It has been said that life is a journey. All journeys have a beginning and an end. Some journeys are leisurely and joyful, such as a family vacation. Some journeys are difficult and ladened with sadness, such as retiring from a life long career.
I am writing this article fresh on the brim of deep sorrow. My beloved son, A.J. passed away on October 12, 2013 after battling a sudden illness. Other parents, who have suffered the death of a child, have told me that you never get over the loss. However, with the grace of God, you do get through it.
A.J. was only twenty eight years of age when he died. He lived a productive life filled with love for his family, friends, and God. I could write a whole book about his life and that in and of itself would not bring honor to A.J. or to God. Rather, I would like to focus on how a human being can bring honor to God through life’s final journey. I believe that A.J. accomplished this during the last three months of his life. A.J. was admitted into the hospital in July of 2013. What appeared to be a bronchial infection turned into a severe respiratory disorder which would eventually claim his life. He remained in the I.C.U. (Intensive Care Unit) for the majority of his hospital stay.
The two prominent questions that we, as human beings ask, during times of suffering are:
Specifically, we ask – “Why does God permit suffering of any kind?” We ask – “Where is God during the midst of suffering?” These are questions that may not be answered until we reach heaven. Perhaps, the most significant question we should ask during times of suffering is:
What is God trying to teach us during times of suffering and trial?
Here are the lessons that I learned. Rather, here are the lessons that God revealed to me through my son’s final days of life:
GOD IS WITH US WHEN WE GO THROUGH PERIODS OF SUFFERING
Holy Scripture states that “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1 NIV). When A.J. became ill, his family and friends immediately began to pray. We prayed for healing and restoration. We prayed that God would be with not only A.J. but also the medical staff and those of us who kept vigil at his bedside. And God, being faithful to His word, allowed us to feel His presence through the many displays of love presented to us. These included constant prayer vigils from those in our faith community, meals being prepared and delivered by friends, and visits from friends and family who merely wanted to hold all of us in their arms. Indeed, God was ever-present during that time.
GOD PROVIDES STRENGTH DURING TIMES OF WEAKNESS
Sufferings and trials have a way of sapping us out of not only our physical strength but also our emotional and spiritual strength. This is not only true for a person undergoing a severe illness but also for those loved ones caring for that individual. God states in His Holy Word that “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” ( 2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV). A.J. had to endure several painful medical procedures during his hospital stay. These procedures, coupled with his illness, took its toll not only on his physical strength but also on his spiritual strength. It was during those times when he and I would speak and I would encourage him to align his pain and suffering with that of the Lord Jesus. I reminded A.J. of the physical pain and torture that Jesus had to endure during his crucifixion and told him to offer up any pain he was experiencing to God. He would never complain but would merely nod his head in acceptance and carry on. This would in turn rejuvenate my physical and emotional strength. Again, prayers at his bedside while holding his hand became the catalyst by which we were able to experience God’s grace and strength.
EVERY PORTION OF OUR LIVES IS PRECIOUS IN THE EYES OF GOD
Without a doubt, the most profound lesson I have learned from my son’s suffering is that each life is sacred to God. Indeed, each portion of life is sacred to God. Our children are gifts from God and as such bring blessings to our lives. God, however, is the real father of all of us. Our lives here on Earth are very brief compared to eternity. In the end, we all return to our true father – God. Therefore, we should treasure each portion of our lives and the lives of those we love. The depths of my sorrow at the loss of my son are unexplainable. I cannot find the right words to describe the sense of loss that we all feel. Nonetheless, in accordance with God’s Holy Word – “I give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV). I give thanks to God for the lives of my family and friends, and for the life of my son A.J.