God Is Near

It’s been almost a month since I lost my dad. I am amazed at how the waves of grief still overcome me at times. I think to myself that keeping busy will help. It does. Yet, it only lasts for a short while. Recently, I poured myself into a book I wanted to read for months, When Breath Becomes Air, (2011) by Paul Kalanithi. Paul, a skilled neurosurgeon was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. The book transcends you through the emotional roller-coaster of illness, and ultimately, death. Paul wrote,

“Our patients’ lives and identities may be in our hands, yet death always wins. Even if you are perfect, the world isn’t. The secret is to know that the deck is stacked, that you will lose, that your hands or judgment will slip, and yet still struggle to win for your patients. You can’t ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote (I had to look this up) toward which you are ceaselessly striving” (p. 115).

Paul’s memoir was actually finished by his wife, Lucy. Her beautiful words linger with me still, “Although these last few years [weeks] have been wrenching and difficult—sometimes almost impossible—they have also been the most beautiful and profound of my life, requiring the daily act of holding life and death, joy and pain in balance and exploring new depths of gratitude and love” (p.219). I was struck by some of the feelings I realized that were much identical to mine. I felt refreshed with the strong sense that God was hearing my cry. A sense of peace filled me.

I opened my Bible to Psalm 63. King David’s own son Absalom had betrayed him and threatened his kingdom. David’s words of lament became my own. Amid my overwhelming sorrow, I understood that God’s nearness was all I needed. God was present, and that indescribable presence brought me comfort.

Psalm 63:1-11

63:1 O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
63:2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.
63:3 Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.
63:4 So I will bless you as long as I live; I will lift up my hands and call on your name.
63:5 My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast, and my mouth praises you with joyful lips
63:6 when I think of you on my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
63:7 for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.
63:8 My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.
63:9 But those who seek to destroy my life shall go down into the depths of the earth;
63:10 they shall be given over to the power of the sword, they shall be prey for jackals.
63:11 But the king shall rejoice in God; all who swear by him shall exult, for the mouths of liars will be stopped.

The scripture quotation is from the NEW REVISED STANDARD VERSION of the Bible, copyright (c) 1989, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

I have learned that God meets us in those deserted places of brokenness and sorrow — the time of our greatest need. I have found God to be near. I see signs of my dad in everyday life—his favorite bird, a song that he used to sing, a quip he used to say. I no longer feel alone. Instead, I am protected in God’s perfect love.

May you be renewed to know God is, indeed, near. I pray for your peace for whatever troubles your heart.

Because of God’s love,

Tammy Heflebower

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