Labor Day has not always been a good memory for me and several of my friends. Two Labor Day weekends changed everything, but now, because of God’s goodness and salvation, I look back with memories that make me smile.
It was 1981. I had just graded from high school. One Sunday morning I got the phone call I shall never forget. It was one of my best friends Jan Cole telling me that another of my best friends Dawn Cooper was dead. She and her soon to be fiancée had been killed in a mysterious motorcycle crash. I remember all these details as if they were yesterday: going up the street to Dawn’s house and seeing cars everywhere, the funeral and then life after this death.
For weeks I couldn’t sleep. I cried, screamed at God, and told God to leave me alone. I became a Christian at twelve, so as a girl of just eighteen years old, I was a believer but a young one. I couldn’t understand how God could allow this nightmare. The Cooper family were and are some of the finest people I know. Dawn and her sister Donna Hummer helped mold me into the believer that I am now. They were older than me and in our youth at church. They would drive down the street and pick me up for all the youth events at our church during my middle school years. They would take me and my other friends just riding around in south Jackson on Sunday afternoons. We were all more than friends: we were sisters and still are. So why would a loving God allow such a tragedy to come our way? In my life this question has arisen many times.
My prayers were so honest. God can take whatever we have on our hearts. He loves us, made us and as Christians, we are His children. I told him that if there was some Sunday School lesson in all this that He was trying to teach me, I didn’t want to know what it was. God showed me that this verse is true:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
How did He show me this? Now this starts to get good. Remember that I was a believer. At a young age, I realized that Christ died on a cross for me, that I was a sinner by nature and that there was nothing good in me and that the only way to God was through a relationship with Christ. At twelve I didn’t understand much more and now at fifty-one, I still don’t understand God’s ways. Being a Christian is not understanding all about the creator of the universe as if He could be understood by us, but it is about believing. It is about the Holy Spirit tugging on your heart that you desperately need a Savior, and I need one every day. My life is a mess some days, and God has to save me constantly. Because I asked Him to save me when I realized truth, I am His for all eternity, but until then, God’s got me in the palm of His hand.
I was in a pit. It didn’t take me long to realize that I was in need of help. God had to get my attention, and He did. One night I dreamed that I saw Dawn. It was more than a dream. I was so excited, saying, “I knew that this was all a bad dream and didn’t really happen!” Dawn said, “Why are you worrying about me? I am in heaven singing with the choirs of angels.” God gently allowed me this vision, what I needed to get out of the pit and remember that the only peace I would ever know was the peace that passes all understanding (Phil. 4:7). This only comes through that God living in us which is Christ in us. At all the times in my life when there have been no more words and the pain is overwhelming, the Holy Spirit that lives in me because of Christ in me intercedes and prays for me (Romans 8:26). This is not magic, but the power of God Almighty.
Many years later, I shared this dream with two of my best friends who also had lived this nightmare. We were at Dawn’s father’s funeral. Are you ready for this? They had the same dream. God choose to comfort all of us in this way.
Several years after Dawn’s death, my precious sister Jan Cole who lived right next door to Dawn lost her brother on another Labor Day weekend. Why God? He was a wonderful young man with a bright future and was one of my “brothers”. You know what I mean: those friends that you spend the night with and their brothers become your brothers. So hadn’t we all suffered enough on Labor Day weekends?
God offers peace that I cannot understand. The pits can be deep and dark, but God has the power to bring us out of them. All we must do is say, “Help me.” We then are nothing but similar to a skeleton, a shell, and the power of God takes over, showing us how to continue on until that day when all believers go home, and join all the believers who have gone before.
And then my sisters, we will ride around in the countryside of heaven, laughing, and praising the one Who saw us through all the heartache of this life and loved us enough to show us how to live forever in the next one.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
I love you, sisters.