Jeff recently shared his family’s journey during which they encounter God’s hope after the loss of their daughter. Find out more as to how God continually comfort and reassured them as they went through the season of grieving and loss.
To replay a video version of Jeff’s sharing during our Sunday Service, click here.
Good morning VCBC, I am Jeffrey and thanks a lot I have a chance to share my journey in past two years. For those of you who may not know me, I am husband of Cecilia and father of two children – Chloe and Janelle. In 2020 Feb, my younger daughter, Janelle, was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 10. After around 8 months of treatment, through chemo and bone marrow transplant, and in October same year, shortly after she turned to 11, she finished her journey and return to our heavenly father.
In the past two years, my journey, actually a journey of my heart can be divided, I think, into 3 stages: journey of “sorrow & separation”, then the journey of “darkness and depress”, and finally the journey of “restoration and revival”.
Journey of “Sorrow & Separation”
During the past 8 months of cancer battle with Janelle, I was very focus in looking after Janelle. I tried to be strong, tough and steady not allow myself to have any doubt to God in front of family and especially in front of Janelle. I need to maintain a strong faith in God believing that He would heal Janelle. Every day, I encourage my wife, Chloe and Janelle that God would definitely heal Janelle because He is a living God. He is God who hear our prayers! But deep inside me, fear and scare enfold my heart. I recall a 15-minute drive from children hospital to home every day was the time when I myself collapse. I was helpless. I was frustrated. I was very afraid to deal with what happen to Janelle. I was very scared I would make the wrong decision. The load was so big and heavy that I really didn’t know how to move on and where to go. I was suffocated and could not breath at all. But the battle was ongoing and I had to move on.
This was until Janelle’s cancer relapse in Sep after bone marrow transplant, my heart broke. And when Janelle took the last breath on Oct 22, 2020, I was totally collapsed and broke down. My suppressed emotion came up and my heart was like a sharp knife piercing. Anger towards God developed in me: “Why do you not take me away but Janelle instead? She is just a 10 years old girl who has a strong faith in you. Why you need to take her away?” A lot of question marks, as well as a mixture of anger and frustrated emotion towards God grew inside me. I kept on reading the Bible and tried to reason with God – “Is the God currently I encountered the same what is described in the Bible?”
By the grace of God, my first turning point was when I read Matthews 27:46 one day. Jesus cried out on the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” I can see His love to Janelle that He sent his son to bear all the sins of Janelle on the cross. He bore all the sins for Janelle and therefore she can directly go to heaven and rest peacefully in the hand of our Heavenly Father – no more sorrow, no more tears, no more suffering and pain in her life anymore. Moreover, there was an assurance in my heart at that moment that we would meet Janelle again when my earthly life completed. There was a big relief inside me and I could feel the assurance and moment of peace inside me.
Journey of “Darkness & Depress”
Even though I had assurance from God about Janelle, and I am no longer angry and upset with God, I still missed Janelle a lot. My following 3 months were like walking in the valley of darkness. I felt very guilty that I did not give her the best and provide the best love to her. I didn’t realize how much I loved her until I could no longer see her. I missed a lot of opportunities to be with her when I would spend most of my time in pursuing my career. I missed her laugh as well as all the things she had done to cheer us up. Every time watching her YouTube videos, looking at her pictures, I could not stop crying. During those 3 months, besides meal times, majority of time was sitting in Janelle’s room. Nothing interest me anymore, I just wanted to hide inside Janelle’s room and sit there. I felt everything was meaningless. I used to very care about my career, now I didn’t even take any interest at all. Nothing on earth was worthy. How desperate I wish my life could be ended instantly and then I could meet Janelle again. During those 3 months, Bible was the only nutrient to sustain my life. Honest to say, I really “sort of enjoyed” hiding in Janelle’s room where no one could find me and I didn’t need to bother anything anymore. All my ambitiousness were gone and my heart was silent like a pool of dead water.
Journey of Restoration and Revival
Even man abandoned himself, God would never! God would never allow His children to live forever in darkness. I used to keep myself very busy, filling my heart with earthly desires like reputation, recognition, success & wealth. All those things drifted me to a false self which I could not truly identify who I am and what’s God want me to be. God knocked on my door of heart many times in the past but I ignored Him for a long time. But during those days of “darkness and depress”, when I was no longer able to struggle with God & when I was in totally weakness, God started to work in me by healing my inner pain, my hurt and even reveal to me all the wounds those I had since childhood.
I was taught not to hurry as it may create anxiety and self-doubt, but slow down and patiently waiting, let Him to work in me.
I was taught not to focus on “getting the things done asap” or “forcing something to happen”, but “enjoying the process moment by moment when I could see the hand of our Lord work together, love me, mold me and change me”.
I was taught not to escape from the trouble, pain and suffering, but to embrace them.
I was taught not to pray for “removal of all my vulnerability and my weakness”, but to “accept who I am and solely trust Him, surrender to Him to deal with those shortcomings every time”.
I was taught that God does not concern very much on the result of the work, but He cares more my relationship with Him after all.
God gradually stirred up my heart and I have an urge that I cannot live like that anymore. Life had to move on, my journey needs to continue. I still need to take care of Ceci and Chloe. I started to resume normal life by going back to work. I also started to bike to work every day as this is the best time when I can chat freely with our Lord together!!
By the grace of God, He led me to the Total Growth last year November. Through the teaching of Pastor Paul and genuine sharing among brothers especially in the small group setting, God did heal me and strengthen my faith to Him again through there.
Tsawout this summer was another break-through where I was getting further comforted from our Lord. Remember especially on the second last day when we said goodbye to those kids. When I saw brothers/sisters gave a big hug to the kids with crying, the image of me holding Janelle came to my mind. I could not stop from crying. But through this deep pain, God further opened my inner door that I am not aware of and touch my very deep part of my heart that I had never known. My hurt gradually got healed. The sorrow and pain in me do also allow the Spirt of our Lord to further revealed to me my true identity.
Chloe’s decision to witness our Lord Jesus Christ through baptism further assure to me that God is really blessing our family. I feel very blessed that Chloe can still have such a strong faith in Christ after Janelle’s leaving us.
I am not perfect and I am not saying that I have won the battle nor that I have a complete faith in Christ now. I still failed from time to time. Depression would still come suddenly from time to time and caused me to get into deep sorrow and pain, wanting to hide myself again. There are times I can win over it, but there are also times I would fail. However, I gradually learn how to trust our Lord and believe that He is always with me. He would carry me to continue the journey. God choose not to remove my sorrow but to teach me to embrace the sorrow with my faith and trust in our Lord Jesus Christ.
I didn’t say the leaving of Janelle is a blessing. How much I am willing to have a healthy Janelle or she would still be alive today and walk with her together in continuing the battle. But what I believe is that there is always a blessing hidden behind those pain and sorrow. It is just a matter of our choice whether we should be angry with God, or to trust and believe that our Lord is a blessing God.
One Christian author says well, “Sometimes the pain of our life doesn’t make sense but usually the hidden blessings eventually come to light when we leave the fray behind and begin to let go of what has brought us so much misery. In the process of healing, we begin to see the blessings that are ours.”
I still don’t have the answer why God took Janelle’s away. I still miss Janelle and desperate wanting to see her. Pain and lost have engraved permanently in our heart. It took us a very big courage and effort for me and Ceci to walk out the sorrow slowly. It is not easy and still ongoing. However, I am taught that the pain and lost can be transformed by our Lord into hope. We do see the hope in front of us – that is the hope and love of our Lord Jesus Christ and one day when we finished our race, our family, 4 of us will reunion again.