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Seeing God's hand in the midst of suffering

At age 23, Jacquie's faith was tested in a way she never imagined. She was recently married and had just given birth to their baby daughter. She traveled back home to be with her parents as her dad went through hip surgery. It was a long, hard recovery. However, on the day Jacquie’s parents drove Jacquie and her family to the airport, he felt better and was moving around well on his crutches. Right before they said their goodbyes, Jacquie’s dad asked her to call him when they got to Detroit for their layover. When they arrived in Detroit, they were rushed to catch their next flight. Jacquie wasn’t going to call but had a feeling she should. Her mom was at work but she talked to her dad. He sounded good but after a little while his speech became jumbled and she couldn’t understand him. Then, she heard heavy breathing and silence. After frantically calling her mom and going through the agony of waiting to hear what happened, she eventually learned her dad passed away from a pulmonary embolism.

Jacquie was devastated. Going through the experience of her dad’s death was extremely difficult, but Jacquie never imagined the nightmare that was to unfold. It was a nightmare that continued for another seven years. During this time, Jacquie’s extended family spiraled as they faced mental health illness, broken relationships and addictions. Jacquie often found herself in the middle as everyone came to her. Her own marriage suffered. They nearly lost their second child at birth and experienced a stressful move, bad job, and financial difficulties. During this time, Jacquie’s grandmother and great aunt also passed away. They were both a big part of her life.

Even with all these tragedies, Jacquie saw God’s hand through it all. While Jacquie suffered immensely, she never became angry at God.

“It was only by the grace of God that I didn’t grow to resent Him. God granted me the grace to preserve in my faith and all the suffering actually brought me closer to God,” said Jacquie. “It got to the point where I couldn’t count on anyone. Everything was stripped away and I only had Jesus to cling to. I learned that only God could fulfill our deepest desires.”

“After my dad’s death, I learned the Divine Mercy Chaplet prayer and I went deep into it. I would pray it ten times a day. It was like a life jacket for me when I could do nothing but that prayer.”

Jacquie has reflected on this time of her life and can now look back and see how her faith grew.

“I had the perfect upbringing. I had the best parents. Their marriage was rock solid.” Jacquie went on to explain how her faith was always an important part of her life. However, prior to her dad’s death, it was easy to have faith. It was never challenged with suffering or hardships.

“I had to grow in forgiveness and mercy. It never would have been asked of me if Dad was here. I’ve seen my mom grow in her faith as well as my stepfather,” said Jacquie. “I truly believe that if you allow suffering to be redemptive, it can be.”

Jacquie can now see that her dad was ready for Heaven. “He was ready. He didn’t need more time. There were so many people at his funeral that a line extended over a block in length as people waited in below zero weather to get into the church and they couldn’t all fit for the luncheon. It was evident of his life. He was so generous. Eventually, I was able to see that he could be a more effective advocate for us and others through his prayers in Heaven.”

Jacquie explained she experienced many blessings through it all. “I got to spend nearly three weeks with my parents when Dad had his surgery. You just don’t get that amount of time after you get married and have a family of your own. I was the last person to talk with him. If I wouldn’t have called, my mom would have found him by total surprise after her workday. While it was so hard being in an airport not knowing what was happening, God spared me from having to see him like that and the chaos at the hospital. When we found out he had passed away, we searched frantically for tickets to get us back home. Everything was sold out except for two tickets that would get us about two hours from home. They were going to cost $4,000. It was all the money we had. Do you know, we were never charged for those tickets?! These couldn’t all be coincidences,” said Jacquie.

Jacquie remarked that a second miracle in the whole thing was that her marriage survived.

“Any one of those things could have ended our marriage. We always say if we can make it through those first two years of marriage, we can make it through anything.”

Through Jacquie’s experience, she has found that she has been able to better journey with others who have had similar losses.

“About five years after my dad died, my uncle passed away suddenly. It was really hard on my cousin. He started to make some bad choices and he eventually went to a boarding school. I ended up writing my cousin a letter. I could understand what it was like to lose your dad.”

Jacquie shared her love for him as well as honest words about how it was his decision for how he was going to respond. She kept praying that God would give her the right words and hoped her words weren’t too harsh. One day, she received a call from her aunt saying she didn’t know what she wrote in her letter but she was thankful - they had seen a major change in him.

“I knew the experience and knew the Holy Spirit was using me to reach out. I remember the things people would say to me who hadn’t been through a similar situation. Things like, ‘God has a plan’ or ‘Time heals, it will be okay.’ I was honest with my cousin. I said, ‘It sucks and it’s not going away. It’s always going to be painful but it will change. It becomes part of you.’”

“I don’t think God would ask me to endure if there wasn’t merit. Of course, I always wish it hadn’t been that way. However, I’m grateful I can now look back and see the many blessings and God’s hand in it all.”

Reflection Questions

1. Have you experienced a time of suffering that brought you closer to Jesus?

2. What has been most supportive to you during times of suffering? How was someone’s presence, prayer or words been supportive?

3. How have you been able to use your experiences both painful and joyful to better journey with others?

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