comfort

She Is Now Gone – The Comfort of God’s Word

11 July 2023

5.5 MINS

God sustains us in the most difficult of times.

Some 55 hours ago, my wonderful wife was promoted to heavenly glory after much suffering and pain. Her 18-month battle with cancer finally came to an end. I and others are supremely glad that she is now with the Lord. We are also supremely sad that she is no longer with us. Her father is still alive, and she would have turned 66 next month.

It was a long and difficult journey, and the past few weeks were especially the hardest for us all. But now she is with the one known as the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53). Jesus had been right with her throughout this entire journey. Now she is with Him forever, along with her mother (who passed away in the same cancer ward 11 years ago), and others. Sooner or later, I will join them.

To be so close with someone for 41 ½ years of marriage (out of 70 ½ years), and then to suddenly lose them is quite tough indeed. At the moment there is a settled peace (or perhaps numbness), but the tears will keep flowing, as they have been. But we serve a “God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3) and He has comforted me, her and others on this long and painful journey.

Obviously, my daily Scripture reading – along with the prayers, help, support and consolation of others – was my mainstay. Given that I recently started a new section of “Quotations” on my site, it is fitting that the most important quotes from the most important book by the most important author be featured here.

Deep Distress and Heavenly Hope

During these toughest and hardest past weeks, I happened to be in the book of Psalms. It is both a hymnal and a place of rich worship. The psalms touch upon all aspects of life, and are as glaringly realistic as they are wonderfully soothing. So I have been recording some of these psalms as I have gone through this period with Averil.

Three or four weeks before she left us, Psalm 31:9-10 stood out to me. It may not be specifically about cancer, but it seemed to apply to our situation (including the part about bones literally wasting away):

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
my eye is wasted from grief;
my soul and my body also.
For my life is spent with sorrow,
and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my iniquity,
and my bones waste away.

On June 17 I certainly noticed Psalm 42:3. I wrote it down and shared it on social media, saying: “Some of you know what this is talking about: ‘My tears have been my food day and night’.” And I shared this on June 20: “Some of you can relate to Psalm 55:17: ‘Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress’ – but it goes on to say this: ‘and He hears my voice’.”

A few weeks before her passing, this passage from Psalm 61:1-2 also seemed to be quite appropriate:

Hear my cry, O God,
listen to my prayer;
from the end of the earth I call to You
when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
that is higher than I.

Earlier this week when she was in her last stages of life, I read Psalm 102:1-7. As I read it, I wondered if it applied more to her or to me. Both actually:

Hear my prayer, Lord;
let my cry for help come to You.
Do not hide Your face from me
when I am in distress.
Turn Your ear to me;
when I call, answer me quickly.

For my days vanish like smoke;
my bones burn like glowing embers.
My heart is blighted and withered like grass;
I forget to eat my food.
In my distress I groan aloud
and am reduced to skin and bones.
I am like a desert owl,
like an owl among the ruins.
I lie awake; I have become
like a bird alone on a roof.

All I could do at the time was call out to God and ask, ‘How long, O Lord?’

And this from Psalm 116:1-8

I love the Lord, because He has heard
my voice and my pleas for mercy.
Because He inclined His ear to me,
therefore I will call on Him as long as I live.
The snares of death encompassed me;
the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
I suffered distress and anguish.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
“O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!”

Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;
our God is merciful.
The Lord preserves the simple;
when I was brought low, He saved me.
Return, O my soul, to your rest;
for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.
For you have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling;

It goes on to say this in verse 15: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” What an amazing thing to know, especially at a time like this.

Steadfast Love

The last two verses of Psalm 118 (vv. 28-29) are always something we can cling to:

You are my God, and I will give thanks to You;
You are my God; I will extol You.
Oh give thanks to the
Lord, for He is good;
for His steadfast love endures forever!

And finally this passage from Psalm 125:1-2:

Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be moved, but abides forever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the
Lord surrounds His people,
from this time forth and forevermore.

And of course many mornings, this classic text from Lamentations 3:22-23 sprang to mind:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end.
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

On a journey like this it is certainly one day at a time, so to have a glorious promise like that to hold onto is precious indeed.

Let me share one more thing if I may. When I left her hospital room Wednesday morning for the last time (around 3am), I went to bed at 4:30. I was exhausted of course, and I cried out to the Lord, asking Him if there was anything He might want to say to me.

I sensed Him saying that He is holding me in His arms right now, just like He is holding Averil in His arms right now. That was a blessing and reassuring, and I soon dozed off. Of real interest, around 15 hours later, a good friend, champion prayer warrior, and dedicated intercessor in Canberra texted me.

She was grieving for me and said she had asked the Lord how she could pray for me. She said He gave her Jeremiah 31:3, and she said, “I saw the Father with His strong everlasting arms holding you like our Great Shepherd deeply concerned for you.” Wow, that certainly goes right along with what the Lord had told me earlier.

She said she also got Hosea 11:4 and Psalm 23. Here are those three texts:

Jeremiah 31:3 ~ the Lord appeared to him from far away.
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have continued My faithfulness to you.

Hosea 11:4 ~ I led them with cords of kindness,
with the bands of love,
and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws,
and I bent down to them and fed them.

Psalm 23 ~ The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for You are with me;
Your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

Many thanks for that, Hilary — God does indeed speak one way or another to His people, especially in their time of greatest need.

There are many other passages that have helped sustain me along the way. More will be shared in the days ahead. A million thanks to all of you who have prayed for Averil and myself, and have shared words of support and comfort, and have helped in so many ways, including material helps such as delivering a meal or sending flowers.

Your love and kindness will not go unnoticed by our Lord. Bless you.

___

Originally published at CultureWatch. Photo by Tara Winstead.

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11 Comments

  1. Sue Allaz 11 July 2023 at 8:23 am - Reply

    Thank you so sharing Bill. My deepest sympathy to you.

  2. Kim Beazley 11 July 2023 at 9:36 am - Reply

    Thank you, Bill, for being so strong and forthright in the most difficult hour of life. I can only hope and pray to know God’s “peace that passes all understanding” in the same way you are when that time comes. You are an inspiration to me, and obviously to so many others.

  3. Wayne Vincent 11 July 2023 at 9:54 am - Reply

    I share your grief Bill. I was where you are now some years ago. The pain of grief is real and deep., yet it is amazing how God’s love can reach there through the care of friends, the comfort of the Scriptures and the experience of His constant presence. In the days ahead it is essential to avoid the fruitless pursuit of false comfort and instead fall into to the arms of our Heavenly Father for his comfort. When we don’t understand, His goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our life.

  4. Warwick Marsh 11 July 2023 at 10:06 am - Reply

    Beautiful article. Psalm 23 is one of the most profound and popular psalms in the bible and for good reason.
    Message below was sent with flowers which were sent to Bill Muehlenberg

    Dear Bill
    We love you and we too share your grief at the passing of Averil,
    amazing woman, loving wife, and wonderful mother to three sons.

    “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff,
    they comfort me.”
    Psalm 23:4

    Be assured of our prayers and our continued support and love.

    From Warwick & Alison Marsh and Kym & Nel Farnik
    Love & Blessings From the whole Canberra Declaration family.

    • Leonie Robson 11 July 2023 at 10:13 am - Reply

      Amen.

  5. Joyce Michael 11 July 2023 at 11:06 am - Reply

    Thank you for sharing this very personal and private grief. A friend of mine has also recently lost his beloved wife to cancer and his grief and pain is so intense. Your words are so uplifting for those who mourn. May the Lord continue to hold you tight in his arms.
    “Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

  6. Vivienne Williams 11 July 2023 at 12:32 pm - Reply

    Beautifully written and heart felt. God be with you always

  7. Ann 11 July 2023 at 12:44 pm - Reply

    So sad for you Bill, but as you have said, she is now safe in the arms of Jesus. May the peace of God which passes all understanding fill your heart & mind at this time. God bless you abundantly.

  8. Bill Muehlenberg 11 July 2023 at 6:31 pm - Reply

    many thanks guys

  9. Jim Twelves 11 July 2023 at 8:23 pm - Reply

    Bill, powerful! Powerful! In you deep grief you are still reaching out to others with the outstretched hand of the Lord! What a powerful testimony of his grace. Thank you

  10. Sylvia J Huxham 12 July 2023 at 6:36 am - Reply

    What a beautiful Testimony Bill, -I honour you for -while deeply grieved in your loss, you still communicate so thoughtfully “for the sake of the Gospel-for others “Seems like a 2 Timothy 2:9-10 example
    Thank you Praying that even through this Your message to the world will not be chained but flow speedily for your comfort and His honour

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