I have long known that God is faithful and true. From childhood up, I sang songs and memorized verses and taught my kids about His faithfulness. And I had seen His faithfulness many times in my life – prayers from the naïve heart of a high schooler, testings in college and law school and struggles as a young mom and wife.
I thought I knew God’s faithfulness. But now, I know God as Faithful and True.
Three years ago, our family was enjoying a typical busy summer. My husband Dan and I had been married for 26 years. We’d met in 7th grade youth group, had been good friends and then fell for each other our junior year of high school. We were at a good place in our marriage and in our family.
Life was crazy full with seven children. Our oldest had just finished his freshman year at college and we had a 17-year-old daughter, 16-, 14- and 12-year-old sons, a 6-year-old boy and 4-year-old little girl. (Yes, all of them are ours and all from one husband as I was curiously asked when we were out and about!) Life was full and good and had a beautiful rhythm as we ticked down our summer bucket list.
On June, 17, 2011, I woke in the dark early morning hours to Dan’s heavy breathing. It sounded funny and, thinking he was having a nightmare, I reached out with my eyes still closed. “It’s just a nightmare, Hon.” I shook him. “It’s okay.” A few seconds later, more awake, I realized this was not nightmare breathing. I flipped on the light and could see instantly, something was very wrong.
While most of me went into response mode calling 911 and doing the steps necessary to start CPR, part of me thought ”surely I am not giving CPR to the man I just kissed goodnight and telling him we love him in case it’s the last time he hears it.”
The 911 operator walked us through CPR and minutes later, the paramedics arrived. Good, I thought. Dan’s in good hands now and will be alright. I paced the living room, praying out loud and asking God for mercy.
As the paramedics took Dan to the hospital, I went upstairs to see our children. My heart broke all over again. They were crying, huddled together on the bedroom floor. Every cell in me wanted to reassure them that Daddy would be okay, but I couldn’t promise that. We prayed together, I hugged them and told them I would be home soon. It was about 4:30 a.m.
When I arrived at the ER, I could sense that it wasn’t good. It was too quiet as I was asked to wait. Sure enough, the doctor came out and gently told me that they had tried everything but had been unable to revive Dan. I went back to see him one last time, to kiss him and memorize every single feature of that face I had loved for 26 years. I slipped off his wedding ring and headed to my car, a mixture of numb shock and raw pain.
In those moments, I think I realized more about what marriage is than I ever had before. “They shall become one flesh.” We were one flesh alright and I felt like I had been ripped clean through with dangled threads hanging raw. Our hopes, dreams, arguments, make-ups, children, struggles, hurts and life lived together had stitched us into one. Now — tomorrow’s plans, next week’s list, our little family life with seven children we were raising– was just shattered and would never be again.
What do you do when life as you know it collapses? I have never asked God why but I sure have asked what now? What about my littlest girl that cried every day for over a year that she missed her daddy? What about our 6-year-old son who played just like his neighborhood friends by day but cried himself to sleep each night? How was I going to raise three teen boys that needed their six-foot dad to help them navigate to manhood? How in the world was God going to fix eight broken hearts?
I was completely dependent on God. Every single day, I wrote at the top of my journal “THIS IS TOO HARD, LORD. I CANNOT DO THIS.”
When you are at a place where you are utterly dependent on God, you are in the very best place.
After writing out my desperate need for God, I would open my Bible to the reading for that day. I didn’t seek out any special verses. I had been reading through the Bible for the year and so I simply opened to that day’s passages.
And every single day, God met my desperation with His Word. God’s Word became my very food. So many mornings, I would get up, sad and discouraged, weighed down with despair, and God would absolutely change my thoughts as I read His Word. He gave me strength and hope. He lifted my head. Day after day, I was reminded of the mighty things He has done, of His love and promises and Who He is.
Not only did God sustain me through His Word, He has very tenderly taken care of us. I could share story after story of God’s provision, His direction as I prayed to Him for wisdom and His clear guidance for my children.
God is Faithful. And it’s not just that He chooses to be faithful toward us. That is His very name and His character. He can be nothing else.
When we get to a place where we are completely unable to do anything about our circumstance and we fix our eyes on Jesus and cry out to Him for His help, we are in a good place.
It’s not that the circumstances are good. I hate what has happened to us. I would give anything to have Dan back in our lives. But I never want to go to a place where I am not completely dependent on God.
God is Faithful and True. As we grieve and heal from our deep loss, my life has become reflected in Psalm 119:92: ”If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.”
Lisa Appelo is single mom to 7 sweet and crazy kids after the sudden death of her husband. She writes “I’m on my knees daily asking God for His wisdom and grace after the man I’d loved since I was 16 died unexpectedly. It has marked me for life, and even as we heal, God has reshaped me as I have trusted Him when life as we knew it collapsed. I’ve always loved the LORD, but in these last 3 years, I am in love all over again. I write about God’s faithfulness. He so personally meets us in our deepest need. I want eyes to see and ears to hear every bit of it.” Lisa’s blog, True and Faithful, can be found at www.lisaappelo.com