The Lord Is At Hand
Ron Van Holst, Ottawa, Canada [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
Many have asked how we’re doing since Heather‘s homecall, and it occurred to me as I thought about it, that much of what can be said fits nicely with the verses following ‘Rejoice in the Lord always', that I used in the first article. Philippians chapter 4 and verse 5 reads, ‘Let your moderation be known unto all men’. From much of what I have read, many of those who have lost a spouse react in extreme ways. For many the grief is too much to bear, and they must turn to medications to cope with life. Many plunge into severe bitterness, anger, regret, anxiety, despair, and to many life becomes meaningless and they give up the will to function in everyday life.
By the grace of God, and because of the prayers of countless dear saints, I did not experience these, even though I trod a very dark valley in the first few months. Many have told me that my care for Heather during her illness, and my peace after her death, has been an encouragement to them and a motivation for them to trust Him. Many have also told me of being encouraged by the previous article published here. The Lord’s people and my own family as well, have been most supportive, helping to meet our needs in so many different ways. Very few were able to comprehend the pain I was experiencing and some well-meaning intentions were very painful to me. But this became, by the grace of God, another opportunity to exercise ‘moderation’.
Verse 5 again, ‘The Lord is at hand’. How I thanked God for that. My sorrow made me feel nearer to the One who is called ‘the man of sorrows’. Shortly after writing the previous article, I travelled through a deep valley of sorrow, feeling overwhelmed and abandoned. God was near to me and gave me the strength to meet the needs of my children, putting my energy into completing their home-school curriculum. We also took a short holiday together in Niagara Falls. It provided the children with a nice break from Daddy’s relentless drive to complete the schoolwork. It showed the children that we could still enjoy life together, even though Mommy was now with her Saviour. Upon completion of the schoolwork, the children went to visit relatives in southern Ontario for several weeks, and I crashed in exhaustion. I took the time to process my grief, contemplate what the Lord had in store for me, design Heather’s gravestone, sort through some of her things, and begin to look for employment. It was a very deep valley, but I felt the nearness of the Lord through it all. I bought an old motorcycle, took long rides through the countryside, and visited many places Heather and I had often enjoyed together. Gradually the memories became less painful, and I meditated on how my relationship with the Lord was changing too.
Verse 6, ‘Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God’. Years ago, Davin, my middle son, had difficulty learning to read. I had the children tested to prepare them for re-entry into the national school system. Although Davin had made great progress, he still had troubling deficits. Through further tests he was diagnosed with dyslexia. This explained a lot of things, but I wept bitterly and wished Heather could have known why it had been so difficult for her to teach him. His special needs seemed to add to my burdens beyond that which I could bear. I poured out my heart to God, and He led me to find a school specializing in teaching children with this condition. This was an overwhelming answer to prayer and lifted the burden. Travis, my youngest, only went to school in the mornings and so I needed a place for him to go in the afternoon to allow me to work. A mother of one of his classmates, who lived a few houses down the street, was more than happy to take care of him in the afternoons. Rueben, my eldest son, faithfully retrieves Travis each day as he comes home from school. In both cases I was looking for a solution, but God provided a better one and from a place where I was not looking. I also found an interesting job in the autumn through an unlikely series of circumstances, and the Lord seems to be in it.
Verse 7, ‘And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus’. While Travis, my youngest son, then four years old, was staying with my mother shortly after Heather passed away, she took him to play with a neighbour’s boy. As she was greeted by the boy and asked if his mother was home and he said that she was, Travis was heard to say in matter-offact kind of way, ‘My Mommy’s not coming home anymore, she’s in heaven’. Ten months after her passing, I was working from my home office and having lunch with Travis, when he asked me, ‘Do you miss Mommy?’ With a lump in my throat I said that I did, and then he added, ‘Now that she’s in heaven, she’s not sick anymore’. I wept for my little boy who will grow up not knowing his mother, but marvel at what peace he already has, a peace only God can give. Many have commented again and again, how at peace all my children are and so I give thanks and reflect on how the Lord is good.
Verse 8, ‘Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just . . . if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things’. I determined from the day of Heather’s death that we should continue to speak of her in our daily conversation, difficult as it may be. I felt we needed to keep her memory fresh, and to be able to openly express our feelings together as a family. We shared many wonderful memories, and it felt good to talk about them. We did visit a Christian grief counsellor twice but found it was really not necessary. The counsellor was amazed at how easily and openly the children were able to share their memories of their mother. This is all by the grace of God, and the prayers of the Lord’s people. I chose to keep my mind on those things I was thankful for, and found it to be a healing balm preventing bitterness and despair.
Verse 9, ‘Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you’. One of my struggles for the first six months, was a terrible need to be understood. I was introduced to two Christian men over the summer who were fathers and had also lost their wives to cancer at approximately my age. Talking with these men was a tremendous blessing to me. They ministered to me in a way that others could not. It is my sincere desire to be used of the Lord using all that I have learned through this journey of sorrow. I was not able to find a local support group for widowers, but for a few months I benefited from an online support group, where I was understood, and felt able to minister encouragement through God’s word to those who were struggling more than myself. I have discovered that we have the ‘peace of God‘, and also the ‘God of peace’! Graciously, the elders in my assembly have also had me begin to minister from the word, and it has been just wonderful to do this again.
Together with my daughter Elya, my firstborn, I went to an assembly conference in Toronto over the New Year’s break. It brought to mind again the words of Paul, ‘Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think’, Eph. 3. 20. Indeed, ‘the Lord is at hand’, and I can still say, ‘Rejoice in the Lord always’!
AUTHOR PROFILE: Ron Van Holst is an Engineering Consultant, and has been in fellowship with Bridlewood Bible Chapel since 1985. He lost his wife, Heather, in March 2002 after a two year battle with a brain tumour. He lives near Ottawa, Canada, with his 4 children.