This is a bit long but not long enough to share the valiant story of a fighter who lost her battle but not the war, last night.
“His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.” Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (?John? ?16?:?29–33? ESV)
Today, these words provide comfort. Jesus was referring to trouble related to being in the world. A world of sin, pain, loss, grief and, ultimately, death. Jesus said this knowing He was going to be killed (or rather He would willingly go when apprehended) for the sake of a larger cause, i.e., the salvation of man from the world. But, we still experience the pain of this world. Most of my days are not filled with pain. My life is filled with great joy and some pain. I have a beautiful wife, three children who make me proud, a wonderful wife for my son and friends that God has graciously provided to share life with. Today, I with my family feel the pain of this worlds trouble.
But, Jesus told us we would have trouble. What kind of trouble? Well, many don’t believe in Him and will do all they can to discredit those for their belief in Christ. But there is other pain that God didn’t design yet allows. Like the pain of losing a loved one. Last night our family once again experienced that “trouble” that sadly is part of the “trouble” Jesus was referring to.
My nephews wife, Michelle Zavatsky Nicolay lost her hard fought battle with cancer. After living much longer than the doctors gave her to live when first diagnosed, she didn’t give in to the “doom and gloom” prognosis she was given. She extracted as much life as she could even in facing an incurable killer within her. With a newborn son (Greyson) she was told she wouldn’t live to see his first birthday. She waltzed past that day (thank you, Lord). Until last night.
When I think of Michelle I smile. I never got the chance to really get to know her due to the miles that separated us. But every time we went home to Minnesota and got to see Michelle, she embraced joy, not pity. In a world where so many people exude a “woe is me” mentality and suck the life from you, Michelle simply spread joy. I’ll always remember how she fought valiantly and early on declared her plans to overcome the significant odds against her. She defied those odds by living at least a year longer than the doctors told her she would. That’s what I’ll remember–Michelle the valiant joy giver.
Last night, she said goodbye to the troubles she faced but never let defeat her. Today, it’s those who loved her and are left behind that are feeling the trouble that Jesus said we would experience. The trouble of a world that chases after things that don’t matter, makes what is wrong, right and what is right, wrong and, ultimately the trouble of grief and loss through death. Thankfully, Jesus provides the relief by rendering death impotent for those who put their faith in Him. Today our family grieves. That’s the sting. It’s not in the one who has gone to be with Christ. It’s for those left behind. Like we did when Sue’s mom and dad died exactly one year apart nearly 5 and 4 years ago respectively, we grieve the loss of a beloved family member. But, like we have also experienced in the years since that loss, we know we will laugh again. We won’t remember the cancer that took Michelle’s life. We will remember her fight, her smile and her joy.
Her husband (our nephew) Justin and their son, Greyson, will grieve hard. Then, they will move on as they must. They will never forget Michelle, their wife and mother. It just won’t end as they had hoped. Life goes on. Some days will be harder than others. One day the rain will turn to sunshine and a rainbow will prevail. I think that’s why God gave us rainbows. It helps us remember that the trouble of this world was never intended. One day, for everyone who is in Christ, the rain and trouble will end and the joy of being with Jesus will be reality. Michelle now knows that truth. She is no longer experiencing the tremendous pain that cancer and the treatments extolled on her body. Today we are troubled but one day we will be find the joy that Christ came to give–the ultimate joy. We can’t wait for the rainbow. But, today we’ll put up our umbrellas, grieve the rain and trust in the truth of Jesus’ words, “In the world you will have trouble. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Good bye, Michelle.