During my Denise’s battle we were all needy enough that we asked for and welcomed prayers for all of us. The grave issue, the underlying problem, was of course her illness. I too prayed for strength for me, for peace for the children. I prayed that God would use the beauty of Denise’s character to draw in the elect. Most of all, however, I prayed that Denise would be made well, that the cancer would be beaten, that she would be blessed with health, comfort and joy. It is rare indeed when we can see such specific prayers answered so clearly and powerfully.
For nine months I have awakened each morning knowing my wife was weak, fragile, fearful, weary and in pain. She was in danger of sinking deeper into illness. I knew it likely that when I would visit her she would at some point cry in sorrow, and that I couldn’t fix it. I prayed against the weakness, the fear and fragility, the weariness and the pain. I prayed against the tears and the sorrow. And now my prayers have been heard. What we wanted for her she has received, and more. We, His children, all together asked for bread for her. He didn’t give her a stone. He didn’t give her bread. He gave her Jesus. She who awoke pity in the hearts of thousands now has awakened with Him, with more health, more comfort, more joy than all of us combined. Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the mind of man all that she has already been blessed with (I Corinthians 2:9).
What though of the rest of us, those left behind? We had prayed for strength, for perseverance, for peace. These prayers He has likewise heard. We are, by His grace, strong enough that we are still here, that we have persevered. And we are at peace in our confidence that He will continue to so bless. We have work to do. I have children to raise, and they have the fruit of the Spirit to cultivate. I have lectures to prepare, sermons to preach, articles and chapters to write, and the fruit of the Spirit to cultivate. But there’s one more thing we have to do, me and my children, my extended family and friends. We need to mourn. A commitment to God’s goodness in calling Denise home, a commitment to God’s goodness in taking her from us, does not put mourning out of bounds. Jesus Himself wept just moments before He knew He would call Lazarus out of that tomb. I am not in the least ashamed of my tears. We mourn, but not as those who are without hope (I Thessalonians 4:13).
We do not fail in our work because we are mourning. We do not fail in our mourning as we work. We beautify each with the other. We will do both in accordance with our convictions. We mourn and we work with hope, knowing that all that we do for the kingdom will withstand that great conflagration of wood, hay and stubble.
Many of you, out of tender hearts, no doubt are concerned about practical matters, about logistics. Raising eight children is a jaw-dropping sized job for two healthy parents. Add in homeschooling and the challenge becomes more daunting. And now we go forward without my wife. What is the plan? The plan is to continue to honor both God’s Word and Denise’s legacy. We will continue to speak of Jesus and His kingdom when the children lie down and when they rise up. We will continue to homeschool the children. We will seek out more help around the house. I will seek to remove a few things from my plate, without sweeping its contents in the disposal. We will work hard and efficiently, still guided by the hand written lists and instructions Denise so loved to put together. I don’t, now that she is gone, need to build the transcontinental railroad. I just have to keep the train on the track my wife has so lovingly built.
Prayers for strength, wisdom and perseverance, are of course not just welcomed but coveted. But do not pray as those who are without hope- that’s just worrying on your knees. Instead pray with confidence to our loving Father. I know how powerfully He is not just able, not just willing, but how eager He is to bless, because I’ve seen what He has done for my wife. What now? Give thanks.