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Confidence in the Path

Often it is a difficult test that reveals, or reconfirms, where our strength comes from.

This month is the anniversary of my father’s death. We said goodbye to him in 2013 and I can hardly believe it’s been that long… that we’ve been moving forward with birthdays and holidays, with vacations he would have been a part of, with art shows and baseball and assorted kid milestones he would have loved. Moving forward with life.

Often it is a difficult test that reveals, or reconfirms, where our strength comes from. Share on X

A test of faith

It feels like yesterday we learned he was sick. And then came the diagnosis of cancer. For a family that had dealt for decades with his heart disease (we had mastered those many heart and vascular surgeries like a boss), a cancer diagnosis was new territory.

As I look back on those few short months that the entire family fought the disease together, I recall so many things. I drove the two and a half hours each way to go to doctor’s appointments and treatments. First it was every few weeks, then more frequently. My twins were not even 1 yet, my oldest 3 ½, and my husband held down the fort so I could try to help my parents. (What a gift that man is!)

And on my drives back and forth, I prayed. I prayed out loud and in my head. I had full-on conversations with God, talking for hours at a time. What I remember is a strange peace that, whatever happened, this was God’s plan. I wasn’t angry. I didn’t try to bargain with Him. I simply asked, as I had when we so desperately wanted children, for God to consider my wants and then do whatever was His wish. And I’d accept it.

Why? Because I believe that the unique path He creates for us, even with the side roads and turnarounds we travel before looping back to the main route, is part of a greater master plan we can’t even imagine. We’re not meant to.

Accepting the outcome

Honestly, I wasn’t sure how I’d ultimately react to the loss when it came. Would I be angry? Blame God? Lose faith? No one can know until it happens and I was keenly aware of that. I knew my willingness to accept the situation could very well have been denial masking something altogether different, hiding just under the surface. Yet I knew in my heart where my strength was coming from.

I was able to hold on to a rock-solid belief that there is a Great Plan. Not that I didn’t hope there would be a plot twist and somehow my father would live to fight another day. I talked with God about that a lot. But thankfully I possessed a consistent faith that His plans – for me, for my father, for all of us – in the midst of our current, short-term suffering, ultimately leads all of us to an eternity of happiness. I knew that to be true, and that belief has not wavered. Is it easy? No. Far from it. But confidence in Him has been enough, at least so far.

Jesus said to Thomas, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

John 20:29

Belief in His plan

For me, there was something comforting about a fresher, more recent wound. Multiple years out and the ache has dulled but that carries with it its own sadness. It’s bittersweet. The level of grief was more powerful during the first year or two, but it was closer to the last time we spoke. The last time I held his hand. A sharp pain meant he was just with us.

Despite the fact that I’d much rather have my father here, I would never trade the experiences leading up to and following his death.

I count myself lucky not to have felt a divide from my faith. It’s not everyone’s life story. It’s normal to question why God allows sickness, suffering caused by cancer, deep sadness for those left behind after a loved one dies. So many people question their faith at times like that, perhaps falling away from the Church, or never regaining a true level of comfort.

In my case, during that short illness, the funeral plans, the funeral, through the months and first few years following my father’s death, I was buoyed by my faith. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop – for my trust in God to weaken. And it hasn’t. For that I am grateful. Years later, my faith, supported by a foundation my father helped build, is more solid than ever.

Years later, my faith, supported by a foundation my father helped build, is more solid than ever. Share on X

I try to remember all this when, during much lesser challenges, I question the “why.” Sometimes we aren’t meant to know. We simply need to believe we are where we’re supposed to be.

Be still and know that I am God.

Psalms 46:11

Karin Gaffney Christensen lives in Upstate New York with her husband, their three children, and a White German Shepherd. A cradle Catholic, Karin has been re-energized by her faith in her roles as wife, mother, and catechist for her parish’s second-graders. Despite the chaos often present in her busy life, she is determined to keep God front and center, and to help her family continue to grow in the Catholic faith.

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