By Becky Macbeth
June 12, 2015, 6:00am. A moment nothing in life could have prepared me for. Yet, at the same time, it was a moment my whole life had been preparing me for.
A phone call awoke me to the news: there was a plane crash. In that single moment I lost my sister who had been my role model from the time I was born, my brother-in-law who was the big brother I never had, my 15 year old nephew, and my 12 year old niece. It was something I never could have imagined in my worst nightmares. It was a devastating loss for our family, no doubt.
Upon receiving that horrific phone call, I was struck numb. I didn’t know what to think, what to do, or how to feel. I decided to pray aloud and, for the first time in my life, I knelt down, began my prayer and had absolutely nothing to say. Literally, nothing. It was the strangest thing I’ve ever experienced and I didn’t know what to do. I just knelt there for awhile, not saying anything at all, and not really feeling anything at all either. After a few more sobs and tears, I gave up and closed my prayer. But, as our remaining family members gathered together to provide love, support, and empathy with one another, we were overcome by a sense of peace. I could literally feel the prayers of so many people throughout the whole country buoying me up and giving us all the strength to endure. Whatever connection with God I lacked in that immediate moment following the news, was replaced with an outpouring of love and peace beyond description. God connected with me, and I with Him, through my community.
In times of trial or heartache, it seems our natural reaction is to ask the one seemingly unanswerable question: “Why?” Why me? Why this? Why now? But I have learned that from our limited, mortal perspective, we rarely (if ever) find the answer to that question. If you are one of the lucky ones and an answer does come, it’s often years down the road and provides no immediate solace to the broken heart.
When I was broken-hearted and felt powerless in that initial prayer, it was my community that answered the prayer I was too raw to even offer. They were my connection with Him until I could connect with Him on my own again. They were God’s hands in my time of need. They were the answer to my unspoken prayer, reaffirming to me that God does know and love me beyond comprehension. He was able to answer a prayer I couldn’t even utter. And though His answer wasn’t why this happened, I have learned that true understanding comes in changing the question. As I began to heal, and was able to offer prayer again, I learned to ask “What now?” instead of “Why?” God, with His all-knowing and complete understanding, sees things in a way we can’t. Even if He wanted to, He may not be able to explain His ways to our feeble, mortal minds. But, as our loving Father, He most definitely has an answer to the better question: “What now?” He is always there to guide us, if we just ask.
And, really, that’s the thing: He just wants us to ask. He wants us to reach out to Him in prayer, to seek His guidance, His love, His comfort. He wants to give us the next step on our path. But, like any good father, He isn’t going to force our hand or impose His way upon us. The first step is up to us. We have to have the courage to ask and then pursue His will. His guiding hand will be a constant presence, directing us in and through whatever comes next.
I don’t know why four of my family members were ripped out of my life that day, leaving behind 3 father- and mother-less sons. I don’t suspect I ever will. But I do know that God was there to support me (and each of us) through the aftermath. Getting on my knees when my heart ached and I was angry with God for allowing it to happen took a certain level of humility none of us ever wants to attain. But when I pushed past the pride and the anger and the hurt and simply prayed: “God, I’ve been dealt this hand I never wanted. But it’s here. And I’m here. And all I can do is ask: What Now? What would you have me do? Where do I go from here?” He answered me and He will answer you. He will.
That was four years ago. We’ve had to alter our expectations and accept the “new normal” in our lives. There will always be a large hole (4 seats wide) at all of our family gatherings. But through continuously cultivating my relationship with God, I found healing. Not at the hands of a single moment or one single prayer, but at the well of reserved faith I’ve been filling day by day. Every effort to connect with Him: every Sunday School lesson I’ve been taught, every scripture verse I’ve read, every quiet moment of prayer when I have felt The Holy Spirit had been preparing me for this. An imperfect life full of trying to worship God daily and do my best was enough. My well of faith in God was full. It had been filled by countless small answered prayers, feelings of love gleaned through service, heart-warming lessons, and undeniable experiences testifying of God’s existence and His unconditional love for me. Each experience was a drop in my well of faith, held there on reserve for that moment (and many others since) when I needed it most.
Are there times when my faith wavers? Of course! We all have them. But I’ve learned that as long as I am consistently and purposefully placing those drops in my well, it will never run dry. Some days it’s full to overflowing. Others, I’m dipping in my ladle as far as it will reach. But it’s always there. God is always there.
I know that as I turn it all over to the Lord, I can find peace. I have found peace. I have found solace. I have found comfort when I have diligently sought it. Though there are times in our lives that are harder than anything we could have ever imagined, times when we feel like we’ve been pushed past the breaking point, there is always hope.
God is real. His love is real. When life is full of disappointment or heartache, I am reminded of the lyrics to a song by Mercy River and their music connects me to Him:
“Maybe the reason for the pain
Is so we would pray for strength
And maybe the reason for the strength
Is so that we would not lose hope
And maybe the reason for all hope
Is so that we could face the world
And the reason for the world
Is to make us long for home”
That’s the center of my faith. My longing for home. I know that though His plan for me in this life may not be exactly what I’d consider perfect, His plan for my returning home is perfect. And that is why I press on. I try each day to fill my well of faith, connect with Him one drop at a time, continually asking “what now?” so that my whole life is preparing for me that moment – when I am welcomed home by the God who loves me.