Today marks the one year date that my little girl took her last steps here on this fallen earth and took her first steps into Heavenly glory! I can only imagine what she experienced upon her last breath. Were there angels present in the room? Did she see the Lord Jesus immediately? Did she see us wailing as she ascended above us? I don’t know, but one day I will. Until then, I can only imagine.
So, for the Anniversary of my little girl, I want to share with you all how the Lord has used her life and the events surrounding cancer for His glory. I know that God has been glorified in so many ways and I probably have only seen the tip of the iceberg. I am thankful to see how He has used her life and passing for His glory. I am so thankful for how He is using this in my life to bring me closer and closer to Jesus which also brings Him great glory.
But I tell you this my friends, in complete sincerity, it is not easy. I have to fight within my soul every.single.day. Every day, my natural mind wants to take over and process the events of her life and death on a natural plane. When I allow that to happen, my heart sinks into depths of misery that are beyond comprehension. Why? Because in the natural, having your 4 year old princess be taken from you through the ravaging effects of cancer has got to be the most offensive thing ever. But, when I walk in God’s grace and look through the lense of the Spirit, only then am I able to see that God is good and that His plan is indeed perfect. Only then am I able to understand that God’s plans go much further beyond our brief life here on this earth, oh how they go so much further. When I look through the lense of the Spirit, I am able to trust that God is weaving a beautiful tapestry that one day soon will be unveiled. And when I see that tapestry revealed, I am going to fall down on my face in complete amazement of His love and glory as I cry out to Him stating, “You.do.all.things.well.
But yes, it is a daily battle. I’m serious. It is an every day thing. But in this every day battle, or because of this every day battle, I am brought to throw myself into His presence and cry out to Him for the grace needed to walk in a way that glorifies His Name. I am brought near to Him to ask Him to give me the eyes of faith to see His goodness in the midst of such pain. I am brought near to Him to cling to the promises in His word. Yes, through this struggle, I have been brought nearer to my Savior than ever before. And for that, I am thankful.
I know that the Lord has used our story to reach many thousands of people. I have heard of so many people who told me (through the blog, email, FB, or in person) that they have been brought so much closer to God through seeing how He has worked in our lives. I have heard from people who said that they had walked away from the Lord completely because of their own tragic loss of a loved one, but that in seeing how we have kept our hearts centered on the Lord and His goodness, they have been brought back to faith in Christ. I have heard of some people who have come to faith in Christ as a result of hearing our story about Susana. So, it is truly a blessing to hear that her death, or I should say her passing into her Heavenly home, has brought glory to God by reaching many many people. I only pray that these have been true works of the Holy Spirit which are still producing fruit today rather than just an emotional moment. I pray that one day in Heaven, I will see a large group of people, and I will ask the Lord, “Who are these people?” And the Lord will reply to me, “Those are all the people who are here as a result of me revealing my glory to them through Susana and your family.” Oh, that would be awesome!
So, in this last year, I have had the privilege to preach and teach in many different churches about suffering for God’s glory. I pray that God has used His words through me to impact hearts for Him. I have taught often through the passage in 2 Corinthians 4:7-18. I have taught this simply because I have lived it. It is as much a part of who I am as is my skin. God has taught me so much about suffering. He has revealed to me what it means to suffer well. I am so much more intimately acquainted with people like Joseph, Job, Paul, Peter, and other people in the Bible who lived lives of much suffering. And thankfully, I have become so much more intimately acquainted with the Lord Jesus Christ who was referred to in Isaiah as “a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.”
I have come to understand what it means to have a treasure inside this jar of clay that is my body which shows the world that this all surpassing power comes from God alone, and not from me. I have truly been hard pressed on every side, but not crushed. I hold on to Psalm 62:1-2 with the greatest conviction these days: “My soul finds rest in God alone; My salvation comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” So, hard pressed from every side? Yes. But utterly crushed? No. I have been perplexed. I have had so many questions asking the Lord, “Why?”, but by His grace I am not in despair because my hope is in Him alone, and He is faithful.
I know what it means to carry death in my body, but for the fact that the life of Jesus can be revealed also in me. I understand what Paul means when he states, “So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.” I feel like this is what I am living. Because of my pain, God is doing something that brings Him glory and He chooses to use me (my story of pain and suffering) to bring life to others. So, may He be praised and may I continue to allow Him to use me however He so chooses.
And ending out that passage, I know what it means to daily have to fix my eyes on what is unseen which is eternal, rather than get caught up focusing on what is seen which is only temporary. And I rest my hope in a truth that is more real to me than ever that “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” Truly, I can say that these words have been like an anchor to my soul.
But that’s not what I even intended to focus on in this post. Like I said, I have read over that passage so many times in the last year. I have preached through that passage several times. And I have wept over that passage many a time. But I always ended at the end of chapter 4. I mean, there is so much there that it is a good place to end. But a few weeks ago, I started reading and meditating on Chapter 5, and I have been so blown away by what the Lord has shown me.
Chapter 5 is about our Heavenly dwelling. By the way, do you know why I always capitalize the word Heaven? Because it is a proper noun, meaning it is a place, a real place. It is not just a nice thought. It is not just fluffy words of false comfort. No, it is a place. It is where the Lord Jesus sits right now at the right hand of the Father. It is where the angels bow down before Him all day proclaiming “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty.’ It is where the saints are gathered as a great cloud of witnesses looking down into the stadium of our lives and cheering us on to finish our race. Oh yes, Heaven is more real than anything else. And it is where my little princess has joined in the throngs of others, young and old, who get to worship the Lord Jesus without any hinderance whatsoever. Heaven is the real life. Don’t believe me? Then what does Paul mean when writing to Timothy in 2 Tim.6:19, “In this way they (those who put their faith in Christ) will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” Did you catch that? There is a coming age for those whose hope is in Christ. And in this coming age will be the life that is truly life. In other words, something better awaits us. I can’t wait for such a day. And I am happy that my little girl is experiencing such a life in HEAVEN.
Ok, so chapter 5 is about our Heavenly dwelling. Here is the passage that I want to share about in honor of my little girl.
For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 For we live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
Some points that stuck out to me:
We know that if our earthly tent is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in Heaven.
We groan. We long to be clothed with our Heavenly dwelling.
While we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened because we really want to be clothed with our Heavenly dwelling.
So that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. (Remember 2 Tim…the life that is truly life)
It is God who has made us for this very purpose.
We are confident and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
Now, look at all the words in italics. Does this describe you? Do you groan? Do you long for your Heavenly dwelling? Do you know with complete certainty that if your earthly tent is destroyed, that you have a Heavenly building from God? Do you realize that you were made for this very purpose? Do you prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord?
I can say that these things are true in my life only since one year ago. I wish they had been true always, but they certainly are true to me today. And I hope that they become more real and true to you also.
So, a few weeks ago when I was having a very difficult week missing Susana like crazy, crying every single day, and really struggling with why she had to go so soon, I began to read these verses and the Lord brought such an amazing comfort to my heart as I had a memory of Susana that I want to share.
This is very sacred, and it is something that I will remember every single day for the rest of my life. Some of you have already heard it. I have thought about it every single day, but it wasn’t until I read this passage that I began to get a deeper understanding of what was going on in the midst of this event that I will share. And now it forever changes the way that I think about this memory.
When Susana was first diagnosed with cancer, she was in really really bad shape. She was brought from Haiti to Miami Children’s Hospital. She was so incredibly weak by the time she arrived. They had to give her blood immediately. She was on her bed for days without being able to get up. She couldn’t even get up to use the bathroom. I had family come and visit and she did not even get up to see them. She was like this for about 4 days. Then one night, as Maria and I were sitting by her bed, she rose up in an instant. She did not rise in a groggy fashion or in a very slow manner. It was as if somebody just lifted her right up to a sitting position. So, she sits up in this manner, which startled Maria and I, and then the very first words that she says are, “When am I gonna get to go to Heaven?” We were absolutely shocked! We both just sat there stunned for a few seconds as we thought to ourselves that perhaps she had seen an angel or something and that is why she was asking. Any other day, we would have been overwhelmed with joy that our little girl had just seen an angel or something, but on this particular occasion, we were frightened as all can be with the thought that she had just asked that question because we knew that she was just diagnosed with terminal cancer, and therefore if she saw an angel, perhaps that meant that she was not going to make it. Anyway, after the shock wore off in a few seconds, Maria asked her, “You silly goose, why do you want to get to Heaven?” And with a huge smile on her face, she replied, “So I can see Jesus!” Oh my heart sank into my stomach at that moment. And Maria answered and said, “Well baby girl, only the Lord knows when we will get to go to Heaven.” And with that, she just laid back down with this huge smile on her face and went back to sleep…and didn’t get up again for several more days!
Now, I’m not a mystic at all. But I truly believe with everything in me that Susana had some sort of visitation from God as she was on that bed. Whether she saw Heaven in a dream, a vision, or whatever. Whether an angel came to speak with her or whether she saw Jesus Himself, I do not know. But I am convinced that the Lord somehow visited her and showed her what was to come. I didn’t want to believe it then, but after she went home to the Lord, I knew that He had prepared her even just one week into her diagnosis.
So, here’s what my little girl has taught me through this ordeal. I want to be just like her. She was sick for days and hadn’t said a single word to anybody. She totally loved her mommy and daddy and sister and brother. She loved her life. But when she rose from that bed, she had no thought to anything else whatsoever but to be with Jesus. She didn’t first say, “Hi mommy. Hi daddy. I’m so glad that you’re here.” In that moment, she didn’t care. She didn’t rise and ask why she had all these different tubes sticking into her. She didn’t focus on her pain and suffering. She didn’t get caught up asking why these things were happening to her. She didn’t ask about anything, but one thing. She had one thing on her mind that trumped everything else in her life. And that one thing was to be with Jesus. Oh how I want to be like my little girl.
And that is why the Lord ministered to my heart so much a few weeks ago when I read the above passage. As I read it, I stopped dead in my tracks and started weeping as the Lord revealed to me that Susana got what she so much wanted – to be with Jesus. I weep now even as I write this. Not with tears of bitterness or pain, but tears of joy and wonder that she got what she wanted from the very beginning. She was met somehow by the Lord, and as a result of that, she had this one desire and that was to be clothed with her Heavenly dwelling. She longed for it. She groaned. She knew that she had a building from God. She preferred to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. And I want to be just like her. That little girl has taught me so much about the greatness of a child-like faith.
As I read this passage, the Lord answered my question of, “Why God?” He showed me that this was His plan and that He created Susana to want this. She longed for it…and she got it.
This is how I want to live my life. Yes, Susana loved us so so much. She loved her life. She loved learning about Jesus. She loved singing worship songs all the time. She was always filled with such joy. But when she encountered the Lord somehow in that hospital bed, she rose in that moment with one all surpassing desire…to be with Jesus. And that’s how I want to live my life.
So, on this one year anniversary of Susana receiving what she truly longed for, I want to thank her for showing me what is most important, more important than absolutely anything in this life no matter how enjoyable it is, and that is to be with Jesus, to long for Him, to know that our building in Heaven is so much better than this earthly tent, to prefer to be at home with Him so much more than remaining here.
So, here’s to you my precious daughter. The Lord has indeed been glorified. You ran your race so well and have received your prize of what you wanted from the very beginning even though nobody else knew. I still have my own race to run. And my prayer is that I run it with perseverance with my eyes always fixed on Jesus. But remember what we both learned together. Remember what we told the Lord in our favorite song, “I can see the light that is coming, for the heart that holds on. There will be an end to these struggles, but until that day comes, (and then I would say “what are we gonna do” and we would point up to God and say…) still I will praise You. Still, I will praise You Lord. And by His grace, that’s what I will do for all my days until my race is done.
So, here’s to you my baby girl. You are home. I am so happy for you. Thank you for teaching me what is most important. I can’t wait for the day when I come through those Heavenly gates and hear your sweet voice yelling, “Yay! Daddy’s home!” I love you so much!!!!