The day is coming closer. The day you dread every year. The day you wish would never come. If you could just snap your fingers and skip this day completely, you would. The day that will find you constantly thinking about the loved one you lost. Grief is already hard to bear, but facing the anniversary of the death of a loved one can sometimes feel like you are reliving the whole thing again.
Six years ago this Saturday (July 27), my world came crashing down. My brother and best friend, Chad Phelps, was tragically killed in a bus accident that also claimed his wife, Courtney, their unborn baby girl, and one of the youth sponsors also on that bus. Each time this day rolls around on the calendar, I’m reminded of the shock of that day six years ago.
I know that I’m not the only one who has a difficult date on the calendar. There are many who grieve each year because of a specific event that changed their lives forever. What are we supposed to do on those days? Often we are tempted to stay home and do nothing, but surely our God of hope can offer hope. Here are 7 reasons for hope on that grief-filled anniversary.
1. God can save you from despair.
I waited patiently for the Lord; And He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear And will trust in the Lord. (Psalm 40:1-3)
It's easy to despair when we are in the midst of a great trial, but the Psalmist reminds us that we can always trust God. We can do what David did—pour out our hearts to God and tell him all about our pain and suffering. God will hear your cry and lift you out of the pit of despair. When that anniversary date threatens to swallow you up, you can have confidence that God will lift you up!
2. God is greater than your fears.
The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread? (Psalm 27:1)
Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. (John 14:27)
Along with pain and suffering, trials also bring a tremendous amount of fear—fear of what the future holds; fear of what people will think of you; fear of who you can trust to talk to about your trial. In the midst of your trial, it is a great comfort to know that God is greater than your fears.
I know what it’s like to have fear flooding back over me. When I recall the events of July 27th that took the lives of people I love dearly, fear threatens to keep me fixed on my horizontal difficulties. But God is bigger than my fears, and God is bigger than your fears too!
3. God really does care for you.
Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. (Matthew 10:29-30)
Casting all your anxiety on Him; because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7)
Have you ever wondered if God really cares about you? I mean, you are just one person in the midst of billions of people on this earth, could God really care about you as an individual? In this passage, Jesus confirms that God does care about you. God actively cares for everything in his universe. If He cares about a little bird, how much more will He care for you? You were made in His image!
4. God understands your pain and suffering.
For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses. (Hebrews 4:15)
I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings. (Exodus 3:7)
God fully understands the sorrow of His saints. God understands your sorrow. He sees your falling tears. He's with you in your grief. God understands your heartache and knows the bitter pain of loss. Trust him in the darkness, because you cannot trust in vain.
5. God is with you.
The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. (Deuteronomy 31:18)
For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand,Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ (Isaiah 41:13)
I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you (Hebrews 13:5)
God was there with me on July 27, 2013, and God is still with me now. This is a terrific promise that we can live by. God is with you through your trials. God sees our despair and tells us He will be with us through the midst of our trial. You are not facing your trial alone.
6. God is truly in control.
For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead. (2 Corinthians 1:8-9)
God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; Though its waters roar and foam,Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. (Psalm 46:1-3,7)
There have been many, many times in the 6 years since the bus accident that I have been tempted to think some desperate thoughts: Why did God allow this to happen? Does God even know about all the grief that was caused by this? Life would be better if this never happened! But through my trial, I’ve gone back to the Word of God and I’ve sought to meditate on what can be at times a very difficult truth to trust: God is Sovereign!
Since God is truly God, nothing happens in this world without His knowing about it. Your trial did not come as a surprise to God. While it may be difficult to understand why God would allow the suffering and pain in your life, His character teaches us that He is willing and able to sustain you through the darkest of trials
7. God has not given up on you.
For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)
Reflecting on the events of July 27, 2013 my dad once said, “We are worn with saying that we look forward to our heavenly reunion, but we do (John 14:1-6). Until then, we thank God for that which cannot be taken away. Our memories cannot be taken away and God’s promises are sure!”
Since God hasn't given up on you, don't give up on Him!
Caleb Phelps was born and raised in New Hampshire and is an avid fan of all things New England sports. He grew up in a pastors home and was saved at the age of 12. As a young junior higher he sensed God's call on his life to go into full time Christian service. Caleb graduated from BJU with a BA in Bible and an MA in Theology. After graduating from seminary Caleb traveled in evangelism which took him across the country to many different churches and camps. While he was traveling Caleb met the love of his life, Rachel. They got married and moved to Indianapolis, IN where Caleb served as the youth pastor at Crosspointe Baptist Church. In September 2018 the Lord moved Caleb and his family to Palm Bay, FL where he now serves as senior pastor at Faith Baptist Church.
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