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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Jesus Will Heal Your Heart

By Laura Qualls
May 13, 2012

One Sunday evening in September 2010, after I taught a membership preparation class in our church, a young woman came to me with tears pooling in her large, brown eyes.

“How long should one grieve?” she asked. “My 5-year-old son passed away about 18 months ago, and someone told me I should be ready to move on by now.”

My heart quickened as one grieving mother looked into the searching face of another. I had shared with the class about losing our 45-year-old daughter to cancer a few months earlier and described where we stood in our grief process.

“You need to grieve as long as it takes.” I answered. “Don’t rush the process, nor should you avoid it. Walk straight into the pain, holding on to the Lord. That’s what I’m doing.”

I had been learning many things about mourning and grief those past few months, and I didn’t know if I was strong enough to share much with this devastated young woman. We met briefly in church and prayed together over the phone. Several months later I invited her to my home for lunch, where we could spend some time in heart-to-heart conversation.

As Shirley began to relate the details of her story, I discovered it was she, not I, who would do most of the ministry that day. I saw that God was in the process of repairing this young mother’s heart and remolding her life. I felt breathless as she said to me, “I have forgiven the one who killed my boy.”

Shirley’s family left the Philippines when she was 3, and they became naturalized citizens of the United States. They were Christians and attended a church that ministered especially to Filipino immigrants. That is where Shirley first saw her future husband, Joseph.

“He was strikingly handsome, a big man,” Shirley said, “and all the girls wanted him to notice them.” Shirley, then 22, was not that interested since she had a busy, active life.

As time went on, however, her reticence became what attracted Joseph to her. A few years later they were married.

Joseph had been a believer for a few years and had grown spiritually. Shirley admired him and his devotion to Bible reading and study. He witnessed to many people about his faith, and was especially interested in learning about the end times and the coming of the Lord.

When their son, Joshua, was born, the couple was excited. Joseph became as devoted a father as he had been a husband.

He and Joshua played often together.

Shirley said she and Joshua bonded from the time he came into this world, and they grew closer together as mother and son through those first few years. He was home-schooled, which meant they spent long hours together. Joshua was kind and loving to his mother in return. Two days before he passed away at the age of 5, he said to her, “Mama, don’t be sad. Jesus will heal your heart.”

Why did Shirley’s heart need healing? It seems that Joseph was not well. He was diagnosed with a mental illness and had to be on medication. As long as he was on his medication, he seemed to do all right. However, there were times when his erratic behavior frightened Shirley. The whole family banded together in prayer for him. Sometimes he made progress; at other times he lost his grip on reality.

The doctor decided to put Joseph on a different medicine. This proved to be a mistake. Joseph’s erratic thought processes and behavior grew more focused and intense. He became obsessed with the Antichrist and the end times. He also became paranoid, preoccupied with harm coming to himself and his family.

One Sunday night Joseph disappeared. Shirley was frantic, knowing he was not in his right mind. She called the police, but they said that the mentally ill have rights, and they could do nothing more.

The next day Joseph had returned, but with more strange behavior. He thought they had missed the rapture of the Church and that his wife was the Antichrist. The voices in his head grew louder as he took more of the medicine that destroyed his ability to define reality.

On Tuesday morning, Joseph seemed calmer. He and his son were playing in the kitchen as they had done so many times before. Shirley heard the laughter and banter as she lay on the living room sofa, sick with a virus. Yet her heart suddenly grew fearful. There was a moment of silence in the kitchen, then Shirley heard Joshua’s voice.

“Daddy?” he questioned.

Shirley called to her boy, “Joshua, come here!” Things didn’t seem right to her.

“Why, Mom? I want to be with Daddy.”

“Come here, son,” she repeated firmly.

Pouting, Joshua came slowly into the living room. He was followed by his father. Joseph wielded a large kitchen knife.

Shirley said it was like a slow-motion movie. “No!” She cried out, rushing to where Joseph had already grabbed his son from behind.

In a moment, it was all over. The boy was dead. Shirley’s hands were severely lacerated trying to save her son. Joseph, still mumbling, headed out into the neighborhood to a destination unknown even to him.

After many months of surgery, therapy and counseling, Shirley has made great strides in overcoming the worst kind of loss in the worst kind of situation. She lost a beloved 5-year-old son and a husband in a moment. Joseph is now in a mental health facility.

Why would a loving God allow such a thing to happen? This is often the question after such a horrendous event. Shirley asked that question, and more.

Was I such a bad mother that I couldn’t protect my son? Shirley told me she wondered. She grew angry with herself. She had “survivor’s guilt.” She vented often to God.

But through the following months of physical and emotional suffering, Shirley refused to turn away from the Lord. Instead, she ran toward Him. She was able to be honest with Him.

“I don’t understand. What’s going on, Lord?” she would cry over and over again.

Once, while recovering in the hospital, Shirley said to her mother, “Mom, I just need to believe God is much bigger than this!”

She also came to the place where she told her father, “Dad, I did my best for my boy.”

As time went on and her emotional and physical scars were healing, Shirley began to sense once more the presence of an all-loving God.

“There was a moment when the warmth of the Holy Spirit came over my whole body,” she says. “My life is not my own anymore. It is a gift to me, and I plan to use it for His glory here on earth.”

Nurse’s training? Medical missions? You go, girl, I thought, as she expressed her desires for the future.

After describing her journey, I knew I was in the presence of another like those listed as “heroes of faith” in Hebrews 11, where we read: “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:39,40).

I told Shirley something I was learning as well: “You will never get over the loss of your boy. You will always miss him and the man he would have become. As you go through the grief process, taking as much time as you need, the pain will lessen with time and God will sustain your life with comfort and love until we join our loved ones around His throne.”

Like Joshua said, “Mama, Jesus will heal your heart.”

LAURA QUALLS lives in Virginia Beach, Va. Her husband, Jerry, is pastor of Glad Tidings Church (Assemblies of God) in Norfolk.

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