The following day, as the church that meets in our house assembled, it was my turn to lead our assembly.
I had previously planned to present an overview of Revelation, but there was no way we would be able to devote the energies needed to that. Our hearts and minds were focused on Amy and the family.
Knowing this would be the case, I took the opportunity to prepare my own tribute to Amy which I shared, including ten spiritual lessons that I learned from Amy's life and death.
So I'll conclude this post by sharing these lessons.
Lesson #1: While it's natural to question one's suffering, ultimately we must choose to make the best of whatever our situation—to glorify GOD wherever we are.
Amy set a great example of how to be strong in the face of adversity.
She had times of weakness—probably more than anyone but GOD knows—but she kept trusting in GOD and trying to focus on the blessings in her life.
The Scriptures are full of examples of "good people" suffering, often for reasons beyond their—and even our—knowledge:
- Job lost his family, possessions and health.
- Joseph was sold into slavery.
- Ezekiel's wife was killed as an object lesson.
- Jeremiah was made to carry a wooden yoke.
- Jesus was crushed on the cross.
- Stephen and many others suffered and died at the hands of the Jews.
GOD sees a bigger picture that you and I can't. We must trust His heart.
9 “Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker,
those who are nothing but potsherds
among the potsherds on the ground.
Does the clay say to the potter,
‘What are you making?’
Does your work say,
‘The potter has no hands’?
10 Woe to the one who says to a father,
‘What have you begotten?’
or to a mother,
‘What have you brought to birth?’
(Isa. 45:9-10 NIV)
Our entire life is about GOD and His glory, not ours.
31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
(1 Cor. 10:31 NIV)
Lesson #2: You never know who is watching. How we respond—in times of prosperity and suffering—is more important than we ever really know.
When Christians suffer, the world pays attention.
16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.
(1 Pet. 4:16 NIV)
It is an important skill to be able to suffer well. This is mentioned as a fruit of the Spirit:
22 And the fruit of the Spirit is: Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith,
23 meekness, temperance: against such there is no law;
(Gal. 5:22-23 YLT)
Lesson #3: Love loyally.
Amy loved with fierce loyalty.
She was very protective and defensive of her family and close friends.
But she strove to love with agape love—that love which sought the other's ultimate well-being...intentional love.
If Amy felt you were in danger, in the wrong, or was otherwise worried about you, she would tell you. And while her assessments may not have always been correct, you knew her motivation was out of love.
It takes courage to speak to a loved one about subjects where there may be disagreement. Most of the time, if handled properly, these conversations result in drawing closer together.
Amy was also loved loyally by Kevin.
In her suffering and illness, Kevin fulfilled his marriage vows to love Amy in sickness and until death.
I'm confident the past few years have drained virtually every ounce of strength from Kevin, emotionally, physically and perhaps spiritually. We can learn a great deal about faithfulness and unconditional love from Kevin's example. We continue to pray for Kevin.
Lesson #4: GOD's reasoning often becomes clearer in hindsight.
Several years ago, it was difficult to grasp how it could possibly be better that Amy not be given custody of those two children.
Several years ago, it was bittersweet for us that Amy was leaving Montgomery to go live in Watkinsville, GA.
But now it is apparent why it was not best for Amy to have had those children permanently, why it was best for her to go to Watkinsville, and why Kevin was brought into Amy's life at the time that he was. In each case, it was for Amy's good.
Lesson #5: Sometimes death is a merciful gift from GOD.
For whatever reasons, GOD chose not to remove Amy's cancer.
When her condition became dire, prayers shifted towards being merciful in limiting Amy's suffering if there would be no healing.
5 Precious in the sight of the Lord Is the death of His holy ones.
(Psalm 115:5 in LXX)
1 The righteous perish,
and no one takes it to heart;
the devout are taken away,
and no one understands
that the righteous are taken away
to be spared from evil.
2 Those who walk uprightly
enter into peace;
they find rest as they lie in death.
(Isa. 57:1-2 NIV)
Lesson #6: Mercy triumphs over judgment.
Like each of us, Amy openly admitted her imperfections.
One shortcoming Amy confessed wrestling with was a tendency to be overly critical in judgment towards others.
To her credit, she worked hard to overcome this.
She knew Jesus taught that the measure of judgment we use towards others would be measured towards us (see Matt. 7:1-2) and this scared her.
I did not have opportunity to discuss this issue with Amy after she moved to Athens, but I suspect that her sufferings with cancer taught her a lot about mercy and judgment. I'm sure it would teach any of us lessons in this regard. (For clarification's sake, I'm not suggesting GOD inflicted or allowed Amy to develop cancer to teach her this lesson.)
12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
(Jam. 2:12-13 NIV)
Life is too short to hold feelings of bitterness or judgment in our heart. Let it go and allow your heart to heal from any wounds you've suffered.
Lesson #7: In GOD's wisdom, even the death of the Christ-follower brings unity.
One aspect of Christians' deaths which continues to amaze me is how it brings people from our past back together in a (mostly) peaceful way.
Except for extreme cases, there is peace between people in these situations, especially between Christians.
Lesson #8: For His faithful disciples, Jesus has truly taken away the sting of death.
54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
(1 Cor. 15:54-58 NIV)
13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.
(1 Thess. 4:13 NIV)
Lesson #9: Never ever give up.
Amy fought hard, physically, emotionally and spiritually until the very end.
Her legs no longer worked properly, but make no mistake: Amy crossed the finish line.
As Paul so beautifully expressed it:
7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
(2 Tim. 4:7-8 NIV)
Lesson #10: Death is no respecter of persons. It takes the young and the old, the healthy and the sick, the rich and the poor.
Due to her diagnosis, Amy had months to prepare for her likely death.
I suppose this is a blessing and a curse.
Sometimes death is anticipated and drawn out; other times immediate and unexpected.
We must each ask ourselves if we are prepared to stand before the judgment seat of Jesus?
27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,
(Heb. 9:27 NIV)
Time will heal over the wounds which today are fresh, though scars always remain.
And when I think about Amy, I'll smile and remember the blessing she was in my life, give thanks for the time we had together, and anticipate the coming opportunity to renew our fellowship when I join her on the other side.