The King's Academy
September 12, 1999
The weekend of September 10-12, 1999, the high school that Missy had attended, and the high school that Julie was then attending, held a retreat at Woodleaf, a Young Life camp in the Sierra foothills. Steve was asked to give the Sunday morning message, as many of the students had known Missy or the family and wanted to know "how are they doing it?" A hushed crowd of 250 people listened as Steve related the lessons and struggles of the preceding five months. Many tears fell as students and teachers felt the reality of the pain of grief and the love of God in the Belton's lives.
Dealing With Disappointment
I am here this morning to tell you a story. It is a story of loss and pain and sadness. It is a story that every person here can relate to, not because we have all experienced the same type of loss, but because we all will experience loss - sorrow - sadness - in life. It is inevitable that life includes sadness. Great or small, sadness and disappointment are part of life. Whether through death, divorce, or a friend moving away, loss can be part of our life. Sadness can include things like not making the team, not getting your right classes, someone hurting your feelings. All these losses and sadnesses have a common thread and that is disappointment - disappointment with life - disappointment with what life has brought your way. And what we often mean when we say those things is disap-pointment with God. And that is what I want to talk with you about this morning - how we have dealt with this great loss and this great disappointment in our lives -
This is a story of loss and pain but also of love and faith and hope. It is a story based on our love for our daughter Missy. It is a story based on our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And it is a story based on our hope in the promise of everlasting life together in heaven.
It begins April 10, 1999. This was a Saturday just like any other Saturday at our house. It was the end of spring break for TKA. Our oldest daughter Sarah had been to Mexico with us the previous week and now was back at college in Santa Barbara. Our middle daughter Missy had spent her spring break at home with us and was heading back to school in LA that day. She would spend the night in Santa Barbara with her sister before completing the drive the next day.
We were preparing dinner, with the salad on the table, setting the silverware and plates, when the doorbell rang. We opened the door to pain and sorrow that we never imagined possible.
Two Sunnyvale police officers announced that our daughter Missy had been killed in a car accident on her way to Santa Barbara. In that instant we lost a dear daughter and in her place were given pain, grief, and despair. Deep sorrow, the likes of which no one could possibly know, came into our lives, unwelcome and unwanted. In that instant, our lives were forced onto a path that we did not choose and did not want to be on. In that instant, our lives were changed forever.
I am certain that the grief we felt in that moment would have been the same no matter what kind of kid Missy was, but it just so happens that she was a great one. She was loved by all that knew her, she was beautiful, she was bright, and she was talented. She loved God. She was a great skier. She loved music and played the oboe, English horn, and piano. She knew how to be a good friend. She had learned the lesson of being interested in others, rather than trying to be interesting yourself. She was a giver and a servant. She was a joy to have in our family. Oh, how we all miss our Missy.
I want you to know her a bit yourself, so I am going to show a short piece from the video shown at her memorial service to introduce you to her briefly. The music you will hear is oboe and piano, the kind Missy herself played.
So that's our Missy. She's gone from us now - and she is present with the Lord.
We received a card from a little boy that expresses some deep truths very well. On it he had drawn two faces, one smiley and one frowning. The smiley face was labeled Missy and the frowning, sad one had the names Steve, Wanda, Sarah, and Julie. Doesn't that say a lot? Missy is now in heaven, rejoicing and smiling, while we here on earth are left to pick up the pieces of what to us seem shattered lives.
Our journey through this dark valley of grief has been difficult and is not yet over. But the Lord is with us, and we trust Him to guide our steps as we walk this way. He has set this particular path before us , and He will light our path.
So, how have we walked through this valley without collapsing? How have we been able to keep going? We have done five things that I think have been helpful to us and would probably be helpful to anyone dealing with sadness or loss or disappointment. First, we have recognized our disappointment with God and allowed expression of that disappointment. Second, we have allowed ourselves to reconsider the basis of our faith. Third, we have meditated on scripture that speaks of God's sovereignty and goodness. Fourth, we have thought more about heaven and eternal things and have developed a picture of Missy being there. And fifth, we have allowed ourselves to continue grieving. We have allowed ourselves the flow of tears of sadness over missing our beloved Missy. Coming to grips with our disappointment with God has not stopped the flow of tears as we think of not having Missy with us any longer.
So let's look briefly at each of these five things we have done.
First, we expressed to God our disappointment and anger. Not in a fist shaking, yelling way. But we gently questioned Him. We asked, "Why Missy?" "Why us?" "Why did you allow this to happen?" "Where were you, Lord?" "Isn't this a mistake, God?" "How could you do this, God?" I think part of the disbelief that Missy is gone is a disbelief that God would allow this to happen. "Lord, I can't believe you did this." "What were you thinking?"
You might ask the same questions when you face disappointment in your life. You, too, might feel like God has let you down. We decided it is ok to tell Him that. We found that He can handle it.
For me at least, more so than for Wanda or the girls, I also experienced a basic questioning of my faith itself. When you are asking questions like "Why?" the next question that logically follows is, "Are you really there?" If this sort of crazy topsy-turvy thing can happen, this random, make-no-sense-of-it event, then how can we depend on any-thing? Maybe the atheists are right, it is all random chaos, without order or sense. But I pretty quickly realized my faith wasn't based in the first place on the circumstances of life, but on the truth of the philosophical and historical underpinnings of Christianity, as well as the experience of the Holy Spirit in my own life. I never had questioned God before for bringing good things into my life, why should I question Him now when a bad thing had occurred?
You, too, might ask this same basic question at some point of your life. "How do I know that Christianity is true?" Don't be afraid of this question. Believe me, Christianity can withstand close scrutiny. Ask the question. And when it comes, return to the basics for your answer. Remember the truth of Christ's birth, life, death, and resurrection.
The third thing we have done these past months in handling our grief and our disappointment with God is to meditate upon His sovereignty and goodness.
We were blessed to have a paper written by Missy herself just one month before her death. In it we found great comfort as we read these truths about God that Missy had known and written. In it she said,
"God is in control of everything that happens to everyone in the world. He is involved in everything that happens to people in the world. I can have faith that I am where he wants me to be. I know that God will not let anything stop his plan for my life. God can turn around the bad situations for good. God is still on the throne when bad things happen to us."
We took comfort in these words not only because Missy had written them but also be-cause they are true.
We have found many verses in Scripture that have told us the same things. From Job,
"I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth."
Another verse from Job speaking to God:
"I know that you can do all things, and that no plan of yours can be thwarted."
Not even by a car accident. Not even for parents who have lost a daughter.
And from the Psalms
"You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed."
Don't you think that we take comfort in knowing that God knew about the events of April 10th for Missy from before she was born? And he knew about April 10th in our lives, too. And don't you think he knows about your April 10ths also?
And from Jeremiah,
"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord."
And from Ephesians,
"In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will."
And from Proverbs,
"All our steps are ordered by the Lord; how then can we understand our own ways?" We return again and again to these verses for reassurance about God's control over not only the events of Missy's life, but also His caring for us. This tragedy has to be part of God's plan for our lives. And whatever trials come your way, you can count on the fact that God is still on the throne, that He cares about you, and He knows what you are go-ing through.
We also take comfort in knowing that Missy is in Heaven. She had made a strong con-fession of faith in sixth grade, and had committed herself to Christian service since then. She had been on many mission trips with King's and others. The scripture is clear that those with a faith like hers have the gift of eternal life. We can count on it, and we do.
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."
"He who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has ever-lasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life."
"If anyone keeps My word he shall never see death."
"I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live."
"I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand."
All of these verses help us to know that Missy is in heaven. They give us more of an eternal perspective. The small irritations and trials of this world seem a little less signifi-cant compared to the eternal life ahead of us. We are given a picture of heaven being a place more wonderful than can be put into words.
Christ has said
"I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also."
And in Revelation we read that
"God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the for-mer things have passed away."
And Paul writing to the Romans and the Philippians had this to say
"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."
"For our citizenship is in heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ will trans-form our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body"
All of these verses, all of the information we can find on the subject, give us the real idea that Missy is in a real place, she is serving the Lord, and she is happy.
But despite all this, we grieve for Missy to be back with us. We know Missy is in heaven, but we still miss her and cry out for her. Scripture says don't grieve as those without hope, but it does not say don't grieve. And we do. Our hearts still feel broken. We are struck with an overwhelming sense of separation and a strong desire that takes over our whole being to have Missy back in our arms, even if it were for just a few seconds. Even now we cry out to God to have mercy upon us and return Missy to us.
The scripture says,
"The Lord is near to the broken hearted."
And we have prayed daily for that closeness.
Scripture also says,
"But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint."
We know that we are not able right now to lead our lives as if we have wings like eagles, and we don't even feel like we can run and not be weary. But we do feel that we can manage to walk and not faint. And for that we thank the Lord for his daily provision. We are not "looking at things that are seen but at things that are unseen." We have taken to heart the Psalmist's statement,
"Be still and know that I am God."
I want to close with the reading of a poem that I wrote a month after Missy's death. But before I do, let me encourage you to look to the Lord in your times of trouble. Be angry with Him, question Him if you need to, but return to the scripture for comfort and sol-ace. Keep your eyes on the things eternal. Seek the counsel of the Godly around you when you face difficult times.
And now, listen as I read the poem "Beloved" to you:
Beloved daughter of the Lord,
O, my beloved daughter!
How glorious you are, lifted up in loving arms,
In glory, radiant and beaming.
Protected, safe in your innocence, now eternally His.
Dear one, bring comfort to my soul.
Let my meditations be upon your living kindness and goodness.
Bring the endearing times to me and drive away the pain of separation.
My sweet, the mysteries are magnified and glorified in you.
How can my soul understand?
Words fail as I ponder you praising and rejoicing in the presence of the Lord
While I, in my fatherly love for you, am crushed.
You in the heavenly, me in the earthly.
Beloved daughter of the Lord,
O, my beloved daughter!
You in the heavenly!
Praise be to the Lord!