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FIRST-PERSON: Finding joy in grief

OPELIKA, Ala. (BP)–When I answered my cell phone the voice on the other end didn’t sound human. I could not decipher who it was. “Calm down and speak slowly,” I repeated to no avail.

Finally, I recognized the desperate sobs of my sister-in-law, Gina. My face twisted in pain as I knew something terrible was about to rock my world.

“Benji’s not breathing!” Gina wailed, “His body is blue and he’s not breathing!”

“Oh! Jesus, please, Jesus!” my heart cried.

“I’ll meet you at the hospital,” I told her through a tightened throat.

As my vision blurred and my legs turned to clay, running to my car was like running under water. Everything was happening in slow motion and it seemed an eternity before I came to a screeching halt just outside the emergency room. I bolted past the front desk and charged through the double doors, knowing in my heart that my 10-week-old nephew had left this world forever.

Our families huddled together pleading with Jesus to “let this cup pass” as doctors and nurses worked for over an hour, trying to revive our beloved Benji. Then came the most dreadful, gut-wrenching words a parent could ever hear, “I’m sorry, we did everything we could. He’s gone.” Gina crumbled to the floor. Inhuman noises echoed from her throat as grief like I’ve never heard forced its way out. Pain so deep that it sucked the air from my lungs ravaged my body as I held Gina in my arms.

That was a few weeks ago. What has taken place since then is nothing short of a miracle. Gina and my brother, Steven, have experienced God’s grace at a level that is unknown to many. They have been embraced by the comforting arms of Jesus, sustained by the soothing Word of God, and filled with peace that passes understanding. Evidence of God’s grace, poured out, was seen during the funeral, which was also Steven and Gina’s six-year anniversary.

As the same soloist that sang “There is a Redeemer” on their wedding day sang it at their baby boy’s funeral, a comforting assurance washed over me. I knew that God was just as faithful now as He was then. The same Redeemer that celebrated in their joy is the same Redeemer that would sustain them in sorrow. The music played on, and when my precious sister-in-law tilted her head upward and lifted her hands to worship Jesus, God’s presence came down like I have never witnessed before.

The doctors said Benji died from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). I say Benji’s heavenly Father looked upon his sleeping body that Thursday morning and proclaimed through tears of joy, “This one’s mine.” Not only has Benji traded the pain and suffering of this world for the magnificent glories of Heaven, but he has also been used more powerfully for God’s glory after a mere 10 weeks of life than most of us will be used in a lifetime.

Steven and Gina have glorified God in a way that would not have been possible had Benji remained on earth. As the co-owners of two popular restaurants in our community, people from all walks of life attended the funeral — young and old, rich and poor, lost and saved. What they witnessed was not a family without hope. They saw much more than a young, grieving couple who would miss their baby boy in the painful days ahead. They saw a sovereign and faithful God who keeps His promises, a God who comforts those who mourn and gives hope to those who receive Him as Savior and Lord.

“I came to the funeral in such despair,” one woman shared, “but I left with such hope.”

“I want to know God the way your family knows Him,” said another.

“I never thought there was much to religion, but I saw something different than religion at Benji’s funeral,” admitted an acquaintance.

“I want to understand more about who God is,” explained a nurse.

Letters, phone calls and visitors have confirmed the beauty of God’s sovereignty, the goodness of His will and the perfection of His plan.

I am reminded of my 4-year-old niece’s words as she held my mother’s hand and stared at the tiny coffin that held her baby brother. It was shiny and white with lovely spring flowers draped over the top. With innocent curiosity and a knowing gleam in her eyes, she asked, “Nana, is that a present for Jesus?” As sure as any answer she’s ever given, my mother replied, “Yes, baby, it is … it most certainly is.”
Ginger Plowman, author “Don’t Make Me Count to Three,” is the founder of Preparing the Way Ministries, for which she speaks at women’s events, parenting conferences, and homeschool conventions across the country. You can visit her website at www.gingerplowman.com.

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  • Ginger Plowman