Dena Johnson Martin Christian Blog and Commentary

Pray for Nashville: 6 Killed in Mass Shooting at Christian School

A New Perspective

The last year has been hard…really, really hard.

Exactly one year ago, I received a call that my ex-husband had passed away suddenly. Telling my children that their dad was dead ranks right up there with the most difficult moments of my life. Watching them grieve and mourn. Sending them off to bury their dad. Night after night wiping the tears as they streamed down their faces.

But we didn’t have long to swallow the news. His death was followed by blow after blow. My own surgery. My daughter suddenly having grand mal seizures, her body convulsing for what seemed an excruciating length of time. Multiple trips to the emergency room. Test after test trying to find the cause. Medications and medication changes.

And now, I find myself in yet another major change. Today, I accepted a new position in my company. I will be changing jobs, leaving a position that has been such a blessing in my life for over five years. It’s been a tough decision, one covered in prayer and not taken lightly.

It’s a difficult season. It’s been a difficult year (really, two years if you look closely). I’ve spent hours in turmoil, hours in prayer, hours with tears streaming down my face. Even as I type right now, I feel the tears stinging my eyes, begging to be released, free to cleanse the pain buried in my soul.

But God…

In the midst of everything, I often felt God was absent, certainly silent at best. I wondered where He was, where were the fulfillments of the many promises He had made. As more pain was heaped upon my already aching soul, I wondered why God would allow us—my children and me—to suffer so much pain. Why? Where? What now?

In my head, I have seen God’s goodness and grace and faithfulness. I’ve learned to trust Him in the midst of the trials. I’ve experienced the beauty of what God does in our pain. In my head, I knew He was still present, still loving, still faithful.

But in my heart, I sometimes couldn’t find Him.

Now, as we turn a corner to the one year anniversary of my ex-husband’s death, I have the benefit of looking back…and the view is so much clearer. It’s still not 100% in focus, but I have a much better grasp of where God was working when I couldn’t see Him in the middle of my pain.

Here’s a few lessons God has hammered home as we’ve walked through the last year.

God’s timing is always perfect. I recently asked my daughter what good things God has given us in the last year. Without a moment’s hesitation, she responded, “Roy.”

When the kids lost their dad, I immediately put my desire for a relationship aside, knowing my kids needed me more than ever before. What I didn’t realize is that my kids needed a dad to love them and support them. While Roy will never replace their dad, he has been an absolutely amazing substitute! He loves them as his own, supports them in their activities, and has stepped into that role in ways I never imagined.

For years, I have prayed and waited, waited and prayed, wondering when it would be my time. I don’t fully understand why God waited until now, but I definitely see how the timing could not have been more perfect. His promises are fulfilled at the perfect time.

God’s provisions are always sufficient. When my ex-husband passed away, he still had marital debts…debts in my name, a debt I am now responsible for. In addition, because of changes in our health insurance plan, I was hit with over $20,000 in medical bills between Cassie and me (and that doesn’t include my $10,000 in insurance premiums). I went from virtually debt-free to buried under a mountain of debt, and I had no idea how I would ever dig out.

But God…

God has been so faithful! At Christmas, I had some amazing, generous Christians pour out love so generously, heaping gifts on me that allowed me to pay for my daughter’s orthodontics. In the last month, I’ve been able to pay off over $17,000 in debt. And, I anticipate paying off the remaining two debts in the next month. My mind is blown, and I am so grateful for God’s provisions. And I will get to enter a new job debt-free.

God’s work is always ongoing. For so many years I thought God was silent. I couldn’t see His hand, His work. I sometimes wondered why I even had faith to believe I had heard His voice.

Now, as I enter this new season, I see where God was still at work when I thought He was silent. He was working in Roy’s life in response to my prayers, calling him to fully surrender and live His life for God’s glory. He was preparing circumstances that would provide for our financial needs when we needed it the most. I see how He was so busy taking the many circumstances of this life and weaving them together to provide a beautiful future for us.

I now know that God is always working to bring good out of our pain, to bring beauty from the ashes.

God’s love is never-ending. Do I even need to mention this one? His grace, His love, are so evident on this side of the pain. His goodness, His mercy, have been abundant, giving us the strength just to reach this one year anniversary. His power, His provision, have been abundant as we’ve walked through the painful days.

I am trying to encourage my children to look for the many gifts we have received in the last year. I am encouraging them to focus on the many things for which we must be thankful. I am encouraging them to see God’s powerful love poured out over us in the midst of our pain. I am encouraging them to ask God to give them His perspective.

Levi Lusko, pastor of Fresh Life Church in Montana and Utah, spoke at our church in March. He told the heart-breaking story of losing his young daughter, Lenya, to an asthma attack several years ago. He told of the verse that penetrated his and his wife’s heart, a verse that spoke of His power over death, shortly before God took Lenya home. A verse that prepared both Lusko and his wife for the unthinkable, unimaginable pain they would soon face.

As I look back over the posts I wrote in March of last year, I see how God was preparing me for the incredible changes He knew I would soon face. I wrote about how I was restless, longing for a change of season. I wrote of an incredible passage that tells us we can never experience God’s healing if we don’t experience pain. I see how God was preparing me for the season that would soon be thrust upon me, the pain my children and I would soon experience.

Lusko continued with an important lesson on perspective, a lesson I know impacted my children in a powerful way. Lusko and his family miss their precious daughter. Their hearts ache with an immense pain, a heavy loneliness that only grieving parents can truly understand. He talks of each day that passes as one more day away from their precious daughter.

Or is it? You see, Lusko chooses to look at each passing day as one step closer to being reunited with Lenya, that glorious day when he will enter the gates of heaven and embrace his precious daughter. He talks of this perspective shift as essential in helping him navigate the grief that is still overwhelming at times. It’s a fresh reminder of the hope we have in Christ.

As my daughter and I talked this week, she brought up this powerful lesson. She reminded me that despite her pain, her grief, her sadness in missing her dad, she is choosing to look at each passing day as one step closer to seeing him again, to complete restoration and redemption of everything she has lost.

I pray that as I reflect on everything we have experienced I can have God’s perspective. I pray that as I am faced with new trials in the future I can remember that hindsight always gives us a clearer perspective. I pray that as I am lost in the fog of pain I can remember it is only in the pain that I experience His healing.

I pray that each day I am on this earth I can see life through His eyes.