“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18
Well, we have arrived at the end of the journey – the point in the story where Beth’s life here on earth ended and her real life with Jesus began. On 5 March 2011 Bethany Joy was delivered from her mortal, diseased and broken body and set free to immortality in Christ! This week is her earthly birthday week. 31 March 2014 marks 19 years since we were granted the great pleasure of bringing our Brown Eyed Beauty into the world! Oh what a joy she has brought us! What a gift to us all. We miss her intensely but are so grateful for such a treasure from the heart of God.
Our sincere thanks for being willing to go the hard miles with us throughout this year-long pilgrimage. Yes, it took us to dark places as we sojourned the Valley of the Shadow of Death, but we hope you have also seen glimpses of glorious light along the way, like we have.
I am going to miss writing these weekly blogs, but it is time to let Beth’s story go out into the big wide world and to release her testimony into God’s hands in a fresh way. Friends, the purpose of a Christian testimony is to encourage those of us still on the pilgrimage Home and to give God glory! The appropriate response of those who hear a faith-filled story and witness a life well lived in Christ is to bow and worship the living God, giving Him all the honor and thanks. (See Galatians 1:22-24.)
It is no good if you leave us now with just admiration for an inspiration girl. No! That was not what Beth’s life and suffering was about. Remember her desire that her life would be all about Jesus and point others to Him – giving God MUCH glory? Please bear with me for a moment longer as I leave just a few more things with you that I hope will encourage you to keep moving forward into ALL God’s promises and purposes for you and your family, no matter what your circumstance…
Around 18 months after Beth’s passing into glory, the Lord gave me the gift of a retreat where He did some deep healing in my life. There, Jesus gave me an image of the way He walked so closely with Beth throughout her ordeal. His gaze was fixed on her, just as her eyes were fixed on Him. They actually laughed together and they were totally enamored with each other. At the diagnosis He held out His hand and said, “Come with Me beloved and let’s show others how to do this journey well! You’ve said you will follow Me wherever I will lead so let’s go! I’ve already paved the way for you and I will be with you every single step of the way like no one else can.” And so she took His hand and trusted Him like never before. When she could walk no longer, He held her and carried her Home.
I came home from the retreat with fresh faith to believe that while on the surface it looks like Beth’s life was robbed and stolen, in fact her life was given, not taken. Bethany was called by Jesus to walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death with Him and thus paving the way for others to follow behind. Her story shows us that even in the direst circumstances, when we are in Christ, there is nothing to fear.
In the same kind of spirit as John the Baptist, God is using Bethany Joy to ‘preparing the way of the Lord’ in the hearts of those following close behind. We used to live in Papua New Guinea and several times have had to cut through dense jungle. I was always so grateful for the guide who with machete in hand, slashed through the thick tangle of vines and grass that impeded our progress. It was hot and hard work. On a shared spiritual journey, it seems that some are given the arduous task of paving the way in a similar fashion. The first one guiding the rest takes on responsibility, carries an extra load and experiences added pain in order to alleviate some of the burden for others following their footsteps. Jesus Christ has ultimately paved the way Home for us but the path can be pretty rocky, unclear and difficult to follow at times. Thankfully, He has raised up other tangible examples for us to follow – Beth being one of them! Beth followed Jesus with abandon and if we follow her example of faith along the path she has forged, it will lead to life! The first one through gains the extra reward of arriving Home first! Battered and weary but gloriously Home! Please follow her Home friends and BE Glorified in Jesus!
So here is how this story ends – or begins! Will you choose with us in your time of loss and suffering to…
BE BELIEVERS – not doubters?
BE WORSHIPPERS– not worriers?
BE FRUITFUL – not barren?
BE BETTER– not bitter?
BE INHERITORS of ALL of God’s promises – or miss out?
BE FULL OF LIFE – not death?
BE BRIMMING WITH– not hopelessness?
BE OVERFLOWING WITH JOY – not despair?
BE BLESSINGS to others and glorify God in absolutely everything?
BE GLORIFIED with and in and through Jesus Christ – the One who will make ALL things new – forever!
AMEN– let it be so!
Songs to Encourage You:
Would You Dare to Believe by Josh Wilson
You’re Already There by Casting Crowns
Blessed Assurance Fanny Crosby*
It is Well with my Soul by Horatio Spafford*
* Check out the stories of these amazing people who have also been used by God to pave the way Home for us!
Books to build you up:
This week’s Bible passage gives us a wonderful description of Heaven and helps to get us excited about our new eternal Home! Both David and I took delight in reading several books about Heaven to Beth during the last stages of her illness. Here are some of the ones we discovered that greatly blessed us and increased our longing to BE Glorified in Jesus…
90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper
Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo and Lyn Vincent
Poetry and Images to Inspire: Akiane Kramarik