I’m so excited to launch Faith Notes today! This will be a page to encourage you and give you strength for the journey, a page to counter the lie of the enemy that says we are alone in our struggles and no one could ever understand what we are going through. Yes, he lies to each of us trying to convince us that we have been abandoned by the One who loves us and no one cares. Each Friday I will feature someone who wants to share their story to help others.
Today I have the honor of hosting Larry Timm. Larry is a husband, father, pastor, and an author with my publisher, Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. His debut novel, Murder for Emily’s Sake, released this past May. Like me, Larry’s heart’s desire is to encourage others through his pain as he and his wife have found the faithfulness of their God through an extremely painful time while their daughter, Jayne, battles cancer.
1.Describe a time when you felt abandoned by God or very disappointed in Him, thinking He had failed you.
At the end of 2015, when my 14-year-old daughter was diagnosed with cancer, my wife and I were broken-hearted and confused. It has been a time unlike anything we’ve ever faced. Any parent reading these words can relate. While we never felt abandoned by God, we were begging Him to help us as only He could. We knew He would not abandon us, but amid the chaos, we wondered if we would have the ability to think clearly enough to know what He wanted us to do.
2. During this time, how was your faith-walk impacted? Were you angry? Fearful? Numb? Doubtful? Did you turn your back on God for a while, or cling desperately to what you know to be true, even though your emotions told you otherwise?
I was left broken inside. My heart was crushed. My wife and I were totally blind-sided by all the internal questions that any parent would ask when faced with the nightmarish news that one of their children was face-to-face with a deadly disease. We were shocked, numb, and afraid.
I didn’t feel betrayed or abandoned, as much as I felt overwhelmed and confused.
“Why did You allow this to happen to us?” was not the question I remember asking God; at least not consciously. Instead, my first—and loudest—question was, “Why HER?” I knew there was no answer that would satisfy my longing for the pieces of the puzzle to all fit together in a sensible picture. So, my next question to God was, “Will you please take it from her and give it to me?”
While I went through many of the “stages” of grief, I chose to cling desperately to my belief in a sovereign, just God.
Before all this happened, I had often spoken to groups, families, couples, and individuals who were going through devastating and confusing circumstances. I had often counseled them to keep (or regain) the proper perspective when it comes to responding to suffering. I would tell them that the proper perspective is not one that puts God on trial, but one that brings our trials to God. In other words, we must not allow the question, “Why Me?” to dictate our direction. The proper perspective, in my opinion, is only gained when we ask, “Why not me?”
There are some who, after reading the above paragraph, are shocked…perhaps even offended. I understand. The reality of what I said is not easy for me either. However, I know it is true. You see, as fallen humans on a decaying world that groans under the curse of sin, we know deep down that trouble, suffering, sickness, and death are real. But sometimes, we don’t want to face the fact that we are just as human as anyone else. Therefore, we are still living in failing, temporary bodies that are susceptible to sickness and death. This difficult reality applies to us all.
This is just one of the areas of internal conflict I’ve had to face during this journey. My emotions went one direction, while my mind went another.
3. What happened to resolve your faith crisis? How did God reveal Himself to you during this time? With extraordinary comfort? Reassurance? Peace that passes understanding? Quiet knowing?
God revealed Himself in His living Word, and through the assuring presence of His Spirit in us.
God surrounded us with the knowledge that people all over the world were praying for us. He revealed Himself through the caring acts of support and kindness through the congregation I am honored to serve here at the Morton Christian Church. This wonderful congregation came alongside us via calls, texts, cards, and even gathered in our yard and prayed for our family. It was amazing. While we have hurt abundantly, we have never had to hurt alone.
Another great source of hope has been our unwavering assurance that because our daughter, Jayne, is a Christian, she wins in the end, no matter what happens in this life. This disease cannot separate her, or anyone in our family, from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!
4. What scripture became a sure place for you?
There have been many scriptures that have brought peace to our hearts. But at the very beginning of the battle with Jayne’s cancer, I found myself in a unique position: I was a father facing a parent’s worst nightmare, and I was a preacher who wanted to offer hope and strength to a congregation of dear people who were hurting with and for my family. After three weeks of time away, I was sure that God wanted me to return to the pulpit on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. My soul cried out to God for strength to help my wife and children through each day, while at the same time hoping to find the strength to address the church at a time when we are usually accustomed to “count our blessings” and “rejoice always.”
God directed my heart and mind to Psalm 42. (I strongly encourage every person reading this interview to open their Bibles right now and read that incredible Psalm.)
It is a Psalm that describes the inner struggles of one who is facing grievous times, but still refuses to give up hope. The writer is transparent about the pain and suffering that surrounded his life, about the turmoil assaulting his faith, and about his commitment to praise God no matter what. “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him…” (Psalm 42:11 NASB) touched me deeply. Psalm 42 was the text for my first sermon since Jayne’s diagnosis, which I called “Thirsty and Thankful.” It was a message that meant a lot to me, and I hope it helped the church.
5. Did praise play a part of your faith restoration? What about thankfulness? Is praise a big part of your faith walk now?
Praise and Thankfulness are really two sides of the same coin, and both have been important to me and my family. But, before I go any further, I must emphasize one thing: I am no super Christian. I’m not going to pretend that I have not had my ups and downs. Had God come to me beforehand and said, “I’m going to allow your precious daughter to get cancer. Is that okay with you?” I would have said, “No! It’s not okay with me!”
But during the journey through this dark and deadly experience, I had to keep reminding myself to concentrate on the things I can know and not be overwhelmed by all the questions to which I’ve had no answers. My family and I had tried to stand on the belief that God is good and is worthy of praise. And we recognize that life is a daily sacred gift from God. We are thankful for it each day, perhaps in ways that we weren’t before.
6. How do you find peace when you are troubled?
We are a very close family. We genuinely enjoy being together, so it has been a great blessing to find a sense of peace when we spend time together. We are confident in our love for one another.
There’s no way to overstate how important fellowship with other believers has been to me. The devil tries to use trouble and turmoil to pry people away from church-life, but I’ve found it especially important to draw strength from others during this time in our lives.
And God’s Word measures peace into my soul each time I take time to read it.
Also, writing is an incredibly therapeutic experience for me.
7. What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of the Lord and why?
Because my faith rests upon the hope that since Jesus was victorious over sin and death, no matter what we face in this temporary life, the best is yet to come.
8. Could you offer some encouraging words for those who may be seeking the Lord, those wanting to draw closer to Him and trust Him more, especially during a painful season?
No matter what painful season a person is undergoing, concentrate on what is knowable and certain. There will, indeed, be many hard questions that come your way, only some of which—if any—will you be able to find answers to on this side of heaven. So, keep your faith firmly focused on the key elements that set Christianity apart from everything else: Jesus has conquered sin and death; He has gone to prepare a place for those who believe in Him; He will return someday; the eternal glories that await us will make this temporary painful season fade into nothingness; and while we are on this side of heaven, God’s Spirit is within you and will help you every step of the way as you travel through this time of pain.
Also, please know that God will never love you more than He does right now. His love is perfect, and you are precious to Him. He will never leave you nor forsake you, EVEN if your feelings try to convince you that is what is happening.
For readers that want to learn more about my family’s battle with Jayne’s cancer, you can read an article I wrote about it at http://christianstandard.com/2017/01/beauty-in-the-battle/
And if anyone would like to hear the message I preached from Psalm 42, it is available on the church website at www.mortoncc.org on November 22, 2015.
MORE ABOUT LARRY
Larry W. Timm is a husband, father, preaching minister with the Morton Christian Church, and writer. His debut suspense novel, MURDER FOR EMILY’S SAKE, published by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, was released in May.
You can learn more about the book, and can send a message to Larry at www.booksbylarrywtimm.com
MURDER FOR EMILY’S SAKE by Larry Timm
Sometimes God’s most sacred gifts–like the gift of Life–are also His most fragile.
On a moonlit night in Wichita, Kansas, a tormented father stands by the grave of his teenage daughter, Emily, and makes a chilling vow to avenge her death. Once he gets his hands on the three women he holds responsible for his daughter’s death, they will regret the day they met Emily outside the abortion clinic. He will expose a dark secret. He will bury them, as he buried Emily. And after their caskets are in the ground, he knows they will eventually die…for Emily’s sake.
Available on Amazon