Saturday, September 20, 2008

Victory in Death

"This website has shown me there is a lot of goodness in this world."

An anonymous person wrote this comment on our blog the other day. Remember, this blog is the story of a child who battled brain cancer for 9 months, only to die the day after his fourth birthday. And this person sees that there is a lot of goodness in this world from reading about this? How can that be?

"Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Cor. 15: 55-57)

With God, everything is backwards. The reason is because of Jesus' death and his victory through death. We tend to think of death as the end, the final failure, the ultimate evil especially in a child's life. I know when Jesus died, his faithful followers couldn't believe it. THIS was the Messiah, the man who was supposed to save them and use His power to rescue them. But he died a gruesome death on a cross like any murderer or thief and left us. There was no miraculous rescue. He didn't call down fire from heaven to destroy his persecutors. What kind of victory is that? If that had been the end of the story, it would have been a bit disappointing. But the victory comes in on the third day. He came back. He was alive. He conquered death so that it wouldn't conquer us.

A friend of mine shared this quote with me from a book entitled My God and My All by Elizabeth Gandse:

"It is never the beginning of the story to say a child is born, nor is it the end to say a man has died, for long preparation leads up to every birth, and a death leaves behind it a power for good or evil that works on in the world for longer than the span of life from which it grew."

I think of Jesus' death and the impact it has had on the world the last 2000 years or so. We now have this incredible power for good because of his death and his Holy Spirit that he left in his stead. We would not have his Holy Spirit if he hadn't left us. We wouldn't have power over sin, fellowship with God and intimacy with Him, and the assurance of ultimate pardon. No one can take those privileges away because they are sealed with the blood of Jesus. There is also unbelievable evil, but we now have hope that this is not the end of the story. Jesus can redeem it, and he will redeem it, and he is redeeming it. (And he uses us to redeem it!)

One of the reasons we named Joseph "Joseph" was because of the Old Testament character (see Genesis 37-50). He is an amazing role model (not all O.T. "heroes" are) because of his response to suffering and injustice. His brothers basically kidnapped him and sold him into slavery and lied to their father, saying he was eaten by a wild beast. Years later, after a lot of suffering and more injustice, Joseph is given great power and authority by pharaoh because of his ability to interpret dreams. There is a great famine in the land and his brothers come to him (not knowing it is Joseph) to get some food. After some more lies from his brothers and the death of his father, his brothers are worried that they have finally put Joseph's patience to the limit. His response to them is just amazing:

But Joseph said to them, "Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."
He could see through his own pain and suffering and separation from loved ones to the truth that it was God who put him where he was to work a greater good than his own happiness. Such amazing humility and trust in God!

I remember thinking what a gift it would be to have a child who grew to be a man of this kind of character. It turns out our Joseph didn't live to be a man. But in his short life I believe he showed many people the goodness of God and the goodness we are all capable of because of Jesus. The name Joseph means "the Lord will increase," and I just pray and hope that our Joseph's death will leave behind him an incredible power for good that will increase God's family and the number of people who trust in Him.


Sarah-Jane said...

wow sister. I am assuming this is you.
I can't always tell
but WOW.

suzanne morris said...

Your desire that "Joseph's death will leave behind him an incredible power for good that will increase God's family and the number of people who trust in Him" is coming true in large part because of God's use of this blog...because of entries just like this one (and so many others) in which you so beautifully articulate the gospel. Your steadfast faith and acknowledgement of God's goodness while you have been living through every parent's nightmare speaks volumes to the many people who read this blog. Your testimony and witness have been viewed by so many more people through this tragedy than you would ever have had contact with back in the old days...back when life seemed normal and predictable. That you can write a passage titled "Victory in Death" just one month after the loss of your beloved son shows how real and strong and powerful God is.
Miss you and love you.

Jennifer said...

I remember back in November when Joseph was diagnosed, I asked God to use this to bring people to Him. I knew he would. I just had no idea how big the numbers would be. Joseph's funeral had quite the crowd. I'm still amazed at how many people have been touched by him. I have actually met people who didn't know me or any of us personally, but they knew the story from the blog.

Anyway, thanks for continuing to write. I still tell myself "God is good all the time, and all the time God is good". It's amazing that you can write about his goodness. And God sure does work in mysterious and backwards ways.

Nana said...

Wow is right.I am so amazed by your faith Gillian and Allen.God has used this blog to minister topeople who have a personal relationship with Jesus and also to those who have not made that commitment.I just pray for those who struggle with believing.In fact I have just prayed for anyone who is reading this to just have the faith to ask Jesus to be Lord of your life,Its really as easy as that.It was for me .Seventeen years ago our daughter Lynn left some little pamphlets about a relationship with Christ in our house.I didnt know at the time who had left them there.I did pray the prayer to ask Christ to be my savior,seventeen years later he is still my savior and Lord the only difference is I really know Him better now and I know it was nothing I did.Christ died on the cross for my sins and for your sins all I had to do was say Jesus I want you to be Lord of my life and basically I got a clean slate.I still mess up I still sin but I have a Savior who forgives.He is my father and I am his child forever.With that promise I will live forever with Christ and have eternal life basically a free gift for all who believe so I encourage you today if you have never asked Jesus into your heart ask Him today none of us ever know what tomorrow will bring.Its a free gift open it up !! its like getting a gift and never opening up the wrapping paper so open up the gift of Life and ask Jesus to live in your heart forever.I love you all and Jesus loves you lots more (as Allen used to say to Joe P.)I love the story of Joseph in the Old testament.Philippians4 saysv.8"Finally brethern whatever things are true whatever things are honest whatever things are just whatever things are lovely whatever things are of good report;if there be any virtue and if there be any praise,think on these things".Love from Nana

Anonymous said...

Wow- Wow- Wow!!! What an incredible testimony you have and are Gillian ( and Allen ). Your faith certainly strengthens mine!Joseph's young life has impacted more people than any of us can imagine! What a wonderful blessing to know that! And I am thinking that your mother may well be called into the ministry!! :) Just think of the message that is continuing to be spread on your blog!! God certainly is near to the brokenhearted isn't he?!!
Love and blesings to you,
Ann Lewis

joann said...

thank you. praying.

Jody (atlanta) said...

What an amazing story on naming your amazing 1st born son. You inspire me yet again. My 'post it' notes of boys and girls names literally being written days before I delivered & and while at hospital for both my kids (who ended up being girls) seem such a let down as their parent. In all seriousness though I truly admire couples who really have meaning behind the name and having spiritual & religious meaning is so touching. All I can say... he was his name!!!!

I can imagine no better name for that smiling, brillant, contagious laugh, big belly, warm heart, destructor (to be weakon with as you put earlier) than Joseph.

On another note, Abigail woke this morning and told me she met him at PDK in her dreams and they were playing in middle of the night which you can ONLY do in heaven since no bedtimes!!!! I checked on her a couple time throughout the night and she truly did have BIG smile on her face. When I asked her about it she told me of her 'fun dreams' and playing during the night. You ALL, especially your son, has impacted my daughter’s life more than I even realized! She says nightly grace and prayers for all the loved ones in heaven. Your love of Jesus, God and faith is inspiring.

MISS you and Love you!!! Jody

Nana said...

I am just smiling reading Jody' post.It is so amazing Abigail is dreaming about heaven and Joseph and that they are playing.I just cried with happiness when I read your message.You have a very sweet little girl Jody,..actually you have two very sweet little girls..just like their Mommy!Gillo you have a pretty sweet little girl too and I hope she feels better from Nana-Bear aka O.M.B.(inside code)

Abbie said...

Amen and amen.
Hutch had a school assignment yesterday which led us to Ps.56. "In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise--in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"

We talked about how our souls are so precious to the Lord--the one who created each of our souls. We talked about how no person or thing can ever hurt our souls--they belong to God.

I thought about this concept of the soul when I was reading your beautiful post. This is not the end of the story. Death is not the end. Jesus has conquered sin & death. He is victorious.

Thank you so very much Gillian & Allen, for sharing these words which are so rich in wisdom with the rest of us. Your journey has had a huge impact on me as a parent and as a follower of Christ. You have been such a testimony of His faithfulness. I get overwhelmed when I think about what grief you must carry. Yet I know that He is holding you and sustaining you throughout this tragedy.
With love and prayers,

Anonymous said...

What a powerful testimony to our God. When He gave Joseph to you, He knew just the parents to give him to, just the parents who would hear from the Word and be inspired by the Joseph of the Old Testament enough to name their son with the same name as a man with such a tender and strong heart. And, He knew that in Joseph's 4 short years, he would touch more lives than most people do in a lifetime. I know that our Father in heaven is celebrating over the lives that have forever been changed because of Joseph's life and his parents testimony to the goodness of God in the midst of such heartache.
I have this quote on my refrigerator and it reminds me of you and Allen; especially after watching you the 9 months that Joseph was sick and then the past 4weeks since he went to be with Jesus.
"Faith like Job's (Gillian and Allen's)cannot be shaken because it is the result of having been shaken." Rabbi Abrahan Heschel
I continue to be amazed at the wisdom and strength God gives you both each day. To Him be the glory! I love you both so much and am so proud to call you my children.
Love, Mimi

Kelly Robinson said...

AMEN. I can only tell you that your precious Joseph reached this sagging heart in a mighty way. I took my 8 month old son to Target for the first time the other day and as we crossed the threshold I whispered a prayer of thanks for Joseph and a prayer of comfort for all of you. Your willingness to blog has been a mighty bridge to Jesus for so many of us. I look forward to the day when all the "strangers" who have come to love Joseph can meet in heaven. We'll stand at the gates and yell, "Welcome to JOE's!"

Anissa Mayhew said...

How God is using you to touch hearts and shine his love on others is amazing. I know that I would get comments about sharing strength and hope on days when I felt my weakest and I would think "how is that possible?" But sharing that faith and God's precious love is what gets us through day to day is a gift to the world.

I'm so thankful that I found your site, you are inspiring whether you think so or not.

Ruthanne Szenasi said...

What can I possibly say that others haven't? This post blows my mind, and it's not the first one on this blog to do that. You can't imagine what God is doing in my heart through this blog, Gill and Allen. God is INDEED good, all the time. When are you going to publish this? :> It's the best devotional I've ever read.
love you guys,

Randi said...

Beautiful post, really made me think.
Thank you,

trmills said...

You've been on our minds all the time and we're thankful for every word you share here; it really does help everyone feel "with you" through this time. Loved hearing of the snake handling,'re a tough mama, Gill! (well, at least when you thought it was plastic...:)

Anonymous said...

I want you to know reading your blog has truly deepened my appreciation for the eternal aspects of parenting and everyday life, which is valuable beyond measure. Your struggles cannot help but call people away from their pettiness to focus on God's role in their lives and the lives of their young children. I know it has for me.
We continue to pray for you and wish, as everyone does, there was something else we could do for you.
Love, Maija and the Gayeds (Jeremy,Jane, and Beatrice)

Megan said...

I read a book by Marie Chapian called "His Thoughts Toward Me" and it has a section about strength...and the strength you didn't know you had, which of course if a gift from God. I have often felt that you guys have that strength just as Chapian writes about it. If you'd like the URL to the book, please let me know.

Much Love,
Cousin Megan

Megan said...

To add to my comment, and what Mimi wrote....I have this quote on my refrigerator, given to me by a friend during a difficult time in my life in the past few years:

He who has been delivered from pain must not think he is now free again, and at liberty to take life up as it was before, entirely forgetful of the past.

He is now a man whose eyes are open with regard to pain and anguish, and he must help to overcome those two enemies and bring to others the deliverance which he himself has enjoyed. --Albert Schweitzer

I feel that this blog has been the "oil of joy for mourning, and garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness" for so many of us. We take this anguish and turn it inside-out, helping others. What a beautiful testimony and gift for all of us.

Cousin Megan

Christy said...

As always, love reading your beautiful and touching thoughts. And you get extra points for working in "beast" - one of my most favorite words.

Jaime said...

Amen...."So be it"
Thank you for these words.

Anonymous said...

It was on your blog that I read that God is painting a beautiful painting. We can't see it all but there is a reason for the things that happen. One day we will all be able to see the entire painting. I believe very deep in my heart that God has used you and your sweet Joseph to help us understand and become more close to Him. My sincere hope is that you receive and feel the power of prayer that so many people continue to send your way. I hope you are richly rewarded by the people around you and the people who are like me-sitting in front of a computer typing, feeling inspired by your incredible words. I am amazed at your strength and will continue to pray for your dear family. I'll continue to watch Joseph as he "dances" on the stars~

Lynn T said...

Dear Gill and Allen,
Thanks for sharing so beautifully. Love and miss you, Lynn

tracey said...

Your words are so beautiful and touching, Gillian. Thank you, thank you for sharing with us. Praying for you.

Allison said...

The Lord will increase, because of Jospeh's life and your testimony. Thank you so much for sharing your heart. You really do have so much insight into the paradox of heartache and joy. Your transparency is so encouraging.

Margaret said...

Hi Friend!
Thinking of you and love to hear how you are via your posts. Your previous post of being out of control of emotions and being okay with that- it just flashed me back to how you feel right after you have a baby and you are just so out of control- of many things but especially tears! It is frustrating, often untimely, typically blotchy, but always needed! Secondly, I had a deep conversation with someone the other day re: heaven, etc. I wasn't talking about Joseph but he brought up death and how it was just another natural state of our being and stage of 'life'. It was yet another little reminder of the many that seem to come my way lately to remind me that my sadness is for me and you and us but to not be sad for Joseph.
Love you friend and hope to see you soon. Margaret

Jennifer said...

Miss you guys. Praying for you. Give my 'girwfriend' a kiss from her aunt Jen.

Jody (atlanta) said...

thinking of you all. HOpe you have a nice weekend. Look forward to visiting soon. LOVE You, Jody