Updated: Jan 25
In the wee early hours of the morning, in my semi-conscious state, I had a sense I was going to receive news. When I heard the buzz of my silenced phone, apprehension became heavier than the quilted blanket over me. Discernment warned me of the discloser before ever picking up the phone. I just knew. Cognizant of the fact that sleep would not return I rose.
Kelly is with Jesus.
Ouch. This just can't be real. Floodgates opened and tears ran from my eyes. This was not the outcome I expected when my sweet friend spoke of the pain she had been experiencing in her abdomen just a few months ago.
After her diagnosis Kelly found comfort in Psalm 91, "This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease." (Vs 1,3 NLT). Kelly had quite the support team surrounding her; if the physical pain was too much to bear or the fear and mental anguish began pressing heavy upon her, we would pray. For five months we fought the fight of faith by asking (okay, I begged) God to provide her healing — on this side of heaven. Each holding to the hope that Kelly "would not die, but live, And declare the works of the Lord" just as Psalm 118:17 states.
And then abruptly, on January 18th her fight with cancer was over and her presence in our lives was taken. It was quite a hit. Caught off guard, I felt unbalanced and found myself ushered into a new battle; the raging war against a broken heart and disappointment from unanswered prayer.
Yes, I know, our prayers were answered:
Kelly is no longer in pain.
Kelly is completely healed.
Kelly has found comfort.
Answered prayer, yes; but not according to my expectations. Adjust to conditions, Kolleen. This storm is a doozy.
I find myself a bit broken as my heart aches for her precious family; for the friends that are left behind to grieve. The hopes and dreams Kelly had wanted to accomplish. My need-to-know why challenges the promises I know to be true from God's Word. Did we not pray enough? Was faith lacking? We spoke life over her; doesn't that count? I have seen miracles, Lord. I know people who are walking miracles; why couldn't Kelly be one? Why, why, and why between sobs.
Suddenly, my questions were interrupted by the reminder of a thought that periodically swept through my mind as I prayed for her. Kelly will not survive this. Fearing this represented a lack of faith, I chastised myself, hushed the thought, and reminded doubt that God is the One who decides. I'd plug my ears; lalalala I can't hear you doubting voice. Kelly is going to be simply fine.
In hindsight, now I ponder that thought and wonder if the Spirit was actually trying to prepare me for the reality of what was to come. If I had listened, I might have asked her the other question that crept in, how can I help you prepare to meet Jesus? Now, I am questioning if we treat death for the believer as though it is the worst thing that could happen to them. It certainly feels like it for those who are left behind, so we battle in a tug-of-war with God. I couldn't imagine her absence in the lives of her children, family, and friends; the pain of loss is unbearable, so I determined God needed to spare her – to spare us.
We want to be spared from the torments of grief and the enemy's attempt to infiltrate hearts and minds with bitterness against God for unanswered prayer. The enemy always wants us to believe God is to blame for this broken world. He's not. I recently heard a pastor say God doesn't owe any of us an explanation. Okay, but is it wrong to ask why? Do our questions really expose a lack of faith? Does God expect us to never falter when we are trying to walk by faith rather than sight? When John the Baptist sat on death row in prison he sent a question to Jesus, "Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” (Matthew 11:3, NLT).
"And Jesus answered them, 'Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them” (Matthew 11:4-6, ESV). A message John would have recognized from the prophet Isaiah. As he heard the response: the eyes of the blind be opened - check; and the ears of the deaf unstopped - check; the lame leap like a deer - check. But wait, Jesus, You left out the part of proclaiming liberty to the captives and opening the prison to those who are bound (Isaiah 61:1).
Understanding John would know there was more to the promise of Isaiah's prophecy Jesus added, "And blessed is the one who is not offended by me" (vs.6). In other words, "read between the lines cousin. You are not going to be freed. You are going to die in prison. But listen, you will be blessed if you don't allow offense to cause you 'to begin to distrust and desert one whom [you] ought to trust and obey.'" (BlueLetterBible.com)
Kelly sent me a text one day after listening to the song, Goodness of God. She had highlighted these words, "'With my life laid down I'm surrendered now, I give you everything.' Surrender. I pray every day to be healed but it's in God's hands and I have to surrender to His will, while I continue to ask Him to save me." Surrendering to His will when it's completely different than my own requires a death, too – death to self.
And that necessitates my need to adjust to the new condition found only in a kingdom identity. When I live in that place of identity, I find comfort knowing God understands the pain of separation as He experienced the death of His only Son, Jesus. He watched His brutal beatings; His torturous treatment. Somehow finding the grace and mercy to restrain Himself. Can I restrain myself from the angst of not understanding and instead trust God with all of my heart (Proverbs 3:5)?
When I received the call that Kelly's health was declining, I knew she was either going to walk with Jesus here or with Him in eternity. I also know God can handle my questions as I adjust to the loss of a friend. I'm sure I will continue to ask questions when grief leaves me weak. I will trust His answer even when it might be the same one Paul received, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me'" (2 Corinthians 12:9, ESV).
Cancer is just going to be part of Kelly's story; it will not be the last chapter of it. And I am so thankful God was in every detail of her story.