there is purpose in the pain

Grief. I hate that word. But grief is something we have all experienced or if you haven’t yet, you will someday. Afterall, death is the only guarantee in life.

Grief comes in many forms. From saying goodbye to an old friendship or relationship, to closing a chapter in an old career and pursuing a new one. We grieve many things through out our lives. Webster’s dictionary describes grief as: sorrow, misery, sadness, anguish, pain, suffering, heartache. It’s a heaviness in heart and most of us have felt it in some way.

Pain is pain, and all pain hurts. But the worst kind of pain was the pain and loss I felt when I lost my older brother Benji. He was the young age of 33 when he died.

His story is definitely that story you hear or read about. A story about how a good person is gone way too soon. He lived a great life.  He married his high school sweetheart and was always madly in love with her. He had two beautiful healthy boys. He helped start and build a tech company that was just months away from going public before he died. Not to mention, he was just an amazing guy. They say ‘only the good die young’, and I can say from the bottom of my heart, Benji was one of them.

Cancer got a hold of him. He was not feeling well and after a couple months, was diagnosed with a rare form of lung stem cell cancer found in his stomach. He was gone 7 months later. Did we know he was going to die? No. He did the chemo treatments and we came together like a family and all had the high hope that he would come through healed on the other side.

It was this same week in July of 2013, the week of his birthday, that he was forced to have an emergency surgery to get his colon removed. However, removing his colon would mean he had to quit chemo and therefore there was no cure for his cancer. The doctors told him they were sending him home, and there was nothing else we could do for him. They were sending him home to die.

I’ll never forgot the call I received from him. He called me to tell me the news. All I could do was cry. And the crazy part about it, all he did was listen and tell me that he’s here for me and I could talk to him about anything I was feeling. He was asking me if I was ok, and how I was handling it all. He was the one dying, the one who had to say goodbye to his wife of 13 years and his sons, yet he was so worried about how I was doing? Somehow, he was all our strong rocks when he was the one suffering and physically weak in pain.

How do you prepare to say goodbye to someone you love for the very last time? I was living in California at the time so I came home every weekend to be with him. We all watched him slowly deteriorate in a short 6 weeks. We spent his last birthday with him in the hospital after he had his surgery. We had nights where we would stay up and talk all night about life, and how much we loved each other. We laughed, we cried. At one point,  we even got into an argument where I was the dramatic little sister that felt bullied by my older brother and so I did what any mature woman about to turn 30 does, I deleted him as my friend on Facebook. HA! But that only lasted a few hours.

I cherish those final moments with him. But throughout those final weeks, it wasn’t sitting well with me. I couldn’t make sense of it all. Why would God take him away? Why wouldn’t God heal him right then and there? Afterall, he was God. And Benji was a devout Christian. How cruel of God to do this to our family. Benji was intuitive and a man full of wisdom. He knew I wasn’t ok and I’ll never forgot one of the last conversations we had. I was telling him my hurt and confusion. My confusion around this God that he spoke so highly of. At this time of my life, I knew who God was, I knew Scripture. But I didn’t walk with the Lord or have any personal relationship with Him.

After voicing my confusion, Benji answered me saying “Alisha, it wasn’t God that gave me this cancer. Cancer, as well as sin and many other diseases, entered the world during the fall of Adam and Eve. In fact, God cries with me every night. He tells me He’s so sorry I have to go through this and sorry I have to say goodbye to everyone I love. He’s sitting right here with me through this all and he loves me”. WOW! at the time, I didn’t understand the whole Adam and Eve comment. My brother is dying and he’s talking about an old school story in the Bible? Whatever. But this is what started my journey to studying the Bible and turning my heart to the loving God my brother was talking about. This is where I found hope in in this pain.

Why does God allow pain? Why does God heal some cancer and doesn’t heal others? I don’t have that answer. But I do know there is purpose and promise in the pain. And its ok that we don’t have the reason as to why. God knows the bigger picture. And although losing my brother was one of the hardest things I had to walk through, I do know we have a God that has a plan. and taking my brother early was part of the plan.

Allow me to summarize the main story of the Bible in a few short paragraphs. It helps paint the picture my brother was describing that night. The world was perfection in the beginning. Adam and Eve sinned and brought the evil and death into the world. However, God promises perfection in the end. It starts with perfection in Genesis, and ends with perfection in Revelation. God sent his son, his very OWN son to die on the cross for us to alleviate us from living in a sinful world forever. I’m not sure I could give up my favorite outfit or favorite pair of shoes, let alone a child haha. Oh, how I love my clothes. But God loved us so much, that he gave us His own son to die to save us from living a life in this perishable world. Now that’s love. In fact, the whole Bible is just one whole love story for God fighting for us back, fighting for the perfection that the enemy stole from us in the beginning. John 3:16 says “ For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life”.

We are not stuck in this cancer-filled, brokenheart-filled, sadness-filled, sin-filled world forever. We have perfection waiting for us on the other side. WOW. Let that sink in. God promises in Revelation 21:4 that He will “wipe away every tear from your eyes…there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain.”

I miss my brother so much. And today, he would be 39 years old if he was here. But God called my brother home because He has a different job for him, fighting a war. As Ephesians 6:12 tells us “we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rules and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” I think about my brother daily. I often think about what he’s doing. I know he’s got a job. He finished his life here on earth to completion and is helping God and His army finish a job in the Heavenly realm too. I know he’s with the same God I pray to every day and I find that pretty cool. The last thing Benji told me is that he’ll be busy and that time flies by and he’ll see me soon.

God still has me here on earth fulfilling a purpose, just like my brother fulfilled his purpose here too. Remember – God sees the bigger picture. He knows how this story ends and is using you as a character with a purpose. I’m not sure what sort of disappointment you are facing today, but just remember to TRUST the Author. To trust our God who sees the bigger picture. Trust the Author because he wrote he story. And He knows the beginning to the end, so we can rest assured, we are in good hands.

To everyone who is reading this, I hope this helps whenever you go through are faced with anything painful. And don’t forget to raise a glass for my brother at some point today. To Benji, Happy Birthday from the other side. Your little sister misses you.

XoXo,

Alisha Headley