• 63°

No matter what

I keep Katie’s notes close to my bedside, not just because I promised her I would, but because they bring me hope, especially on those nights when despair wants to crawl in bed beside me.You have them, too, don’t you? Those nights when your fears decide to have a party, and their racket wakes you.

It’s amazing the truth a 9-year-old can grasp and pass along.

Katie’s simple notes have a way of toning down the worries rumbling in my head. Take this one, for instance: “I love you, Lord. You love me, God. No matter what, you love us. You keep us in your hands, no matter what. We know you love us, no matter what.”

Did she get the words from my Sunday morning prayer and my sermon, like she told me she did? I don’t remember saying that, at least not in those words. Sometimes children hear more than the adults do, including the preacher.

Katie listens and writes every Sunday. Without fail. “You could write a note to other people, you know, spread it around,” her mother suggests to Katie.

“Oh, no,” Katie objects, “Dr. David has to have MY notes.”

“I won’t hear you preach this Sunday, so next week, I’ll give you two notes,” she told me one Sunday.

Another time she came to me, frowning, “I don’t know what I’m going to write next week, Dr. David, and I want to make sure I have a note to give you.”

“Don’t worry,” I told her, “Just read the Word, listen, and the Lord will give you the words to write.”

I shared that note of hers — the one about God having us in his hand no matter what – with my wife, and we would read it, pause, smile, and fall into a peaceful sleep, Katie’s words acting like a magical elixir for us. And then, there was that Saturday morning phone call about another child.

I had watched her grow up, at least from her adolescent years to a young adult. Now, her life had been taken in a car wreck, a life so young and vibrant. And her parents: the shock, the horror, the cut so deep — words can never gloss over.

The words of Jesus echoed in my heart as we drove to grasp the hands of our friends stricken with grief: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25)

We struggled to console them in the pain that is wrapped up in that moment, and the agony that will endure for a lifetime. It seems like a weight too heavy to bear. And it scares us; we are subject to the vicissitudes of this broken world, peppered as it is with uncertainties.

We want to believe the illusion that we are invincible: the lie that if we just behave, all will be well, always. But the truth is, we tremble at life, never knowing exactly when death, like a sink hole suddenly opening beneath our feet, will swallow us or one near and dear to us.

Later that night, I held Katie’s note tightly in my hand. My fingers ran over the words, as if they themselves could press courage into me. And they did.

After all, like Katie said, “He loves us, no matter what, and has us in the palm of his hand.”

In sickness, in health — with teenagers and young adults whose lives are cut short in car wrecks — or in cancer, as well as in happiness, and in healing, as well as in death, he is with us. Always. No matter what.

Contact David Whitlock, Ph.D., at drdavid@davidwhitlock.org. or visit his website, davidwhitlock.org.