Forty-eight Saturday’s ago, unknowingly, I said my final goodbye, and I love you to Justin Paul Linkletter. Today is Saturday; I cry a lot on Saturdays.
We live in the desert and only get rain a few times a year, today the rain arrived, and we all celebrated. Along with the rain came a cloudy sky matching my mood perfectly. Before I could open my eyes this morning, I was overwhelmed by sadness. I whispered a prayer for help; another day with a heavy heart is much to bear.
Late into the morning, I realized I would need to make a run to the grocery store. Throwing my hair back into a ponytail, I quickly put on a t-shirt and jeans, and washed my face. I drove in a fog of deep reflection filled with thoughts of how much our lives have changed.
It was a busy Saturday at Walmart, and I finally found a parking spot in the last row. Making my way to the entrance, I saw a man with a table decorated with American flags. I gave him a quick smile with a quiet hello. Once in the store, I hurriedly gathered what we needed and paid for our groceries. I was out of the store in record time.
Again, seeing the American flag-man, I walked over to his table. When I looked into his eyes, I was overcome with emotion. I began to thank him for his service but unexpectedly through tears, I told him what a patriot our Justin was. In my mind’s eye, I envisioned all the American flags hanging on the wall of his bedroom. Thusly, the words were tumbling from my mouth as I shared how much he loved our country. I tried to compose myself, but instead, I heard myself telling him how we lost Justin last July. To my surprise, he moved from behind the table and stood beside me. This kind young man put his arm on my shoulder giving me side-hug and went on to tell me how sorry he was for our loss. His compassion deeply touched this grieving Mama’s heart. Surely, his simple act of kindness was a reflection of God’s unfailing love. For, He knows what we need and when we need it. (Incidentally, I never did find out what organization the kind flag-man was with.)
Plodding through grief feels a lot like swimming upstream; it is physically exhausting and the emotions are seemingly never-ending. There is also a spiritual component at play. My faith is being tested daily, and I am forced to examine each thought in light of the Gospel. Otherwise, despair may have its way with me. Therefore, Ephesians 6:16 is a continual encouragement to me, “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.” 1 John 5:4-5 compliments this passage well, “For everyone who has been born of God overcome the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world, our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except for the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” Keeping this in mind, I cling to the Gospel and ask the Lord for the strength to hold up my shield of faith. He’s never disappointed.
The loss of Justin is heart-wrenching and filled with hurt. The ache is crushing, and through it all, the Lord in His tender mercy faithfully sustains me. It is most tempting to avoid pain, but it is through that very pain that the roots of our faith deepen. The LORD is surpassingly greater than our greatest loss.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He is with me. His rod and His staff they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4
Forever held in His grip,