Our church sustained a loss this past week. Our friend and brother in Christ, Jeff Stanley, died Thursday night. He had been struggling with anxiety and depression, mostly related to his need to provide for his family and the responsibilities of headship in his home. Thursday evening, it overwhelmed him and he took his own life. He and his wife Wendi have a 4 month old son, Owen.
I did not know Jeff well at all, but Wendi and I were in Bible study together this past year. My heart has been so heavy for her and the living hell she is walking through. In the space of an instant, her life has been dramatically changed. I can not help but think of how different her life will be from the one she expected. Although all of us deal with this on some level, she will know this reality in large proportions. On top of her loss, the manner in which Jeff died will always leave Wendi with many unanswered questions.
Our pastor addressed Jeff's death in small detail this morning. His comments were something similar to, "In the end, Jeff either believed that his sins were too great or his situation too far gone that God Himself could not help him. This is not true." This brought tears to my eyes, and I had to bum a kleenex off my friend, Kerry, who was sitting close by. The reality of this is enormous.
I have lived through many hard things, but have never seriously contemplated ending my own life. I do not know why God's grace has spared me from those thoughts, but it has. But I know deep, deep grief. I know the reality of a phone call that turns your world upside down when you are informed of your brother's sudden death or the Saturday morning conversation with your husband when he finally confesses to an affair and tells you he's leaving you for another woman. Those are hard things. I know the reality of looking out from where you are and being completely unable to comprehend life ever feeling normal again. You think you will always feel broken.
But, those of us who know Christ, know that this is not true. We know that nothing is impossible with God. A friend reminded me recently that if God can protect 3 men from being burned to death in a furnace, that He can also protect me and my family. Sometimes, God chooses not to protect us from the dangers of this world, and Wendi is living that reality tonight. However, I always strive to remind myself that Romans 8:28 is not a mere possibility for God's children, but it is a promised reality. God is not merely able to work all things for good, but He will work all things for good.
I don't even pretend to know what the good God is going to work out of this for Wendi and their son, Owen. But, I must take God at His word. Another friend counseled me during a trying time by confessing that we may never know in this life what the good is that God is working out for us. We may have to wait until we see God face to face. This is a hard reality because I want answers!
If you think of it, pray for Wendi. She has a rough road ahead of her. Pray for all the men who were talking with Jeff on a daily and weekly basis. They must feel as though all their efforts were in vain. There is a great potential for despair and the enemy would love nothing better than to cause us to either question God or question our obedience to Him. It is tempting to begin down the road of "why bother?".
Thanks for letting me unburden myself.