Photo Nicole Tarpoff
I am a sophomore in college and just spent my summer working in Texas—1,600 miles away from home—as a camp counselor. We didn’t have access to our phones most of the time, and I truly missed my friends and family. But I learned so much about how to sacrificially love others. We were trained to put the campers first in everything and to sacrifice ourselves for our campers. I was with my campers 24/7 for weeks, and with God’s help my goal was to pour out His love to each one with all that I could. By the end of camp, I was emotionally and physically exhausted.
But there was a friend back home, who was like a brother to me, who I wanted to be with as soon as I could. His grandfather had died the week before. I had missed the visitation and funeral because I couldn’t leave the camp early. I loved my friend and wanted to be there for him in his grief, just as he had been with me so many times before—especially when my dad died when I was 11 years old. I called my friend before I left camp and promised him that I would walk with him in the days ahead as he dealt with the grief of losing his granddad that he loved so dearly.
And then before I boarded the plane to come home, my mom told me that another good friend’s dad had just had a heart attack and died. My heart broke for my friend, as I knew that he had a very close relationship with his dad. He was with him when he died. Thankfully, this time I was able to go to the visitation and funeral. Less than 48 hours after I landed, I was on my way to this visitation and funeral.
The morning of my friend’s dad’s funeral, yet a third friend sent a text to me saying that his dad had just died. Again, my heart broke, and I wanted to go to my friend and be with him. And so the day after I returned from one funeral, I left home to attend another and comfort another friend in his grief.
It seemed like one death after another . . . one heartbreak after another. Tragedy upon tragedy. In those moments, it’s easy to question God and lose hope. But I knew from my own experiences that God is never closer than when we are feeling most hopeless and heartbroken (see Psalm 34:18). Having lost my own father, there is a special bond, a special understanding, but also a special pain that comes with being in these situations at funerals and visitations. The memories that come back are difficult.
However, God uses this pain for good (see Genesis 50:20). My tragedy eight years ago, when I lost my own dad, helped me understand the pain and grief of my friends in a way that many could not. I believe that God used that experience to help me comfort others (see 2 Corinthians 1:3–4). Ultimately, I cannot provide healing and true comfort that the heart needs. But what is special about sharing in deep tragedy and sorrow, is that it gives us the opportunity to speak about real hope and ultimate healing of the heart that only God can provide.
In the midst of this week of death and grief and sorrow, when my heart broke for my friends and my main goal was to love and comfort them, God found a way to love and comfort me. I was looking for something in my car the day I arrived home from camp and found a note that I had received at my high school graduation. It was written by a wonderful family friend about the man God had molded me into in light of the trials I had been through in my own life. I had forgotten about the note, but God had not forgotten and knew exactly when to put this message before my eyes. Here is what it said:
Like a lighthouse, you are a strong and steady presence of hope at the very place where the waves of life crash onto the rocky land. You are a light bearer for those who are storm-tossed. Christ is the light within you. He shines through you with compassion for the lonely, strength for the weak, love for those lost at sea. Be not afraid. That light within you can overcome any darkness.
Only God, in His perfect timing, knew how much I needed this reassurance in that moment with such trying times up ahead. He knew my anxious and inadequate feelings as I prepared to offer whatever comfort I could to friends who needed it so dearly, and who were especially looking to me with anticipation, as they knew I had been through a similar tragedy. I would be lying if I said that my soul did not feel the burden of this. However, just as only God can, in my time of need, He was there to give that gentle yet so powerful reassurance that indeed I should not fear. He would be my strength. My friends did not need me in this time; they needed the Lord and the comfort, hope, and light in darkness only He offers. He reminded me that it was the light and hope of Christ that He had shown me in my life that could overcome any darkness.
God knows our deepest needs and He always provides.
A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.