I trudged along, soggy tissues wadded up in my pocket and tears in my eyes. An early morning walk to the cemetery marked the one year anniversary of my husband’s untimely death. At only fifty-eight, after minor surgery, complications set in. I could never have imagined we would lose him—a devoted husband, an attentive father, a playful grandpa, a loyal friend. Crushing grief seemed to envelop me as I rounded the last corner and headed up the driveway. Yet, even as I opened the door, I squared my shoulders. Our youngest daughter, Elisabeth, faced another day of school. She needed a good breakfast, a smile, and a hug.

Looking Back

Four years later, although my grief is less raw, I still walk to the cemetery. I still carry tissues in my pocket. I still reminisce and sometimes cry. On this, the week of the fifth anniversary of Barry’s death, I still miss his arm around me, his concern for my well-being, and his out-of-the-box perspectives.

During those first few months, how many hours did I wring my hands in prayer when I had no idea what to do? How many times did I puzzle over paperwork, home repairs, and car issues?  How many moments did I silently sense the weight of single parenting and the hollow abyss of loneliness?

At the same time, I can’t deny God’s presence during the past five years. As I leaf through my journal, His grace stands out BOLD on every page. Only with God’s promises could I have taken each next step. Only with His strength could I have found the courage to write a couple of books, to see Elisabeth through her college years, and to downsize and simplify. How grateful I am for the helpers God has provided to assist me.

Has the Lord been faithful? Absolutely.

Looking Forward

Even as I breathe words of thanksgiving, my thoughts turn toward the future.  All three daughters live in distant cities, and I wonder how long I should stay in this location. My dad, now 84, needs more assistance. What will the next five years hold?

With an open Bible and an open heart, I recently found my way into the book of Hebrews where I came across some verses I had underlined. “Now may the God of peace . . . equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever” (Hebrews 13:20, 21).

The author of this benediction packed hope into the last few words of his letter. Just as a soldier must be fully equipped to fight a victorious battle or a hiker needs to use proper gear to reach the summit, God equips us with everything good for this express purpose: that we may do His will.

I jotted down some ways God equips His children. Talents, abilities, spiritual gifts, and even personality all play a part, along with His promise to provide “all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him . . .” (2 Peter 1:3). God also uses the circumstances He allows us to experience, both positive and negative, to shape and complete us, leading us to choose paths we might never have considered otherwise. Often the hard times become our passion as we seek to help others in new ways with empathy and understanding.

Flipping back to Hebrews 13, I read the verses again—this time noting who God is and what He has done. He’s the author and giver of peace (AMPC). He’s the one who raised Jesus from the dead. He’s the great shepherd. He promises eternal life.

I still can’t comprehend why Barry died when so many depended on him.  Yet, I feel hopeful. Perhaps these circumstances will prove to be part of the restorative equipment God knows I need to serve Him in this next chapter of my story.

I’ll visit the cemetery with a pocket full of tissues again. At the same time, I’ll add these verses to my ever-growing collection of promises, promises made by the God who equips . . . and the God I can trust . . . with the past and with an uncertain future.

Sarah Lynn Phillips

Sarah Lynn Phillips shares the inspiring story of her family’s near-fatal car crash in her award-winning book, Penned Without Ink: Trusting God to Write Your Story. For individual or group study, she has also written a companion Leader’s Guide with reproducible study sheets. Her articles, devotions, and poems have appeared in numerous online and print publications. Through her writing and speaking, Sarah offers a vision of hope in the hard times. She has three adult daughters and three delightful grandsons. Reading, quilting, and tending her garden are among Sarah’s hobbies.

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  1. Great article Sarah. You always give us something to think about . Many eye opening thoughts.

  2. You are a strong woman, Sarah. As always, your words bring that strength to others. Be well, my friend.

  3. Thank you for always being real, all while staying centered on God’s goodness. I am praying for you.
    PS – Our dads are the same age …. 😊

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read my rambling thoughts, Chrissy. What would we do without the promises? Your dad has had a positive influence in my life. Grateful for you.

  4. Thank you, Sarah! Great reminder that the God who equips is a God I can trust. I needed to remember that the best thing is to turn to Him when I don’t know what to do.

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