I am what I call a “recovering cynic.” One thing I struggle with as a cynic is trusting that God has my best interest at heart. Despite Him proving that He is for me over and over again, I’m quick to forget what He’s done on my behalf. In a vicious, cynical cycle, when He does come through, I almost immediately forget and begin wondering if He will come through with the next desire/fear. (Spoiler alert: He does.)
Recently, God struck a blow to my cynicism and proved the depth of his goodness and care toward me in a way that I will—hopefully—never forget.
At the end of January, my little (if you can call 6’6’’ little) brother left on his first deployment with his Air Force pararescue unit. On January 23rd, I wrote “protection for Mark on his deployment” in my prayer journal. God granted “yes” to that request every day until March 15th, when He brought my brother to heaven via a helicopter crash in Iraq.
Shortly after my brother died, it occurred to me that I’d never told him I was proud of him. “Maybe he knew,” I lamented to some friends, “but I wish I could remember saying it!”
My brother and I had a wonderful friendship with many great memories, but it still deeply bothered me that I never told him how proud I was of him. Someone mentioned that guilt and regret were part of grief, so I figured I would simply need to go through feeling sad for never expressing that to him.
A few weeks after Mark’s death, my older sister texted me and told me she’d come across some letters I’d sent him during his basic training at the Air Force Academy. He’d stored a lot of his things at her house before his deployment, and while sorting through his belongings she found the notes I’d written to him during his first summer at the Air Force Academy.
In an ultimate “return to sender,” I received back the letters I’d sent to him more than a decade ago.
I sat in my room and laughed and cried as I looked through the homemade cards, goofy stories of what was happening in the outside world, and comic strip clippings I thought would help cheer him up as he went through the ups and downs of being a “doolie” (first year) at the academy.
When I got to the last note—a Charlie Chaplain postcard that I’d hoped he would appreciate getting at the cadet mail call—my eyes scrolled down the words I’d written. I told him I’d seen pictures of his training and that his hat looked like it was keeping his head cool. I told him Air Force beat Army. And then, obviously running out of room at the bottom of the postcard, I crammed in these words: “I AM EXTREMELY PROUD OF YOU!!”
These were the exact words I so desperately wanted to know I’d told him. The Lord gave me a gift I never would’ve thought to ask for: remembrance and peace in the midst of intense grief. I had no idea at the time that this letter, meant to encourage my brother during a difficult time, would come back to encourage me during a difficult time. As David says in Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” The Lord drew near in my brokenness and, though I was still devastated, I didn’t feel crushed.
Sudden loss isn’t something I would wish on anyone. Grief is truly a terrible and life-changing thing. However, watching God show up and tenderly care for me and my family amidst our pain, has steadily chipped away at my cynicism.
God took away earthly protection from my brother and replaced it with something better: eternal physical and spiritual protection. I know my brother is celebrating life and eating endless steak and shrimp with Jesus. (I don’t know why I assume heaven will be like a Golden Corral.)
In the Old Testament, the Israelites built pillars and altars to remember God’s faithfulness. I have that Charlie Chaplain postcard sitting in a box under my bed, a reminder that God is faithfully preparing me now for a future only He holds. If God cares enough about me to comfort me so perfectly in my sorrow, perhaps it’s time to start trusting that the rest of His will for my life is good. Death stings today, but it does not have victory. And that reminder is the best cure for cynicism.
Kristin Weber is a comedian, speaker, and author. She travels all over the United States and Canada telling jokes and sharing truth. She lives in Atlanta and enjoys hiking and eating Chipotle. She plays the accordion, so she is still single. www.kristinweberonline.com