Has Been So Good To Us
Rev. Robert Ridenour
Bonnie Lee Ridenour, my beautiful wife of 37 years, went home to
be with the Lord on December 5, 2002. She was 54 years old.
Without any prior
symptoms, she woke me with pain on the left side of her head. She had a cerebral
cavernous malformation (blood vessel) that ruptured and caused massive bleeding.
Less than 48 hours later she was home with the Lord.
We had an extremely
wonderful marriage and loved each other deeply. Because of the depth of that love,
we were completely devoted and committed to each other. Apart from my salvation
in Christ, she was the greatest gift God gave me.
After Bonnie passed away,
my whole life was turned upside down. I felt like every fiber of my being was
ripped to shreds. Why did this happen? How could God, who loves me so much, allow
this to happen? One day I was married and happy. Two days later my wife was in
heaven and my happiness was gone forever. The fact that she was gone was a very
difficult thing to accept.
I seemed to be pushed into a deepening valley
of grief, hopelessness, emptiness, despair and torture as I began this journey.
Why werent my prayers working? Lord, did you turn your back on me?
I had moments when I prayed and was momentarily lifted up, but that was brief.
I had always preached about victory in Jesus and how He was with us in every trial,
but this was an overwhelming battle.
A month after Bonnie passed away,
I was desperate to find an answer. I was reading portions of Scripture from her
NIV Bible, especially portions she had highlighted. I came to Psalm 13 and saw
she had highlighted verses 5 and 6. I read the whole Psalm over and over again.
What really blessed me was verse 6. The latter part says, "...for He has been
good to me." At least five times on the day Bonnie went to the hospital she said,
"God has been so good to us."
So what is this goodness, when, as the psalmist
says, you feel God has hidden His face from you, youre wrestling with your
thoughts, every day you have sorrow, and the enemy is beating up on you?
- Hidden His face
- Wrong thoughts
- Devil is having a field day
Before David says,
"God has been so good to me," he proclaims three things:
- I trust
in your unfailing love
- My heart rejoices in your salvation
- I will
sing to the Lord
So how do you come out of the deepest valley
of grief when you have been pushed to the very brink of depression and at times
you may have gone beyond the brink?
There is something in the child of God
that makes him not want to give up without some kind of a fight. That something
is the Holy Spirit. That fight drives him to his knees and back to the Word of
God. He knows there has to be more than hopelessness.
Less than a week
after my wife passed away, I began to write a grief journal. I would usually write
a couple of pages a day. As I read over the journal, I could see the bewilderment,
confusion, and the first question that people ask in the valley of grief, "Why,
That is the sense of the question you get from David in verses 1
and 2 when he says, "How long O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will
you hide your face from me?"
Knowing God is there, praying to Him and at
the same time feeling He has turned His back on you, makes your loneliness even
more unbearable. There seems to be no help or hope for your lonely heart. Not
only are you desperately missing your loved one, there is no loving arm of God
around you and no answer to the question "Why?"
In verse 2 David says, "How
long must I wrestle with my thoughts?" Here is where I had my major problem. It
is a real, intense wrestling match. At one point I thought I might go insane.
Not only are there thoughts of What did I do wrong Lord? Am I being judged?
but the thoughts get entangled with the crushing weight of your grief, to the
point of giving up. The thoughts can be so debilitating to your emotions that
you think that if God would permit it, suicide would be a relief. Then you feel
so ashamed that you thought that. Now you struggle with your shame.
my journal I would write down some of my prayers, but almost immediately go back
to my wrestling match. One of my major thought struggles was with my future. How
do I handle the future when I am so desperately empty? The past was wonderful.
I had a fulfilled life with my wife. We had an incredible love relationship. But
my fears of the future gripped my heart, and I asked the question, "God, what
am I going to do?"
David continues in verse 2, "and every day has sorrow
in my heart." The sorrow you feel is not only emotional, but it also has a physical
effect on you. In the valley of sorrow, as you have plumbed the depth of it, there
seems no way out. You certainly dont see any light at the end of the tunnel.
Then you come to the point of thinking, Maybe I shouldnt get out of this
valley of sorrow. Maybe I will betray my loved one if I get out of this
deep valley of sorrow. After all, you are getting used to this valley. Wont
you be failing your loved one if you start feeling better?
This leads to
the rest of verse 2, which asks the question, "How long will my enemy triumph
over me?" I believe we need to recognize our God-given right to mourn and grieve.
We also have to realize the devil is not asleep. In my utter emotional devastation,
I forgot the devil did not have a hands-off policy. David expresses frustration
that the devil is winning because of his thoughts and sorrow. If you will step
back to see who is pushing you to the brink of depression, you will see the enemy
of your soul.
1 Peter 5:8-10 says: "Be self controlled and alert. Your
enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout
the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of grace, who
called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while,
will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the
power forever and ever. Amen."
In verses 3 and 4, recognizing the work of
the enemy, David implores the Lord for help. Verse 3 states, "Look on me and answer,
O Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death." Verse 4 says,
"My enemy will say, I have overcome him and my foes will rejoice when I fall."
The key to overcoming the despair and depression in the valley is recognizing
the work of the enemy (give light to my eyes). This is pivotal. When you recognize
this, a change will take place.
The change will begin. But how do we cope
with the normal grieving process? You will begin the journey upward, the escalator
of your soul (mind, will, and emotions), with a few stops along the way.
5 says, "But I trust in your unfailing love." The word that struck me the most
in this verse is unfailing. I began to think about people in the Bible
and Gods unfailing love. God was with Abraham on the mountain when he was
going to offer up his son. The Lord was with Moses on the mountain and also in
his battles in the wilderness. The Lord was with Job during the extreme soul searching
of his friends and the anguish he had in not knowing why these things happened
to him. He was with us at Calvary.
The journey out of the valley is not
all that easy. The escalator stops and has jolts along the way. There is a voice,
a beckoning call, to come back to the valley to the depth of your grief where
there is plenty of room. At times the journey upward seems to be too narrow, and
you think you cant make it.
But you make a decision, a choice, to
step on the escalator of Gods unfailing love. Even though His love is perfect,
there are still a lot of bumps along the way.
We know God is Love, but crunch
time is standing by the graveside of a loved one knowing His unfailing love. In
Jeremiah 31:3 God says, "...I have loved you with an everlasting love." If you
will allow Him to do so, God will comfort you with His unfailing love. What we
really need is comfort. There is no greater source of comfort than God. What a
blessing to receive His love comfort!
The second part of the upward journey
in verse 5 says, "My heart rejoices in your salvation." Your heart or spirit (beyond
just your mind) rejoices in Gods salvation.
My first hesitant visit
to the graveside was a few days after the funeral. I was concerned how that would
affect me emotionally. I knew in my heart she wasnt really there. Her body
was her taxi cab to heaven. She just stepped out of the cab. Standing by the graveside,
I began to thank God that my wife was in heaven by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Then I thanked God that Im going to heaven the same way, by the blood of
Jesus Christ. My out-of-the-deep-valley journey keeps me coming back over and
over again, rejoicing in both of our salvations. In 1 John 5:13 it says, "I write
these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may
know that you have eternal life." The knowing that you know that you and your
loved one have eternal life helps you during the lonely, crying, and sorrowful
Verse 6 says, "I will sing to the Lord....". Knowing your loved one
is home with the Lord and knowing one day you also will be home with the Lord
puts a song in your heart. It is praise unto God, who does all things well and
does not make any mistakes. It is the song of the redeemed. Isaiah 5:11 explains,
"The ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting
joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and
sighing will flee away." One of the things I wrote in my grief journal was if
I could just get one glimpse of my wife rejoicing around the throne of glory,
how much more I would sing the songs of the redeemed!
David continues in
verse 6, "for he has been good to me." So I come back full circle to His goodness.
God has been so good to us (my wife and me) because of His unfailing love and
His salvation to us, and that puts a song deep within my heart.
not an easy journey, but Ive come to realize it is not a journey I take
alone. I know up ahead there will be many more days of crying and missing my beloved
wife, but I thank God for His promises.
1 Thessalonians 4: 13 and 14 states,
"Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to
grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and
rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen
asleep in Him."
I am not contending that the journey is easy -- it certainly is not --
but in Jesus Christ you have strength to complete the journey.
Robert and Bonnie Ridenour received Jesus Christ 36 years ago while
watching Billy Graham. For 30 years they were in ministry together, both
as pastors and evangelists, and served the Lord as missionaries in the Philippines,
Australia, Singapore, and New Zealand.
CBN IS HERE FOR YOU!
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Are you facing a difficult situation?
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