“That’s what faith can do.” It’s not just one of the most amazing songs by the band “Kutless”, but it’s the most truthful reality that I can state as I read my wife’s recap that she wrote about the year 2011 and the faith that she demonstrates through the hardships that we have endured. You have heard from me all throughout the year as I wrote about all the different struggles that we were encountering and what the Lord was doing in me through those things, but now I want you to read a year end note that my wife posted on Facebook that I just read. I am simply awed by her faith and love for Christ. I am blessed to have her as my wife, and you all are blessed to have her as a friend. She has encouraged me in so many ways to want to know Jesus more. As I read her note, the only statement that came to my mind was…”Now, that’s what faith can do.” And it’s true. Somehow, someway, though we have faced adversity and struggle in our lives unlike anything else, our love for Christ and our devotion to Him grows stronger rather than weaker. That’s what faith can do! Though we are still broken and in great pain over our little girl being taken to Heaven, we love Jesus and consider it a privilege to be called “child of God.” That’s what faith can do!
Our faith becomes great only as Jesus, the object of our faith, becomes greater to us. There is no other way.
It’s not a science. It’s not a mere feeling. It’s not a mantra. It’s a person. It’s the lover of our souls, the One who made us for Himself. The One who died for our sins so that we could be reconciled to God forever. The One who has prepared a place in Heaven for us forever. The One who is above all things. The One who holds all things together. It’s simply…JESUS. He is the object of our faith. And only when our love for Him and our realization of His greatness grows, does our faith also increase. And that’s what I have seen in my wife these last 9 years that we have been together.
Friend, if you do not know such a faith, or rather if you do not know the One who gives such a faith, I pray that you open up your heart today and cry out to God to reveal to you His great love. Only in Him can we be sustained through the fiercest of life’s storms. Only in Him can our hope anchor us amidst the shifting tides. Only in Him can the joys of this life become much more joyful. And only in Him are the promises for eternal life made manifest. It’s all because of Jesus we’re alive. Surrender your hearts to Him today.
Enjoy my wife’s note for closing out 2011. She doesn’t even know I’m posting this, but I know how it blessed and challenged me, and so I think it will bless and challenge many others. I have been so encouraged by her faith and love. I think I am more in awe of her sweet love for Jesus more so than anything else. It challenges my heart to say, “Lord, I must know you more!” I hope it does the same for you. Enjoy.
My thoughts about 2011 – Maria Whittaker
As I reflect on the year 2011 and all that transpired in it I am feeling both broken and in awe. We began the year with both terrible and great news. January welcomed us with the news of new life as I was already two and an half months pregnant with Jacob. Knowing that I was with child brought in me the weirdest emotions. I was afraid. I was scared that God was calling Susana home and felt like somehow this baby would be a “replacement baby”. Four days after finding out that a little one was being knitted inside of me we received the news that Susana’s tumor came back.
I will never forget that day. We sat in a room at the clinic and two doctors and a nurse began to tell us how sorry they were that her neuroblastoma had come back and it was all over her body. There was nothing they could do. Because she had just received a stem cell transplant and proton therapy her body was too weak for chemotherapy. I never experienced such pain in my life. Each time I looked at my little girl I prayed, I begged, that God would let me keep her. I didn’t want her to go. Not without me. Not then.
The doctors gave her only three months to live. Knowing that we only had a short time with her we rushed to create a memory. One last one. So with the support of the Make A Wish Foundation we headed to Orlando, Florida for a week in Disney. Susana really wanted to meet Rapunzel from the movie Tangled. It was the hardest week of our lives. She was weaker than ever. I can look back at it now and marvel at Susana’s great faith. She knew she belonged to Jesus. She praised Him even in her pain. She never complained about Him or spoke harshly of Him. She always gave thanks to God. She loved Jesus. I know that I was privileged to have known the most faith-filled human of my time. And she was my daughter. She still is.
We came back home from Orlando to live the most painful and emotional week of our lives. At this point Susana is weaker. She is sicker. We prayed and begged God to help her. We thank Him for the strength He gave, but I won’t lie to you, it was so hard. So painful. Many of you stood by our side as we shed many tears and prepared to see our little girl go home to Jesus. I am forever thankful for the thousands of saints who prayed with us. It was painful. Our faith was tested daily and strengthen because of your prayers.
Sadly, we also experienced the enemy’s attacks through well meaning people who lacked both knowledge and grace. We received many letters and emails from people telling us we weren’t faithful enough. “If only you claim and speak the word over your child…”, they said. We battled the lies that came with such emails and letters. Lies such as “your faith is not good enough” or “God is not listening because you are not doing it the right way” or even worse, “you are handing over your child to Satan because of your lack of faith”. In the midst of these lies I was taught to look up to God and not my circumstances and to ignore such messages that depicted an uncaring God who would not listen because I wasn’t strong enough or doing something right.
I learned to believe that only God has the power to heal and if He wanted to He could do so here on this earth, but if not, I would still love Him no matter what. There was nothing I could do to twist His arm. God is not a puppet that I manipulate with my prayers. It was the hardest test of my life yet, I am closer to Him because of it. Through my darkest hour He held me close to His heart. So when it was time to pass our precious Susana into His hands I was fully convinced that I was handing her over, not to Satan as some suggested, but to the greatest love. To Jesus. On Valentine’s Day we buried our little girl. On Valentine’s day her little body went in the grave. I know I will see her again, but for now I am here and I will continue to serve Him knowing that my reward includes seeing my precious Susana again.
The year 2011 is marked as the hardest year ever, but it is also the year that God chose for Jake to join our family. I know very well that this was God’s way of bringing joy into our broken hearts. Jake has not replaced Susana. He never will. We will forever have a painful mark in our hearts. We miss her terribly. I wish she was here. But I am thankful to the Lord for Jake. One look into his eyes and I can see the mercy and kindness of our Lord. I can see the love of God for our family. And it makes me be more in love with my King. He is mindful of me.
It has been a painful year. It has been a joyful year. It has been a year of many new things and many new challenges. It has been the year of faith-testing trials. It has been the year I’ve learned the most about my Jesus. It has been the year of brokenness and renewal. It has been the year that Christ became more real to me. It has been the year of realization that this world has nothing for me. This is not my home. I am only passing thru. The things I posses I do so out of necessity to survive while I am here. The faith I have is God’s greatest gift to me and He wants me to share it with others.
My true blessings are not in this life, but in the one to come. In this world it is easy to own and to lose. To gain and to waste. I’ve learned to count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. I would normally put those words in quotes and give the apostle Paul the credit for writing them. Today, they are my own words. They reflect exactly what this year has taught me.
The year opened and closed painfully. The year also opened and closed joyfully. I thank the Lord for all His revelations this year. And I look forward to all He will do in our lives this upcoming year as we continue to yield ourselves to Him. I am His maidservant. I am only a tool in the hand of the Master. And may His transforming power continue to remove the hindrances in me that prevent me from looking more and more like Christ. That’s my prayer for me. That’s my prayer for my family. And that’s my prayer for you, dear friend. Thank you for enduring 2011 with me. 🙂