Monday, September 13, 2010
Stand By Me
"When the storms of life are raging, Lord, Stand by me."
It is with sadness in my heart that I write today's post. Life has been difficult this past week and there has much to take before the Lord in prayer.
Many of you may have heard over the news broadcasts, or perhaps read in the newspapers, of the murdering of five people in Kentucky. The gunman killed five adults, then turned the gun on himself and took his own life. The gunman was my cousin, Stanley Neace. My heart is aching today over these events.
I recall playing with Stanley as a child. He was bright, funny, and made me laugh all the time. He had a wonderful imagination and could tell a story like no one else. He had big, beautiful blue eyes and curly brown hair. When he smiled, and he smiled a lot, his whole face would light up. I found myself smiling with him simply because he was enjoying himself at the moment. He was a joy to be around.
As a young teenager, Stanley gave his heart to the Lord. At Stanley's request my father, "Uncle Russell" to Stanley, baptized him and prayed with him that God would protect him and keep him safe all of his life. It was a wonderful day. You could just see the glow of God's presence on my cousin's face. It was, indeed, a true conversion of both heart and mind.
As an adult, Stanley faced the hardship of seeing his parents divorced and his family torn apart. His faith held him in good stead for a while, but he gradually became bitter towards our Lord and blamed God for allowing these things to happen. His bitterness turned him against God and it wasn't long before his faith was lost---lost to a broken heart and a life without a true family unit.
The last time I saw my cousin, he was a broken man. He had developed mental illness and had begun having seizures. Medication helped somewhat, but he had also become dependent on alcohol as well. Life for him had become unbearable and he sought escape in drugs and liquor. He never considered the possibility of renewing his relationship with God. He never stopped blaming God for the hardness of his circumstances.
I was traveling back from a women's conference in South Carolina when my father called and gave me the news of Stanley's death. My pastor's wife, Susan, was driving and when she asked me what was wrong, I could find no voice. I could only see, in my mind's eye, the little boy with the big blue eyes and the dimpled smile. I wept for his death and the deaths of those he murdered. I tried to imagine the sorrow that was sweeping through the families of the victims. Stanley was the son of my mother's brother, Paul. An additional sorrow to me was concern for my mother and how this would burden her heart.
I relate this awful circumstance for several reasons. First, and foremost, I ask for your prayers for myself and for my family. We are grieved beyond measure. I ask also for prayers for the families left behind to grieve the untimely deaths of their loved ones. Grief is such an awful monster of the heart---please pray that God will comfort us in this time.
Secondly, we never know when life will hand us more than we feel we can bear. We must cling ever more closely to the Lord and lay our cares upon His shoulders. He cares for us so deeply, loves us so dearly, stands ever near in the time of trouble. Our relationship with our blessed Savior must be nurtured and secured in our hearts so that, in times like these, we can lean heavily upon Him.
Thirdly, we must always trust that God knows what He is doing. Nothing comes to us that He does not allow. Nothing happens in our lives that our gracious God has not considered and said, "She/He can handle it. I'll be there to help". In the scriptures, Timothy was encouraged by the Apostle Paul to endure hardness as a good soldier. If these awful situations, if these sorrows of the heart, if these grieving moments, will moved me closer to the One I serve, then I can do no less then serve Him in the bad times as well as the good. I want to be a good soldier of the cross.
I know my God will bring healing from the loss I feel. I know He will be the lifter of my head, my strong and mighty tower. I know I can run to Him and be safe. I am certain He will guard my heart and grant me peace. My most gracious thanks to all of you as I know you will be praying for me. May God bless you so very richly.