Today I had the privilege of teaching the conclusion of the Ruth Bible study at Second Baptist Church West campus written by Kelly Minter. The theme of this study is "Love, Loss and Legacy." I taught from Psalm chapter 1 on how to live a legacy:
Be firmly planted where God leads you in each season of life.
Be firmly fixed on Christ and God’s Word.
Be strengthened, not blown away, by the buffeting of the winds of life.
I shared the journey of my dear friend Tina, a modern day Ruth, who by the age of 31 had suffered the loss of a husband and young daughter. She is living a legacy, and I am thankful to witness it. This is her story in her own words:
The story of Ruth is a beautiful picture of how God reaches into a life filled with tragedy to offer guidance, encouragement, provision, and above all, love. It reminds me of His redemptive power in my own life. No matter what comes my way, God remains faithful.
Newly married, we were so young and so carefree. I often thought back over Jimmy's four years of cancer treatment and how he had defied doctors' predictions over and over again. How he had come back to college & graduated. How God had led him into the ministry and provided this wonderful little church for him to pastor.
Now here he was shuffling to the pulpit trying to stand and speak in spite of the pain from the cancer that overtook his young body. He had always been tenacious, so strong, and here he was again determined to accomplish a nearly impossible task to share his heart and say goodbye to this precious congregation.
Memories flooded my mind. Packing for New York City where he would get the best medical treatment available. On our knees praying, confident of God's healing power. Years of prayers... worn out scripture cards. And hadn't we been amazed at God's goodness in spite of the difficulties? I couldn't make sense of it all. What was happening?
"Though the outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day." The scriptures alone brought me comfort. How many weeks had it been since I had sat with his doctors as they shared through tears that the end was near? Was there no deliverance from this body of death? The weeks turned into months... it was a blur of days and nights, always wondering when relief would come.
We were 22 years old when Jimmy died. As I stood by his casket and slipped off his wedding ring, the inscription stared back at me, Romans 8:35-39. We are more than conquerors through him that loved us… I am convinced that neither death nor life can separate us from the love of God...
This didn't feel like love. I began to set aside the lamp of God’s word. It was hard to find my way. I stumbled into Satan‘s pits, believing his lies. A year and a half later, I lifted my eyes... eyes dimmed by grief and pain... to the Maker of heaven and earth, where true help comes from. He gave me courage and walked with me through the lonely tunnel of grief. "The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake. He restores my soul."
Joy is so much sweeter after sorrow. Every good and perfect gift is from above. God surprised me with one gift after another. Another wedding day... the birth of a son and two daughters.
"In all your ways acknowledge Him" In all your seasons of life, in everything life brings you, Acknowledge - yada (know Him, find out, discern, be instructed by Him) In all my ways, Lord? Yes, even in this.
At 3 months old, Samantha was diagnosed with Miller Dieker Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that would ultimately take her life. No, Lord, not this. It had been 9 years since I had felt this kind of pain.
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil."
She was 2 1/2 years old on Valentine's Day when I held her for the last time. And I knew that God loved her as much as He loved me... The words sung at her funeral service went straight to my heart. Jesus loves me, this I KNOW; for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong; they are weak but He is STRONG.
Yes, Father, strong enough for me even in this... loving enough to make a way for us to know you...even in this.
Praise God, we have a Redeemer who LIVES.
"Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours...you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all." (1 Chronicles 29:11-12)