Three months ago I stood on stage at our Breathe event with Jenn Garcia and shared with you her battle with cancer. A battle she’s been fighting since 2012. I asked you as a community to rally around her and join her in the fight by donating to a fund to help offset the cost of her medication.
And you did.
Over $20,000 came in to that fund. Astounding. This kind of generosity blessed the Garcia family so much as they’ve endured some serious financial strain as a result of her treatment.
I remember leaving the event that night filled with hope and believing Jenn would come through this. She’s such a fighter. I’m sure many of you left with the same feeling.
Jenn sent me the following text the next morning,
I wanted to thank you for making me a nervous wreck last night. I loved being able to see you. Thank you for highlighting our family and our needs. It means the world to our family to have God’s comfort and support. And Girl Power support. xoxo
But things didn’t happen the way we hoped for.
Just a couple months later, Jenn received another bad report from the doctor. There was nothing more to be done.
Throughout the following days Jenn began saying her goodbyes- planning out her entire memorial service in the meantime, and we said our goodbyes to her. Early Friday morning, November 6, Jenn breathed her final breath and stepped into eternity meeting her Savior face to face.
Jenn is now healed, she is now perfect, but she’s no longer here. And that’s so hard. There are so many questions left unanswered. Questions that can be troubling, frustrating, and they can even feel scary.
How do we process this kind of tragedy? How do we go on?
Here are five things I have found to help me during a time like this. I hope they can be a comfort to you as well.
- Remember Who God Is
God is good. God is love. God is just. God is sovereign. God is faithful. God is in control.
I think of all the qualities I know to be true about God and focus my thoughts on these truths. There is an Enemy who wants to steal my faith and make me doubt God. He wants me to question, fear, and doubt. But I refuse to give him the satisfaction. There is no room for it in my thoughts. So over and over I tell myself the truths I know about my God and reject the lies from the Enemy.
- Allow Yourself to Grieve
In our positive, optimistic, everything-is-going-to-be-okay culture we often fail to grieve well. We don’t allow ourselves to face the sadness and sorrow staring us in the face. When you love someone, it is painful to lose them. It hurts. And it should.
Don’t ignore the pain you feel, don’t ignore the moments you are overcome with sadness. Allow yourself to cry, be confused, and be angry. Loss and death should never be normalized as something we scroll past like a headline.
I find the story of Jesus and Lazarus fascinating- especially John 11:33-36. It says in verse 35, “Jesus wept.”
Jesus knew Lazarus would rise from the dead, He had just told Mary he would. Yet He still wept. Jesus allowed himself to feel what the people felt and didn’t ignore the sadness of the situation. If Jesus, who knew Lazarus would come back to life at the sound of his voice, wept because of death, how could we, mere human beings with such limited understanding, not?
Don’t ignore your emotions. Feel them to the core of your soul, and weep if you must.
- Stop Looking for Answers
If God allows someone to leave this Earth before I think is fair then I trust He has a darn good reason for it. I will never understand why tragedies happen, and I will never understand eternity fully- it’s simply beyond my human capacity to understand it. There will come a day when I will though, but it won’t be on this side of the grave. Whenever I can’t come up with an answer, I trust God has one and I trust it’s a good one. I must rest in that.
- Long for Eternity
Jenn is in the presence of God. She is in a perfect place- a place with no sorrow, no sadness, and no suffering. And for that, I can rejoice.
A few days before Jenn passed away, I sat beside her and was overwhelmed with a strange sense of longing. Jenn was so close to entering heaven’s gates and something in my soul longed for it too. I wasn’t afraid for her, but excited. When our soul is at rest in Jesus, we don’t have to fear death, and truly can long for eternity.
- Make the Most of Your Life
When we don’t fear death we can live without fear. We don’t worry so much about “what if I do”, but more about, “what if I don’t”. We start to see life through the lens of eternity and know that there is so much beyond our time on Earth. It’s our responsibility to use our time well and make the most out of what God’s given us.
Paul said in Philippians 1:21-22 (NIV),
For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.
Paul longed for eternity, but he also wanted to finish the assignment God gave him. What is the fruitful labor God has given you to accomplish? How can you make the most of your life?
Jenn, you fought the good fight, you finished the race, but more importantly, you kept the faith.
Let us do the same.