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When Heaven Hurts Like Hell

 “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.”

2 Corinthians 5:8

April 12 will always be a day of pain and sorrow, bitter and sweet, a day I love to celebrate and one I loathe its approaching. Four events mark this day in my heart and mind. The birth of Danielle, the passing of my father, the wedding anniversary of David and Candice, and the day our oldest son and his wife learned they were pregnant with our first grandchild. Like I said, April 12 marks the birth date of one of the most extraordinary young girls who have ever graced the face of this earth. It was on this day thirty years ago that Danielle Marie Gould was born the youngest child to our dear friends Tink and Sherrill. She was our daughter Bree’s best friend and what I like to refer to as our fourth child. We loved her like she was are own and yet on August 20, 2004 she went home to be with the Lord and our lives have felt the void since that day. Today she would have been 30 years old and though she is in heaven, in the very presence of Jesus, the pain of her loss still feels like hell. The sting of death is still with us though she is not.

I can relate with what Ben Witherington, who in the book he co-authored with his wife writes, “When A Daughter Dies” writes, “Here is one of the paradoxes of grieving. Grieving, for a Christian, is about you personally. That is to say, we are not grieving because someone is pain-free in heaven with the Lord! That’s cause for celebration! We are not grieving the condition of the Christian loved one who is deceased! For the Christian, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. There is nothing grave in that. No, we are grieving for our own sense of loss, our own sorrow over the sudden departure, our own feelings of being alone. Grief is the self’s shock over what has happened to itself—it is physical and emotional.”

Though the shock over what happened has passed, the emptiness of her loss has not as nothing, no one could ever take her place. So, though the memories of her wonderful life and the lessons she taught us all on how to “Live, Laugh, Love” continue to manifest themselves as we journey through this life by faith, believing like her that without it we can not please God, so we press on with the hope that we will in deed see her again one day.

Death has a way of making one bitter or better and God leaves the choice to us in hopes that we too, like Danielle will hold on to the promise of her favorite verse found in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Danielle’s death as painful as it has been all these years has revealed much beauty too in that it has taught us a very powerful and profound message. God never wastes a hurt. In fact God has taught us that pain really is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world and that though God does desire to comfort us in our affliction, He is more concerned about increasing our threshold for pain and suffering, and to know by experience that whatever God leads us too He will lead us through. She might have only been seventeen when she graduated from earth but she was wise beyond her years and beautiful from the inside out. I can’t wait to see her again one day!

I read a quote the other day that said, “In New York, you’re never more than 20 feet away fro someone you know, or someone you’re meant to know.” It reminded me of today and how inter connected our lives really are, far more than we realize. To think, my daughters best friend was born April 12, 1987 and on this same day in 2014 my dad, Clinton Rettig Osthimer went home to be with Jesus at the age of 81. The difference in Danielle’s death and that of my own fathers is I always thought there would be a day when my father would pass and I would still be alive. That seemed to me to be the natural order of life and death. He prepared me for that. Danielle’s death however, always seemed out of order to me. No parent ever expects to bury their child, especially at the age of seventeen and though Danielle was not our biological child, my wife and I loved her as if she was. Try convincing parents who have adopted a child that their love is somehow less than the biological parents and see what happens.

Though as natural a part of life as death might seem to us, God has not wired us for its experience as death is a by product of the fall of man, not a reflection of God’s desire for us. After all, Jesus came to give us life and life more abundantly. Death is our last enemy and God is just as appalled by it as we are, actually, He is more. With the passing of both my dad and my mom now, I along with my sisters and brothers have taken on an identity that is impossible to comprehend until it happens. Though all of us are over fifty years of age, we now are orphans in this life which brings with it a sense of emptiness, loneliness, even though we are surrounded by loving family and friends.

I miss my dad deeply, and not a day goes by when I don’t think about him and hold some kind of conversation with him in my head. I can still recognize his voice over my own. With each passing year his words become wiser and his knowledge much more profound. I was blessed with a father who loved me, who showed me and told me. The truest reflection of our Heavenly Father I have ever known.

Then there is the bright spot in April 12. David and Candice Mattison celebrate their third anniversary today as husband and wife. I was presiding over their wedding ceremony when my dad passed away. I had been with him earlier in the day but left to go to the wedding and learned on the way back to the hospital that he had passed away while I was gone. David and Candice are a sweet couple who are just getting started in life and who I am excited to know and be a part of their journey. God has great plans for them as they now have a one year old son Lucas and I am sure more will soon be on the way. Their marriage and family along with the news our first grandchild was coming into this world are my reminder that when one passes away another child is born. Proof that God is not done yet, that death doesn’t have the final say, Jesus does!

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 Corinthians 15:57



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Tuesday, 23 October 2018