Christian Living

Spiritual Life

God Has Been So Good To Us

Bonnie Lee Ridenour, my beautiful wife of 37 years, went home to be with the Lord on December 5, 2002. She was 54 years old.

Without any prior symptoms, she woke me with pain on the left side of her head. She had a cerebral cavernous malformation (blood vessel) that ruptured and caused massive bleeding. Less than 48 hours later she was home with the Lord.

We had an extremely wonderful marriage and loved each other deeply. Because of the depth of that love, we were completely devoted and committed to each other. Apart from my salvation in Christ, she was the greatest gift God gave me.

After Bonnie passed away, my whole life was turned upside down. I felt like every fiber of my being was ripped to shreds. Why did this happen? How could God, who loves me so much, allow this to happen? One day I was married and happy. Two days later my wife was in heaven and my happiness was gone forever. The fact that she was gone was a very difficult thing to accept.

I seemed to be pushed into a deepening valley of grief, hopelessness, emptiness, despair and torture as I began this journey.

Why werent my prayers working? Lord, did you turn your back on me? I had moments when I prayed and was momentarily lifted up, but that was brief. I had always preached about victory in Jesus and how He was with us in every trial, but this was an overwhelming battle.

A month after Bonnie passed away, I was desperate to find an answer. I was reading portions of Scripture from her NIV Bible, especially portions she had highlighted. I came to Psalm 13 and saw she had highlighted verses 5 and 6. I read the whole Psalm over and over again. What really blessed me was verse 6. The latter part says, "...for He has been good to me." At least five times on the day Bonnie went to the hospital she said, "God has been so good to us."

So what is this goodness, when, as the psalmist says, you feel God has hidden His face from you, youre wrestling with your thoughts, every day you have sorrow, and the enemy is beating up on you?

Four things:

  1. Hidden His face
  2. Wrong thoughts
  3. Everyday sorrow
  4. Devil is having a field day

Before David says, "God has been so good to me," he proclaims three things:

  1. I trust in your unfailing love
  2. My heart rejoices in your salvation
  3. I will sing to the Lord

So how do you come out of the deepest valley of grief when you have been pushed to the very brink of depression and at times you may have gone beyond the brink?

There is something in the child of God that makes him not want to give up without some kind of a fight. That something is the Holy Spirit. That fight drives him to his knees and back to the Word of God. He knows there has to be more than hopelessness.

Less than a week after my wife passed away, I began to write a grief journal. I would usually write a couple of pages a day. As I read over the journal, I could see the bewilderment, confusion, and the first question that people ask in the valley of grief, "Why, Lord?"

That is the sense of the question you get from David in verses 1 and 2 when he says, "How long O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?"

Knowing God is there, praying to Him and at the same time feeling He has turned His back on you, makes your loneliness even more unbearable. There seems to be no help or hope for your lonely heart. Not only are you desperately missing your loved one, there is no loving arm of God around you and no answer to the question "Why?"

In verse 2 David says, "How long must I wrestle with my thoughts?" Here is where I had my major problem. It is a real, intense wrestling match. At one point I thought I might go insane. Not only are there thoughts of What did I do wrong Lord? Am I being judged? but the thoughts get entangled with the crushing weight of your grief, to the point of giving up. The thoughts can be so debilitating to your emotions that you think that if God would permit it, suicide would be a relief. Then you feel so ashamed that you thought that. Now you struggle with your shame.

In my journal I would write down some of my prayers, but almost immediately go back to my wrestling match. One of my major thought struggles was with my future. How do I handle the future when I am so desperately empty? The past was wonderful. I had a fulfilled life with my wife. We had an incredible love relationship. But my fears of the future gripped my heart, and I asked the question, "God, what am I going to do?"

David continues in verse 2, "and every day has sorrow in my heart." The sorrow you feel is not only emotional, but it also has a physical effect on you. In the valley of sorrow, as you have plumbed the depth of it, there seems no way out. You certainly dont see any light at the end of the tunnel. Then you come to the point of thinking, Maybe I shouldnt get out of this valley of sorrow. Maybe I will betray my loved one if I get out of this deep valley of sorrow. After all, you are getting used to this valley. Wont you be failing your loved one if you start feeling better?

This leads to the rest of verse 2, which asks the question, "How long will my enemy triumph over me?" I believe we need to recognize our God-given right to mourn and grieve. We also have to realize the devil is not asleep. In my utter emotional devastation, I forgot the devil did not have a hands-off policy. David expresses frustration that the devil is winning because of his thoughts and sorrow. If you will step back to see who is pushing you to the brink of depression, you will see the enemy of your soul.

1 Peter 5:8-10 says: "Be self controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen."

In verses 3 and 4, recognizing the work of the enemy, David implores the Lord for help. Verse 3 states, "Look on me and answer, O Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death." Verse 4 says, "My enemy will say, I have overcome him and my foes will rejoice when I fall." The key to overcoming the despair and depression in the valley is recognizing the work of the enemy (give light to my eyes). This is pivotal. When you recognize this, a change will take place.

The change will begin. But how do we cope with the normal grieving process? You will begin the journey upward, the escalator of your soul (mind, will, and emotions), with a few stops along the way.

Verse 5 says, "But I trust in your unfailing love." The word that struck me the most in this verse is unfailing. I began to think about people in the Bible and Gods unfailing love. God was with Abraham on the mountain when he was going to offer up his son. The Lord was with Moses on the mountain and also in his battles in the wilderness. The Lord was with Job during the extreme soul searching of his friends and the anguish he had in not knowing why these things happened to him. He was with us at Calvary.

The journey out of the valley is not all that easy. The escalator stops and has jolts along the way. There is a voice, a beckoning call, to come back to the valley to the depth of your grief where there is plenty of room. At times the journey upward seems to be too narrow, and you think you cant make it.

But you make a decision, a choice, to step on the escalator of Gods unfailing love. Even though His love is perfect, there are still a lot of bumps along the way.

We know God is Love, but crunch time is standing by the graveside of a loved one knowing His unfailing love. In Jeremiah 31:3 God says, "...I have loved you with an everlasting love." If you will allow Him to do so, God will comfort you with His unfailing love. What we really need is comfort. There is no greater source of comfort than God. What a blessing to receive His love comfort!

The second part of the upward journey in verse 5 says, "My heart rejoices in your salvation." Your heart or spirit (beyond just your mind) rejoices in Gods salvation.

My first hesitant visit to the graveside was a few days after the funeral. I was concerned how that would affect me emotionally. I knew in my heart she wasnt really there. Her body was her taxi cab to heaven. She just stepped out of the cab. Standing by the graveside, I began to thank God that my wife was in heaven by the blood of Jesus Christ. Then I thanked God that Im going to heaven the same way, by the blood of Jesus Christ. My out-of-the-deep-valley journey keeps me coming back over and over again, rejoicing in both of our salvations. In 1 John 5:13 it says, "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life." The knowing that you know that you and your loved one have eternal life helps you during the lonely, crying, and sorrowful times.

Verse 6 says, "I will sing to the Lord....". Knowing your loved one is home with the Lord and knowing one day you also will be home with the Lord puts a song in your heart. It is praise unto God, who does all things well and does not make any mistakes. It is the song of the redeemed. Isaiah 5:11 explains, "The ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away." One of the things I wrote in my grief journal was if I could just get one glimpse of my wife rejoicing around the throne of glory, how much more I would sing the songs of the redeemed!

David continues in verse 6, "for he has been good to me." So I come back full circle to His goodness. God has been so good to us (my wife and me) because of His unfailing love and His salvation to us, and that puts a song deep within my heart.

Grief is not an easy journey, but Ive come to realize it is not a journey I take alone. I know up ahead there will be many more days of crying and missing my beloved wife, but I thank God for His promises.

1 Thessalonians 4: 13 and 14 states, "Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him."

I am not contending that the journey is easy--it certainly is not--but in Jesus Christ you have strength to complete the journey.

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