January 28th

(Written by Andrea Maher) 2009 will always be a year etched in my heart. We all have them. You know those tragic yesteryear dates that become memory mile markers --no matter how much time passes. December, 2005 is also one of those years – that year, I buried a son. But 2009…that year just about buried me.

Perhaps it was because hope was beginning to rise. I was reentering the world after three years of a thick grief fog; I was resuming my job which I loved; I was anticipating the exciting return of my parents from Florida’s Snow Bird status to full time residents in a suite behind my house.

New beginnings and a new normal were on the horizon. Being on the back side of the desert had taught me many new things about God. I was beginning to breathe again.

Enter 2009: That January, my mother unexpectedly passed away at the age of 74, just weeks before her final move back home; my 84-year-old father returned to my home alone, without his wife of 54 years; 8 weeks later my youngest son, a former professional athlete, would drink and drive killing an innocent man; and four months later, my brother-in-law would die of cancer.

Funerals, sickness, and court rooms. Sorrow upon sorrow.

I questioned a lot that year. My God, My God why have you forsaken me was my evening soul cry as I yearned for solid sleep. I wondered where my former life had gone. Losing two sons in three years (one to life; the other to death) seemed like a cruel twist of fate to a life that was marked by an abiding faith.

Perhaps you are there right now….if so please allow me the privilege to call back to you:

It was in the openness of my brokenness that I took to the foot of the Cross each morning. There I pleaded for God to remind me of His promises. I needed His comfort; I sought it through His word; I needed hope; It was there that His promises jumped off the pages. And through it all, I felt God’s Hand at work in my life in spite of the shattered pieces strewn before my eyes. I began to see anew with eyes of faith.

On this side of heaven, we may not understand what befalls us. But I know for certain that what doesn’t make sense on this lower level makes perfect eternal sense in the heavens.

I have learned that every bit of sadness in my life was there to change me into a follower of Christ who can now minister to others with the same love that Christ ministered to me. I have become a hospital that can care for the sick at heart. I can cry with the broken- hearted and encourage the faint at heart. My hindrances have changed me. They have protected me from relying on me.

I recently saw a dog with one of those Elizabethan collars around its neck. It was obviously injured. The contraption looked cumbersome, and inhibited his movement. The dog didn’t understand the value of his annoying collar. He fought it; he growled at it. He didn’t have any concept that his master knew it would prevent him from hurting himself. The hindrance served a purpose: protection.

Our Lord knows far more about our futures than we can and these tragedies, sorrows, and derailments can give us a deeper understanding of how He protects, how He provides, and how He loves. And like the saints of old we can boldly declare that God is real because we have experienced Him.

Job 42:5: “For my ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.”

Andrea Maher is the former editor-in chief of PARENT ABC’s, a monthly magazine dedicated to helping parents navigate the everyday concerns of family life. She is the author of the newly released book, SLAMMED: Overcoming Tragedy in the Wave of Grief, A Survival Guide   She has been married to her husband, John, for over 40 years and  they are the parents of four sons, and enjoy their six grandchildren in Cape May, New Jersey where they reside. You can connect with Andrea on  FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

"Matt Maher was an AWESOME speaker today. Such a powerful message delivered with eloquence, grace, honesty and real emotion. I will be forever moved by his message today. Please let him know I believe he will make a huge difference in this world in a very powerful way so I hope he gets to talk at every high school out there."
Lorraine Concord, California
"I'd rather stand alone with Jesus than sit in a crowd without Him."
- Matthew Maher