinely orchestrated human history to display His wonderful attributes to us. Until then, I can be thankful that God uses events in our lives to teach us about what it means to be ultimately happy.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Micah's Legacy, Part I: The Unconditional Love of God

As I previously posted, we have now passed the one-year anniversary of Micah’s death and his home-going to Heaven. Heather and I have contradictory feelings about the one-year anniversary. In some ways, it seems like our little Micah was just here. Just last night I came across an old Time magazine of mine that I had saved because, shortly before he died, Micah had gotten his little hands on it and had torn it to shreds. Both Heather and I agreed that it seemed like it was just yesterday when we had watched him, with a little mischievous smile on his face, tear that magazine apart.

But in other ways, it seems like five years, not one year, since we lost him. I think grief has a way of slowing time down. Maybe it is because we lose the illusion that circumstances of life can be controlled or manipulated as we wish. Or maybe it is because grief is emotionally and physically exhausting and life is not as “easy” as it used to be. Or maybe it is because we now have greater reason to look forward to heaven, and we have an increased desire to finish the race of life and enter eternity.

But regardless of how fast time moves, Micah’s departure has certainly left us forever changed. In light of this one-year anniversary, I have had the opportunity to reflect on some of the practical ways in which Micah’s death has impacted me. Over the next few months, I thought I would add to the blog a series of posts about Micah’s legacy to me—that is, how God has used Micah’s death in my own life. While I currently have about five different posts in the works, it is certainly likely that I will add to my list as I proceed. As always, thanks for keeping up with us through this blog and for your prayers.

(1) The Unconditional Love of God

First, Micah’s departure has helped me better understand the unconditional love of God. If Micah had lived past July 27, 2009, I would have loved him regardless of who he would have become as a person. If he eventually became a doctor, a carpenter, a musician, an athlete, a teacher or a janitor; I would have loved him if he was single or married; homosexual or heterosexual; a believer or an unbeliever. I would have loved him if he became a serious person or a clown, a recluse or the life of the party. I have an unconditional love for my son, even now, in his absence.

If Micah had lived, I would have had the opportunity to demonstrate my love for Micah through his successes and his failures. The pain of loss is so great now, not only because we miss who he is, but also because of the loss of opportunity to love him unconditionally. In the absence of his physical presence with us, I cannot demonstrate to him an unconditional love in the context of a father and son relationship. Of course, even though Micah has left us, my unconditional love for him has not.

I think that my pain in the loss of the opportunity to love Micah unconditionally is a “clue” to the nature of the unconditional love that God demonstrated to us through Christ. God gave us salvation, through grace, not because there was anything good in us, but because of his great love for us. His love is unconditional towards us who are given the gift of faith. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:4-7.

The night before Micah left us, Heather was sitting on our living room floor with Micah, talking to her mother and father-in-law. She sat with Micah on the exact spot on the floor which, just 12 hours later, Micah would lay as Heather and the EMTs tried to revive him. As Heather was sitting on the floor that night with Micah, she commented, “I can’t imagine how God could allow His Son to die. I love Micah so much, I can’t imagine seeing him die.”

You certainly do not need to lose your children to understand the nature of the unconditional love you have for your children. But now that I have watched my son die, I have a small sense of the pain that God the Father endured when Jesus the Son went to the cross. As agonizing as my grief has been in losing Micah, God the Father’s grief in losing spiritual separation from His Son was even greater. Amazingly, God the Father deemed the pain He experienced in losing his Son to be worth the price of our redemption as sons.

How great is God’s unconditional love for us! His love for me was bought at a cost that, through Micah’s death, I am only beginning to understand. Our relationship with Him is, in God’s eyes, worth the greatest price. The Cross of Christ is therefore not only the symbol of my salvation, but of God’s great love for me.

Maybe through this love for our children we can better understand the love that God has for us in Christ Jesus, a love that cannot be separated by anything. “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate use from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39. Perhaps God placed this unconditional love in the hearts of parents to help us, as Christians, better understand the love that the Father has for us through his son, Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Micah's Homegoing - One Year Anniversary

Today marks the one year anniversary of Micah's death. In honor of his "homegoing," I have created a slideshow of some of our favorite pictures. Thanks for your love, prayers & support. Cory, Heather and Owen.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Grateful for the Gospel

“Well, you guys just need to do what works for you.” Heather and I heard these words of advice again several times this past week, as we have numerous times over the past year. We have found that this is good advice and right. In many ways, we had to start from scratch to find the right daily routines for us in our grieving. We have had to consider the right “form” of our lives.

In “God’s Grace and Your Sufferings,” David Powlison lists a number of ways in which we could lessen the anxiety surrounding suffering. Among other things, we could take yoga classes, get some “distance from the problem,” or throw ourselves into work. But Powlison says that “none of them gives you high joy in knowing that your entire life is a holy experiment as God’s hands shape you into the image of his Son. None of them changes the way you suffer by embedding it in deeper meaning.” David Powlison, God’s Grace and Your Sufferings, Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, Piper & Taylor, eds., p. 165.

While there are benefits to considering how and whether certain routines in life affect grief, none of these decisions will ultimately substitute for the meaning within our lives. The one and only cure for the melancholy from our mourning for Micah is being grateful to God for the gospel. Anything other than God Himself would not be sufficient to persevere over the course of a lifetime.

If we focus on the objective truth of God’s great love for us, demonstrated in Christ, then we will have the power to overcome melancholy. In Colossians, Paul says to the church, “May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:11-14 (ESV, my emphasis).

There are all sorts of ways that we could try to deal with our grief through forgetting Micah or avoiding his earthly history. We could become alcoholics or workaholics or become addicted to shopping or drugs. We could try to focus on other aspects of our circumstances, such as our second son Owen. It seems to me that, outside of our hope in Christ, the only way to break out of melancholy would be to try various means to either (i) forget my circumstances as they relate to Micah and his history or (ii) convince myself that I don’t (or didn’t) really love Micah all that much or that his death was not that big of a deal. These methods merely avoid the grief in our own minds, and will only work so long as the circumstances are right. These methods of dealing with melancholy are “dark” in the sense that they are not grounded in objective truth.

Paul suggests to the Colossians that the key to endurance in all earthly circumstances is the joy in knowing what Jesus Christ has done for us. Even in light of the reality of our son’s tragic death, we have many reasons to be filled with joy, to be thankful, for what it means to be part of Christ’s Kingdom.

Thankful for Knowing Christ

We are thankful for the actual knowledge of God’s plan for salvation, which is found in His Son, Jesus Christ. In previous ages of human history, only certain elements of God’s plan were made known through the prophets. But now, the mystery hidden for ages and generations has now been revealed to us. To us who have heard of, and trust in, the good news of Jesus Christ, “God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of Glory.” Colossians 1:26-27.

We should be thankful for how rich we are merely by reason of the knowledge of this mystery. This "mystery" is that we have been saved by God, through Jesus Christ, for all eternity, not because of anything we have done, but because of God’s grace towards us. Ephesians 2:8. We have been forgiven of all of our imperfections (our sins), have been justified by God and therefore qualify to be members of His Kingdom. We have reason to be thankful because of this inheritance, this gift, of undeserved membership in His Kingdom. Take away all else in our lives, and we still have everything we need in the Kingdom of Christ.

Thankful for Purpose in our Suffering

As difficult as it is to walk through this past year of grief, we are so thankful that God is not wasting our sufferings. We are grateful that God is working through our sufferings to make us more like Jesus. Left on my own, my personal character would likely become worse, not better, following my son’s death. These tragic events have already caused bouts of anger, bitterness and melancholy. Without Christ, these bouts would become entrenched character traits. Indeed, without Christ, I was “dead in the trespasses and sins in which [I] once walked, following the course of this world…carrying out the desires of [my] body and the mind, and [I was] by nature a child of wrath…” Ephesians 2:1-3.

But now, the glory of this “mystery” of the gospel is that Christ now actually lives in us. In living within us, God works in us "to will and to work for his good pleasure" so that we can live a life pleasing to God. Philippians 2:13. Our sinful reactions to emotions arising from temporal circumstances no longer need hold sway. According to Colossians 1, God gives us the power to have patience and endurance to have joy even in the midst of the most difficult temporal circumstances.

And our joy comes from knowing that these difficult temporal circumstances will eventually pass away and we will enjoy God eternally. “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18.

Thankful for Micah’s Salvation

Next week, we will have endured one year since Micah died and went to be with His Savior. Over this past year, we have been so grateful for the hope that our little son is now in the physical presence of our Lord and Savior.

Samuel Rutherford was a 17th century pastor and theologian who was one of the authors of the Westminster Confession. Amazingly, all of his children from his first marriage and six of his seven children from his second marriage all died before him. To a bereaved mother of a little girl, Samuel Rutherford wrote, “Do you think that she is lost, when she is only sleeping in the bosom of the Almighty? If she were with a dear friend, your concern for her would be small, even though you would never see her again. Oh now, is she not with a dear friend, and gone higher, upon a certain hope that you shall see her again in the resurrection? Your daughter was a part of yourself; and, therefore, being as it were cut in half, you will be grieved. But you have to rejoice; though a part of you is on earth, a great part of you is glorified in heaven.” Samuel Rutherford, Letters of Samuel Rutherford ( Edinburgh : Banner of Trust, repr. 1973).

What ultimately “works” in grief is not just the "forms" of our life, but the meaning, the substance, we attach to our sufferings. Heather and I can be thankful for what Jesus Christ has done for us and for Micah, for what God is currently doing in our lives to make us more like Him, and for what joy awaits us at the resurrection.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Dark Night of Grief

In the darkness of our grief, we have often resonated with the words of the psalmist in Psalm 88:
“…For my soul is full of troubles,
And my life draws near to Sheol.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit;

I am a man who has no strength,
Like one set loose among the dead,
Like the slain that lie in the grave,
Like those whom you remember no more,
For they are cut off from your hand.
You have put me in the depths of the pit,
In the regions dark and deep.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
And you overwhelm me with all your waves.
You have caused my companions to shun me;
You have made me a horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
My eye grows dim through sorrow.” Psalm 88:3-9 ESV.

Psalm 88 is an unusual Psalm in that the chapter does not end on a confident note; there is no “ray of sunshine” or hope or promise for how God will redeem the suffering. It is suffering and only suffering. While there is an implicit recognition of the sovereignty of God throughout the Psalm, there is not an explicit resolution to the Psalmist’s sufferings. So why is this Psalm even in the Bible?

In his article entitled “Waiting for the Morning,” Dustin Shramek says that Psalm 88 is in the Bible “so that when suffering and pain come and we are between the affliction and triumph in the midst of the questions, pain, and clouds of doubt, we may see that what we are feeling is normal. It has all been felt before, and all the questions have been asked before. We are not the first. We are not alone. And we are not in danger of losing our faith (at least not yet).” Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, edited by Piper & Taylor, p. 184.

Shramek and his wife lost their son Owen in 2003. Following Owen’s death, members of their church tried to encourage them to get through their grief by providing them with “pat” theological comments or encouragements. Dustin felt that while these fellow members meant well, what they really wanted was for the Shrameks to get through their grief quickly. Shramek believes that, in times such as these, we should not move “so quickly from the affliction to the deliverance and thus minimize the pain in between.” Shramek, 179.

In 1 Peter 4:12, Peter says, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” Do we really believe the Bible’s promise that we will suffer? Or are we secretly hoping that the Bible is not true when it comes to promises about suffering? We should not be surprised that Christians suffer, and that this suffering really hurts. Psalm 88 shows that God expects us not to minimize the pain of our present sufferings.

The Apostle Paul exhorts all believers to bear with each other’s sufferings as “one body.” In 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 Paul says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” In 1 Corinthians 12: 26 Paul says, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”

If we as Christians are to effectively bear burdens collectively, as a body, then we need to be genuine in our grief. If we are those trying to encourage or uplift others in suffering, then we must be willing to plumb the depths of suffering with others, to wait patiently with them during those “dark nights” of the kind encountered by the Psalmist in Psalm 88. If we are the one in the midst of the suffering, then we must be honest in our own grief with others.

(1) Supporting Others in Grief

Most Americans, and most Christians, are very uncomfortable around grief. We don’t like the openness and honesty that comes from having to deal with others grieving. We also have the good intention of trying to “fix” people’s problems; this is true even in grief. We find ourselves employing our education and background to find a way out of the problem.

But nothing can “fix” the grief of a lost child. For those of us who are supporting others in the midst of the grief, we should not be afraid to enter into the dark night of grieving with our co-workers, small group members, family or friends. What are we afraid of? After all, what can separate us from the love of Christ? If God to love us through “tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger or sword,” (Romans 8:35), will not God allow us to keep our faith through the emotions that come with these circumstances?

If God is sovereign over space and time, then could not He be working in our lives, even during these periods of our mourning when we do not feel any blessing from Him? Just because we do not feel God’s abundant blessing upon us does not mean that he is not working through us. For us, I trust that God is working Micah’s death and our grief for His eternal purposes and our good regardless of how we may feel at a given moment.

(2) Allowing Others to Support You in Your Grief

Heather has helped me realize that I have often glossed over my own grief. In certain contexts and relationships, it is clear that when a person asks the question “How are you doing?,” they do not really intend to elicit a genuine response. In these cases, I generally provide them the answer to the rhetorical question that they are looking for. However, even in situations when I know that a person really wants to know about us, I have often provided less than genuine responses.

The temptation is to be seen as “having it together.” I want to put my best foot forward, to speak the language of the church, to give the “Sunday School answer.” This type of attitude, which Jesus rebuked among the Pharisees, puts religious form over substance. It is seeking a superficial relationship with people rather than a genuine one. To be superficial and disingenuous about our sufferings is essentially an attempt to minimize the pain so that we can keep things at a superficial level. But to minimize the scars in my own life is also to minimize the superseding power of God to strengthen us to triumph over it, in Christ. As the Psalmist says, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” Psalm 34:19. By God’s power, I should wait in eager expectation for my deliverance from this present suffering, even if I must wait until death to be relieved of it.

So when we encourage co-workers or friends who have lost a loved one, do not be surprised or turned away by “the eyes that grow dim through tears.” Let us bear one another’s burdens in love, regardless of whether we think that they are praying enough, attending church enough, or saying the right things. And if we are suffering, do not be like me, but be genuine in your grief so that you let others bear your burdens along with you.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Just Shall Live by Faith

Following the death of our son Micah, we have had occasion to ask the question—Why, God, why? Why did you take our son from us? Even if you have not lost a child, you may have also asked the same question of God. Whether your suffering has taken the form of death, cancer, sickness, divorce, or unemployment, you have had occasion to wonder what God is doing through these circumstances.

In the Old Testament book of Habakkuk, the prophet Habakkuk had the distinct privilege of hearing God respond to his “Why?” There, Habakkuk questions God’s plan for the nation of Judah. Despite repeated warnings, the nation of Judah continued to fall deeper and deeper into idolatry and further and further from God. The northern kingdom of Israel had been annihilated by Assyria about 130 years earlier. Now, because the southern kingdom of Judah will not turn away from its idolatry, God has decided that He will chastise the nation of Judah.

In Habakkuk 1:6, God tells the prophet what He is about to accomplish: “For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans [also known as the Babylonians], that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own." God predicts to Habakkuk that the nation of Judah will be handed over to the Babylonians. Amazingly, God will use an evil king and his evil army to annihilate God’s chosen nation.

You can almost hear Habakkuk’s incredulous response to this. What!!! You are going to deal with Judah ’s idolatry by allowing evil King Nebuchadnezzar to destroy us? You are dealing with the idolatry in your own people by allowing a far more idolatrous and evil man to triumph over us? If you are a just God, how can you let this happen?

Pastor Wilson Benton says that God gives Habakkuk a two part answer to his concern: a “partial” answer and a “profound” answer. Wilson Benton, A Profound Answer to the Pressing Question, Why? Be Still My Soul, edited by Nancy Guthrie.

First, God assures Habakkuk that just because Nebuchadnezzar will be used to punish Judah does not mean that he himself (or his evil, idolatrous nation) will escape punishment. In fact, over the course of five “woes,” God describes the coming punishment of God and of His own coming glory. God is telling Habakkuk that someday, the idols of the Babylonians will break, their bloodthirsty arms will stop swinging their swords, and their self-aggrandizing mouths will become silent. Eventually, the one to whom all attention and honor is owed will receive it. “The Lord is in His Holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.” Habakkuk 2:20.

Second, God gives Habakkuk the simple yet profound answer, “The just shall give by faith.” Habakkuk 2:4. God is calling us to trust in him, to believe that He is working out circumstances in our lives for our ultimate good, even when we have no clue as to how such terrible things could be for our benefit. “God’s ways of preserving and purifying his people are mysterious to the believer; and yet God calls his suffering people to show faith that God’s purposes for the world will at last prevail.” ESV Study Bible, 1720.

A few minutes after my son Micah died, my brother Scott, who was in the room with us, asked if he could read from scripture. He read, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable are his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” Romans 11:33-36.

Scott’s scriptural encouragement was appropriate because, in such moments of grief and loss, when we have no earthly explanation for what has transpired, we must be reminded that God’s ways are often incomprehensible to us. We are temporal, finite beings, living in space and time without understanding half of what God is doing through us. We cannot understand God’s multi-multi-variable calculus involved with every decision.

My firstborn son’s earthly body lies still in the grave. We cannot enjoy birthday parties, holidays together, or continue our bedtime stories. We have no other option but to trust in the sovereign goodness and favor of God, even in the face of seemingly irredeemable suffering. We do not know how one little life lost to a little pea in July of 2009 impacted others; what impact that impact had, in turn, on others, and on down the line, perhaps for years and years to come. And we can hardly begin to grasp the joy of Heaven. We do not yet feel the touch on our skin of loved ones long departed but now embraced, or the laughter and joy of communion with all of the saints.

It was because of Habakkuk’s faith in the sovereign goodness of God, even in days of tremendous hardship, that allowed him to sing,
“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the field yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no heard in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.” Habakkuk 3:17-19.

Praise be to God, for He has brought salvation, and will one day return in power. When he returns in power, then all of this, our present suffering, will be redeemed, and all of the "whys" will be silenced. I pray that we bear our present sufferings in joy, praising Him for what He has done and what He will do.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Prayer- Why Bother?

Before Micah was even born, Heather and I prayed for him. Once born, we continued to pray for him. During his dedication service on Mother’s Day, 2009, we committed ourselves to raising him so that he might, during his lifetime, make a commitment to Jesus Christ. During those 24 hours between his loss of consciousness and his death, we prayed and prayed that he would make a miraculous recovery. But God chose not to answer our prayers in the manner we desired.

Rather than causing us to doubt the power of prayer, Micah’s death has caused us to come to grips with our own limitations and how utterly dependent we are on God. We continue to pray even though, as was most clearly demonstrated in Micah’s situation, God does not always answer prayer as we wish. We pray not out of a strong willpower to achieve certain ends but out of powerlessness.

In short, we pray because we are weak. If you have ever sat on the deathbed of a parent, sibling, spouse or child, holding your loved one in your arms as death overwhelms them, you know what it means to be weak. If you have ever lost that which is most precious to you on earth, you know what it means to be weak. If you lay awake at night, tossing and turning because you realize that you cannot control or begin to understand God’s mysterious ways, you know what it means to be weak. As I sat next to Micah’s bedside during the course of his 24 hours on life support, I realized that my son’s life would forever change mine. At the time I didn’t realize that, through the grief that followed, his death would help to remove my illusions of self-sufficiency.

Heather and I now pray for Owen because, in our weakness, we realize how dependent we are on God for Owen’s every breath, for his life, and for his salvation. In "A Praying Life," author Paul E. Miller says that Jesus wants us to approach God with the humility and trust of a child to his father. Miller says that just as children do not “filter” the types of requests they make before God, so also we should approach God in prayer without any “spiritual mask.” Miller, A Praying Life, 33. We should pray for what we want, being attentive to God’s will and whether our requests are consistent with God’s will.

As Pastor Stokes recently pointed out to me, Jesus himself prayed, on the night of his betrayal, that the Father would spare Him from the cross. Jesus prayed for what he desired. Jesus prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22:42. Pastor Stokes noted that Jesus prayed this even after telling his disciples that he would go to the cross. Thankfully, Jesus abided by the Father’s plan, a plan that included Jesus’ torture, death and sacrifice on our behalf.

About our prayers, Jesus said, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you, then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" Matthew 7:7-11.

So, not only are Heather and I praying for Owen, but we are praying for things that we want for Owen. Last Wednesday, Heather made an appointment with Owen’s pediatrician for the pediatrician to examine Owen’s head, which appears to be growing in an unusual manner. There, the pediatrician was concerned that Owen may be suffering from fused plates on his head, and ordered that X-rays be taken of his head. If that is indeed the case, then a reconstructive surgery would be required, and fairly soon. Of all places, these reconstructive surgeries are conducted at Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis, the same hospital where Micah died.

After a day of praying, and enlisting others to do the same, the radiologist called last Thursday and indicated that he believed that Owen’s head plates are overlapping, not fused. It is my understanding that if the plates are indeed overlapping, then no such surgery would be required.

While this health issue is one that is not highly unusual in our age of advanced medical technology, Heather and I want to avoid additional anxiety over health issues. We very much want our children to be healthy. Even over issues that don’t appear to be life threatening, we want to avoid the trouble and burden of such health issues. So we are praying, in our weakness, that God would cause Owen’s head to grow normally and avoid the surgeon, his tools, the waiting area at Children’s Hospital, and all of the associated anxiety. I believe the Lord wants us, through prayer, to continually submit ourselves in reliance upon Him for Owen’s health and life.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Past, Present, Future

When I travel to Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis to visit Micah’s grave, I have had occasion to consider the nature of grief and how my faith in Christ impacts the manner in which I grieve Micah’s passing. My faith in Jesus Christ has far-reaching implications on how I view the past, the present, and the future. And I’ve come to realize what I am really hoping for when I visit Micah’s grave at Lakewood Cemetery.

The Past.
Lakewood Cemetery is an old cemetery filled with many grave markers. Most of these markers are modest, although others are ostentatious, even obnoxious. These monuments and memorials detail the achievements of the deceased which, according to the most obnoxious markers, were very grand achievements. For many who grieve, the past is about the deceased person—about their accomplishments, their hobbies or interests, their passions, or about the financial legacy they left behind. For someone grieving apart from Jesus Christ, one must dwell on the past, because there is no present. All of those accomplishments detailed by the monuments are now over; all of the busyness of life, all of that human effort and activity is now still, buried in the midst of worms six feet under.

When I go to Lakewood Cemetery, I am like all the other mourners in that I, too, think about the past. I recall with great pleasure those tender moments of love and affection with our little son. I am so glad that Micah was with us, even if it was for only 9 months. But unlike those who grieve without Christ, our reflections on the past do not end where the memories of our loved ones began. For me, the redemption of Micah’s legacy did not happen at any point during his 9-month earthly life. His legacy is tied in to that event that occurred 2,000 years ago when Jesus Christ conquered death on our behalf. 1 Peter 3:18 says, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.” Jesus Christ took upon himself the penalty for sin that was due to us—death and an eternal separation from God. As a result of Christ’s death and resurrection, the death that should have been ours has been redeemed with the promise of eternal life.

Ultimately, in looking to the past, our focus is on God, not on Micah. While I relish our pictures, our memories of Micah from the past, we have much more reason to be thankful for what Jesus Christ did in the past. Jesus redeemed Micah’s death, and his eternal destiny, when he died and rose again, thereby defeating sin and death. As a Christian grieving the death of his son in a graveyard, I do dwell on the past—but the place where I try to dwell is on the cross, not Micah’s gravestone. The cross makes all the difference for a Christian grieving his son in a graveyard.

The Present.
Without a belief in Christ, then no matter how one “dresses up” life and death, you believe that the present is really all there is. As a result, you must “live for the moment.” Eat, drink, and be merry today because once dead, you believe that the life you’ve lived has no ramifications on your now extinguished soul. Present circumstances completely dictate one’s joy and fulfillment. And for the life of a loved one that has been extinguished, all one can do is live in the present gratification of knowing that the deceased loved one made full use of their past opportunities for living, however brief that lifetime was.

In contrast, those of us following Christ through grief are walking contradictions – filled with inexpressible joy at the hope of seeing the resurrection, even while, at the same time, deeply wounded by scars—scars from such things as bone marrow cancer, divorce, or a son lost to choking on a pea.

On the one hand, we are filled with great joy in knowing that each new day brings us closer to seeing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ returning to us in glory. Paul told the Thessalonians, “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14. This is not a fairytale; this is real. Our present joy arises in knowing that we really will see Micah again.

But on the other hand, even it hurts so very much to be separated from our son for now. Author Nancy Guthrie, who lost two infant children, says, “We have a hard time finding comfort in our future hope under the crush of the present pain. Resurrection can seem so religious, so unreal, so far removed.” Guthrie, Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow, 126. The Resurrection is certainly the only hope in making any sense of this mess of tears, anger, hurt, depression, denial and sadness. But even while living in this hope, God has appointed us to endure this heart-wrenching grief.

Thankfully, the Bible does not evade the reality of how hard our present circumstances press against us. In Romans 8, the Apostle Paul uses the word “groaning” to describe how we await the Resurrection. Romans 8:23. Paul gave no false misrepresentations about the suffering that will be faced by Christians. “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” Romans 8:36, citing Psalm 44:22.

Jesus himself understood the pain of living in the present even while living in the sure hope of future resurrection. He recognizes the severity of our grief and suffering in the present age. In John 11, we are told that Jesus had been away from Lazarus when Lazarus was very sick, then died. Martha, Lazarus’s sister, tells Jesus, “if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” John 11:21-22. Martha was not referring to how Jesus would ultimately raise her brother at the resurrection of all the dead. (See John 11:24) Rather, Martha wanted Jesus to rescue her brother from death now. She wanted to be relieved of the crushing burden of her present grief.

In response to this “temporal grief,” Jesus does two amazing things. First, Jesus was himself so overcome with emotion that we are told that he wept. John 11: 35. Regarding Jesus’ sorrow, the ESV Study Bible states, “Jesus’ example shows that heartfelt mourning in the face of death does not indicate lack of faith but honest sorrow at the reality of suffering and death.” ESV Study Bible, 2046. Even though he possessed resurrection power, and even though he knew that he was about to exercise this resurrection power, Jesus wept. Through his weeping Jesus demonstrated his bond with his friends and how burdened he is by our suffering. Second, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. We are told that Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” John 11: 43. Surely if he grieved over the temporal loss of his friend Lazarus, he grieves along with us now in the midst of our sufferings.

Without eternity in Christ, I don’t know of any hope for the future. But those of us grieving in Christ, we believe that the future is when all of this grief, heartache, and suffering will be redeemed. The future is bright, for it is filled with the radiance of God’s glory, demonstrated by the resurrection power of raising those men and women, young and old, from all ages past, who have been redeemed by Jesus Christ.

Heather and I have said that Micah’s death has given us a yearning for heaven that we really should have had even before Micah’s death. Along with so many others who have lost loved ones, the death of our son has caused us to look with increasing ardor past our present circumstances towards the coming resurrection. But for now, we must wait patiently for that day. “But if we hope for what we do not have, we wait for it patiently.” Romans 8:25.
Ultimately, I think I go to Lakewood cemetery to wait the coming resurrection. Here, at Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis, I wait for that moment when, just as Jesus did with Lazarus, and just as He will do to all of our loved ones who died in Christ, Jesus will say, “Micah, COME OUT!!” We live in the present, but we wait. Let’s continue to wait for the resurrection, for the day of our redemption is drawing near.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Some Thoughts About Anxiety

Since Owen was born 10 days ago, I have been blessed to be able to spend a considerable amount of time with our second son. I am so grateful for God’s gift to us of this little life. I am also inclined to be very anxious about Owen’s health. Every little cough sends me into a mini-panic. While Owen is sleeping, I periodically check Owen to make sure he is still breathing.

Based upon our last few life experiences with Micah, Heather and I have “earthly” reason to be anxious with Owen and his health. We know now, from personal experience, that any one of us could lose our earthly lives—even at a moment’s notice. And this thought has created a fair amount of anxiety for me. My “natural” inclination is to do everything humanly possible (and even things that are not humanly possible) to guard Owen’s health very closely.

But living in Christ means to cast this anxiety on Christ. Even in circumstances such as ours, when we have natural or “earthly” reasons to be anxious, we are called to unload this anxiety by giving it to God. Peter tells us in 1 Peter 5:7 to, “Cast all your cares upon him, for He cares for you.” Notice that Peter did not say, “Cast your cares for salvation on Jesus, but you better look out for the health of your children, or for traffic accidents, ulcers or bad health.” Peter says to cast ALL of our burdens upon Christ.

In Matthew 10, Jesus encourages his disciples to preach the gospel even in the face of strong spiritual opposition because of the fact that God is sovereign even over this spiritual opposition. Jesus says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:29-31. If God controls the life of relatively meaningless sparrows, how much more will God be involved in every aspect of our lives, including the opposition we face. No amount of opposition faced by the disciples in their ministries would catch the Father by surprise. Similarly, nothing in our lives will catch God by surprise.

Only because Jesus is sovereign over all of life can we throw, heave, unload all our burdens onto God. If we have a “small” view of God or the reach of his hands, then we can't go to him with our anxieties, because (at least in our mind) there would be aspects to our lives where God is indeed powerless. But because God is powerful over all of life, we can go to Jesus with our greatest fears and anxieties. Nancy Guthrie says, “We need our confidence in God’s goodness and justice to loom so large that we, too, can entrust ourselves to our Father without fear and without resentment.” Nancy Guthrie, Hearing Jesus Speak into your Sorrow, 18.

Ultimately, it is a form of pride for me to live in anxiety over Owen’s life. Anxiety assumes that I am in control--an assumption that should have been forever destroyed after I held my oldest son in my arms as he died. In contrast to anxiety, submission to God recognizes God's power and control over my life. I pray for a Christ-like submission to God's loving plan for Owen, for Heather and for me.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Give Thanks!

“Give Thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
For his steadfast love endures forever.” Psalm 136:1.

Heather and I are pleased to announce the birth of our second son, Owen Robert Wessman. Owen was born at 11:26 am on Friday, May 14, 2010. Owen weighs 7 pounds 13 ounces and is 22 inches long. Both Heather and Owen are healthy.

Last Friday, the verse that Heather and I had in mind throughout the delivery was Philippians 4:5-7: “The Lord is at hand. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Given our experiences, we have had earthly reason to be anxious for the health of our new little son. But the Lord gave us a sense of His presence; The Lord was “at hand” at Owen’s birth.

We are so very thankful for little Owen. We know that we are not entitled to another child. God does not “owe us” Owen. Owen is a gift —a gift that we are so grateful to receive.

We also know that no amount of anxiety on our part can do anything to change God’s sovereign plan for Owen. The same God who determines times and seasons, who sets up rulers and kingdoms, who determines allotments and lifespans has the life of little Owen in his arms. God’s plans for Owen, as they were for Micah, have not changed from the beginning. Psalm 139:16 says, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” And, James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” God was not surprised by Micah’s death, nor was Owen’s life unplanned by God. God is working out his plan for Heather, for me, for Micah and for Owen. And these plans are unchanged. Let’s continue to trust that the Lord is at hand, and for the peace of God to guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day Card

Mommy, if I could write a card
Then even though it would be hard
I’d write in the language of Heaven
Words of encouragement and affection

To tell you how much I love and miss you
How our time together was such a treasure
And how well you cared for me all the way through
My affection for you continues beyond measure

While my little life was so short in the world’s eyes
God’s great love for me now, in eternity,
Demonstrates that in my little life He does not despise,
But has a love for me vast, boundless and free

While I know this first Mother’s Day without me is so hard;
Live in the hope that this day is not forever marred
Because your short life will soon be over, and then forever, together, we’ll be
Mommy and Micah B.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Billy's Song for Micah

Our friend Billy wrote this little song based upon the poem I wrote for Micah's funeral.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Proof of Faith

A few months ago, I ran into a friend who seemed to know how Heather and I were doing and, at least in his opinion, think that we were doing well. “You know that you and Heather are amazing people,” he told me. When I didn’t say anything in response, he took my silence to mean disagreement with his comment (which it was). “Oh, I know, I know, it is all about God.” I then smiled in agreement.

My faith is not the result of my own will power to overcome death and tragedy—or simply the “power of positive thinking.” My faith is not based upon the superseding strength of my intellectual commitment to theism, Protestant Christianity, or my church’s statement of faith. My faith is not the result of wishful thinking, an attempt to honor my own family’s heritage of faith, or the desire for social approval.

None of these things, on their own, would be sufficient to continue to trust God following the death of my son. The devil’s power to tempt us to depression, denial or something equally destructive is far more powerful than any of these things, alone or together. In the absence of the Holy Spirit in my life, I would certainly not be leaning upon God in this tragedy. Left to our own strength and resources, Heather and I would NOT be following God after Micah’s death.

But praise God, for in spite of the occurrence of our worst nightmare, He has given us the gift of faith. This gift of faith brings with it a very tangible benefit--the Holy Spirit living and working in our lives. The Holy Spirit has not left us alone; He has comforted us with the love of Christ. In Titus 3:4-7 Paul says, “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of the regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

Charles Spurgeon taught that Christians should be grateful for trials because our faith is “proved” by the trials. “…Your faith in God is proved when you can cling to him under temptation. Not only your sincerity, but the divinity of your faith is proved; for a faith that is never tried, how can you depend upon it? But if in the darkest hour you have still said, “I cast my burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain me,” and you find he does sustain you, then is your faith that of God’s elect…” Charles Spurgeon, adapted from his sermon “A Joy in All Trials” in Be Still my Soul, edited by Nancy Guthrie, p. 105.

Heather and I could tell you that we could not do it on our own, no matter how hard we tried. To the extent that we have grieved well, it serves as a “proof” of our faith. It shows that the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives, comforting us in the words of Christ and teaching us to look at Micah’s death from an eternal perspective. By the “washing” of the regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, we are hoping in eternal life. Yes, our response to Micah’s death is indeed all about God.