A few weeks ago I spoke at the services of my home church, Good Shepherd Community Church. The subject was what God has been teaching me about loss and grief since Nanci went to be with Jesus March 28.
Pastor Steve Keels did a great job asking me questions. Normally I don’t talk about the interviewer, but in this case I think I should. Other than Nanci, Steve’s been my closest friend for many years. In our 46 years of friendship Steve and I have had thousands of late-night phone conversations, and a ridiculous number of texts in which we share theological insights but mostly just poke fun of each other. I did the math, and we’ve known each other 2,400 weeks, and there’s rarely been a week we haven’t had a meal, often multiple meals together. And we’re always getting together to talk about God and His Word and the joys and pains of ministry, praying and pouring out our hearts and laughing until it hurts.
Every Thursday night for thirty years Nanci and I were at the Keels house, usually with Paul and Michele Norquist, to enjoy Sue’s wonderful meals. In the last three years we’ve shared many tears, after Jason Keels, Steve and Sue’s son, died the day after Thanksgiving in 2019. (Six weeks later we were with the Keels and Norquists on vacation together for two weeks.) Then Michele died January 1 of this year, and Nanci on March 28. Sue still fixes dinner for Paul, Steve, and me on Thursdays, though the six of us have been reduced to four. To show how this small group connects with suffering, loss, and grief, consider that of the four of us still here, two have lost their son, and two have lost our wives. (I’m writing this on Jason’s 33rd birthday.)
One of the most precious things about that weekend at my church was that I was able to share many profound insights from Nanci’s journals. One woman we’ve known for years wrote me afterwards, “I knew Nanci was a special lady; I had no idea how much her words about God would speak to me this morning through you.”
Another woman wrote, “I knew Nanci as a ‘force’ in Women’s Bible Study, and on the Writing Team for the lessons we study each year. But getting a glimpse into her journals helped all of us see the sincerity and incredible depth of her complete faith and trust in Jesus her beloved Savior. Hearing Nanci’s words was a wakeup call for me to stop jumping from one latest book promising to help me heal from all my wounds to the next, and to instead focus on God, and who He reveals Himself to be in His Word.”
Our dear friend Rakel Thurman, who with her husband Pat, Nanci and I visited on mission fields in Egypt and Cyprus, reminded me right after the final message that for years they tried to get Nanci to speak at women’s Bible study. She declined, since speaking up front, beyond an occasional Q&A with me, was not something she enjoyed. Rakel pointed out that now Nanci had spoken publicly, and to the whole church, through what I shared from her journals.
Here are some of the questions Steve asked me:
- Is it OK for Christians to grieve?
- What are some of the Scriptures that have helped you in your grief?
- We don’t like to think about death. But what does the Bible say about it?
- Did God let you down by not healing Nanci? Did you not have enough faith?
- Is it OK to struggle with faith? Is it OK to ask God tough questions about suffering?
- How can we benefit from our own suffering in life?