As I stepped out our front door that morning, a bitter cold blast of wind almost took my breath away. Since ice was everywhere, I had to carefully place each footstep as I moved to our car. Under normal circumstances, the worst ice storm in over a decade would have been more than enough to keep me home. But it was Christmas Eve and I had to make an unexpected purchase before businesses closed for the holidays.
The staff had been gracious and worked quickly to provide me with two choices in this late hour. Now it was up to me to decide which coffin would be used to bury my daughter.
Like most families in Bible College, money was scarce for us. Paula worked full time while I carried a full academic load at CBC and worked part time jobs in order to make ends meet. So it was a pretty big shock when we found out that our second child was on the way. Although unplanned, it didn’t take long for the shock to wear off and the wonder and joy of knowing that we were having a baby to take over.
As the months passed and the baby grew inside of Paula, so did our love for this gift from God. The concerns about no insurance, Paula’s loss of income, new baby costs, etc., were all conquered by trust in our ever-faithful God.
The day finally came and on November 6, 1987, our second daughter was born. We named her Jennifer and she was perfect in everyway and greatly loved by her eight year old sister, Christina.
As planned, Paula took six weeks off to be with Jennifer; while I tried to increase my work hours. Jennifer was a healthy, happy little girl who charmed everyone she came into contact with. Her Doctor visits went perfectly, so there wasn’t even the slightest hint of what was to come.
Paula’s first day back to work dawned just like any other day. While she finished getting Christina ready for school, I took Jennifer out to the car and made sure her car seat was secure. I then kissed her goodbye, never guessing that our family and our trust in God would never be the same again.
The call from the baby sitter happened to catch me while I was at home a few minutes between jobs. The words were disjointed in my mind and didn’t seem quite real, “Laid down for a nap … not breathing … paramedics …” A fast drive to the hospital confirmed the worst fears of every parent, our child was dead. Later tests would confirm that Jennifer had died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, better known as SIDS.
The storm of pain and grief that followed threatened to shipwreck our trust and faith in God. How could He be so cruel as to give us an unplanned baby, allow us to love her so passionately, and then take her from us? Where was His love and mercy toward us? How could we enter the ministry and serve such a God as this?
But our Lord is faithful and is our trusted refuge even in the midst of the worst storms of life (Psa. 91:1-2). God’s loving arms were indeed holding us, sustaining us, healing us. And all the years of sermons, Sunday School lessons, personal devotions, and Bible study proved to be rich soil from which the Holy Spirit could grow renewed—even stronger—trust and faith. Just as Christ promised (John14:26), the Holy Spirit brought scriptures back to memory in a time when we couldn’t concentrate enough to read. Proverbs 3:5-6 became my anchor in that storm, and it held fast.
In the years since, Paula and I have stood with numerous families as they faced terrible storms in their lives. We have been privileged to witness the keeping grace of Jesus Christ and the renewing power of the Holy Spirit through all the trials of life. We can offer testimony that God is always true to His Word and is our source for all our comfort and the comfort we offer to others (2 Cor. 1:3-4).
As for Jennifer, she is not lost to us. Because of Jesus Christ we have a future and a hope (Jer. 29:11), with Jennifer still very much a part of it. Today, Jennifer dwells in “the land of the living” and waits for us to join her in worship around the throne of Heaven (Psa. 27:13-14). Someday we will, and what a day that will be!
All scripture is in the New King James Version
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!
He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust.”
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.