About a month ago, the C-Monster (cancer) took our Patriarch. My older brother James Lyn, 61 years young, battled many things in his life. He overcame them all. But this one, he did not. And now, with the comfort that he is home with his “sweet Jesus” as he called our Savior, we are left with the emptiness and the questions. I miss his larger than life smile, seen most often when he held or talked about his children or was cutting up with his brothers. I still haven’t removed his speed dial from my phone. I look at pictures of him often. I miss him every single day. He traveled a lot for his work and at times it just feels like he is on a long trip. There is a giant hole in my life where Lyn once occupied. He could answer simple questions about who can help with house or appliance problems and where to buy nearly anything. He could tell you best way to get to certain places. He could let you vent out your frustration and give simple counsel to help. He shared lots of dreams and plans for his family, our church, and community. One thing I remember clearly, is that Lyn told me several times is that when you have hard questions the Bible is the best place to find answers.
The Old Testament is filled with stories of loss. Adam and Eve lost their innocence, their immortality, and easy gardening. King David lost a best-friend, a son, and for a time his Kingdom. Jeremiah pleaded with and then lost a nation of friends to rebellious sin, and thus his five chapter Lament. Of course Job would be the premium example of loss and suffering. I make no comparison of myself or my family to Job since he was clearly a very righteous man. Like-wise King David was a man after God’s own heart, so I fall far short there as well. But I do identify with the questions they asked. David in his suffering often would feel abandoned by God. “Why have you forsaken me Oh Lord?” is a common line in numbers of David’s songs. (Psalm 22) Job and Jeremiah alike questioned God’s choices. I find it refreshing that these holy and righteous men questioned God. God does not mind the dialogue. I am comforted that He actually understands our emotions since we are made in His image and He came to this world as 100% flesh-man.
I’m not in Charge, I Just Believe
But I also noticed that all the questioning of God eventually requires us to yield to His sovereignty. God tells Isaiah that His ways are so much higher than ours. It’s like how high the heavens are above the Earth. Job actually called God out and we find God in response questioning Job. I believe God had great mercy and compassion on Job and yet the questions become quickly overwhelming.
Can you make it storm and lightening? Can you make it rain? Can you make the oceans stop and the land start? Were you there when I (God) spoke the stars (tens of tens of millions) into existence? Can you make the animals breed? Do you know where the snow is stored? Did you give horses their majestic strength? (Job 38-40)
“Uhhhmmmm, no sir.” is my short answer. Because I am not sovereign. I am not in charge or control. But God is! And when I find myself in dark places of suffering, He wants me to remember HE IS! His Sovereignty is ALWAYS there. I can rest, trust, rely, hope and believe in GOD because HE IS in control and sovereign.
When Lyn’s cancer came back strong, I declared victory over it. I prayed as hard and faithful for his cancer to be removed as I have for my son’s seizures to end. I fasted and prayed. I enlisted prayer warriors to pray. I sat through radiation with him, praying. I spent sleepless nights in the hospital praying for him. Then on May 8th, I got my answer from a sovereign and compassionate God. Lyn was called home with God. I can’t make storms or stars, but I can trust and love the One who does. I can believe that God is in control of Lyn, me, and our families. I can believe that his children will be able to be closer to God even in suffering. I can trust that this is for our good and His glory.
Life Goes Forward in Christ
Another significant lesson for me is that God intends His Kingdom to go forward despite my loss. Three weeks after my brothers reunion with Mom, Dad and Jesus, I had to teach ten lessons at camp. The week of his passing I had to finish writing those ten lessons, with the Holy Spirit as my guide. Life was going on, ministry was continuing even when I wanted to quit. Something in me wanted to stop for a while, but God was moving life forward.
Four weeks after his death, I was on a mission trip with my younger brother, to the Dominican Republic, building latrines and relationships with islanders and leading a pastors conference. I was teaching pastors how to do inductive Bible study. It was a blast. The pastor’s hunger for the Word and willingness to learn a new method was inspiring. I taught and preached eight times that week. And I realized, each night as I fell asleep completely exhausted, life was going forward in spite of my loss, pain and hurt. The Spirit was alive in me and could use me to fulfill the commitment I had made for the kingdom work. God’s work was going forward. His love, grace and truth were still important to share. Jesus told his cousin, John the Baptist, when John was facing his own unethical death, at the hands of a drunken ruler “Blessed (favored by God) are you John, if you are not offended in me (my ways).” Life goes forward in Christ. The key as we suffer is not to be offended or stumble over His sovereignty but to trust it.
Our family envies the breakfast Lyn had this morning with Lavada and Dallas our parents, (wow could she do grits just right), and the time he spent with Jesus and Rachel Maples. We believe he is fishing with Peter, James and John, on the crystal sea because he had a knack for finding the best local fisherman and learning their secrets. His oldest son says he is catching “boneless, hand-sized brim.” We celebrate the reality in our lives that his faith in Jesus Christ as His Savior, the one who paid for his sins, kept him secure and since he is absent from us, he is present with the Lord. We rejoice he will never suffer nor be sad, stressed, or fearful again. We didn’t say goodbye to our beloved patriarch. We said “see ya later” (my last words to him). I am positive when we get to see him in Heaven he will take us to his favorite fishing spots and will show us what lure and technique works.
So, if you are hurting and suffering, follow Lyn’s advice and turn to the Scriptures. There you will find God alive, well, strong, sovereign and capable of handling all your woes and questions. And keep living life. Live your life in His sovereign plan. Work for Him and His kingdom and you will find his grace covering you like a blanket of hope and help.
Cast all your cares on Him. He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7