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What It Means to Live a Victorious Life in the Midst of Suffering

As we head together into the unknown may we hold onto a Saviour who is constant.

“You have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.” (Hebrews 12:22-23a)

I’m seated amidst a sea of black dresses and suits in the glaring heat of a summer afternoon. There’s the faint smell of lilacs. We’re outside on white plastic chairs in a semi-circle facing a table of photos of a man who died at 33 years old, after being rendered paralyzed five years earlier through a car accident. 

A few seats ahead of me are James’ wife and children. I never knew him before he was paralyzed. I only ever knew him in a bed in a nursing home, where he would look up at me with a gorgeous smile from a neck that hung low from muscles unable to work. James couldn’t move his arms but his hand would squeeze mine and my kids’ and when we turned on his worship music he would laugh, his eyes lifting up to heaven and his hands faintly drumming the air because he was remembering playing the djembe. 

A drum solo honours him at the funeral and everyone laments a life cut short. 

Everyone except his wife, who is the most faith-filled person I’ve ever met and even at the scene of the accident she heard God whisper to her, “This is where the Victory begins.”

So she wrote that word out big – “Victory” – and hung it across her husband’s room.

Elevated

For a while we thought Victory meant physical healing. We fasted and prayed together with the church for James for 40 days. But in spite of him beginning to say a few words to his wife, we didn’t see much physical improvement. 

Yet my kids and I continued to visit James and if we failed to, God would tell me, “Go and visit my son.”

Recently James’ infections increased, and then his body began rejecting food. Even as I drove in to visit him one last time, in palliative care, during COVID-19 (being garbed in robe and gloves and screened before I enter) my mind was a mess of sorrow – what with the news of protests and with the unknown of a future stamped with coronavirus – and then I looked up. 

I looked up and it was as though the heavens opened; I saw shining soul after shining soul rising as if on an escalator into the divine throne room, and Jesus standing there, greeting each as they came, the souls of the faithful who were entering his glory. The stream of souls was constant, unending. Then, from the other side of heaven, Jesus was also sending out a steady stream of shining angels. Constant, unending, descending to earth to help his people. 

I saw all of this heavenly activity and my soul was elevated for I was reminded of all that was happening in the secret places – and I knew, without a doubt, that God had not forgotten us. In fact, he is always at work, in ways we cannot imagine, and the greatest Victory one can every experience is to endure this life faithfully and enter into his loving presence. 

I stand up, then, during the open mic at the funeral, and I look around at the mournful faces and remind them, “This is not a sad story. No, in fact, this is a victorious story. A story of faith. Neither James nor his wife ever stopped believing, in spite of one of life’s hardest things being thrown at them. That is Victory.”

Friends, as we head together into the unknown – into a world that’s shifted suddenly from being safe and comfortable to being scary and unstable – may we hold onto a Saviour who is constant. Whose love is true. Who stands at the right hand of the Father, ready to both send out his angels to help us, and to welcome us home with a resounding, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

This, my friends, is the Victory. And we’re living it.

  • Emily Wierenga is a wife and mother who is passionate about the church and lives in northern Alberta. She is the author of the memoirs Atlas Girl and Making it Home (Baker Books), and the founder of the non profit The Lulu Tree. To learn more, please visit www.thelulutree.com.

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