Saturday, January 23, 2010

What I've Learned on the Path of Pain and Suffering

The second anniversary of Bronner’s heaven-going has come and gone. On Tuesday, January 19th, 2010, Rick and I were surrounded by friends and family and lots and lots of flowers. Surprisingly, it really was a beautiful, uplifting day. That, to me, is proof of the power of prayer, because I know so many people were lifting us up that day. So, thank you, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, for your prayers, support, encouragement, and love. Without you, I’m not sure where we would be. I’m just glad I don’t know, because you certainly have been obedient to the Lord when He said, “Weep with those who weep, and mourn with those who mourn.” You were there for us in our time of need, and for that, we thank you.

And since you have shared with us this grief and pain shedding many tears alongside our family, I’d like to share with you some things I’ve learned along the path of suffering. First, I’ve learned that the body of Christ is much bigger than I ever thought it was. It seemed to me that the church everywhere mourned the loss of our precious baby, because he was precious. Not just to me and Rick and his brothers and his sister and the rest of his family, he was precious to God. His life mattered, and it still matters. Bronner’s legacy is strong and fruitful and mighty. It’s been amazing to see how such a small child can make such a big difference in the lives of so many.

There have been innumerable people tell us that his life and death have changed their perspective on everything. Because death has a way of waking us up to the reality of itself and showing us how serious God takes sin. Death is a very harsh punishment. Death is horrifyingly painful, because it rips apart what was never meant to be separated, our spirit from our flesh, wives from their husbands, children from their mothers, and fathers from their sons. It was never supposed to be this way. We think death is just a part of life, but it didn’t have to be.

God placed Adam and Eve in a paradise where they had everything they could ever want. They had each other, and they had God’s very presence with them. They were given the opportunity to walk with God everyday in the cool of the day, but that wasn’t good enough. That ancient serpent who has been a murderer and a liar from the beginning convinced them to do what God had explicitly told them not to do. It was a test that God allowed, and they failed as we continue to fail. We all have a choice to make everyday. The same choice Adam and Eve had. Are we going to listen to the voice of the serpent, or are we going to listen to the voice of the Most High God?

Why does God allow such testing? The Apostle Peter answers the question this way, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter: 1:6-7) Our faith is tested when there is faith to be tested. Abraham was a man of great faith the bible says, and he was asked to sacrifice his own son. Abraham got up and went to the place God had told him to go to kill and burn his own son on an altar. Young Isaac asked him ”Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” And Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” On that day, it was a ram caught in a thicket by his horns, but ultimately God provided for Himself a lamb without blemish in His son, Jesus Christ.

But, can you see Abraham’s faith? He knew that God was faithful. He knew that God had the power to raise his son back up for him even from the dead. But mostly, Abraham knew that God was good and wise, and he knew that God loved him. So, Abraham trusted God even in such a great test as this. Did Abraham pass the test? Yes, he did, with flying colors, and he got to keep his son. He walked right down Mount Moriah with his son at his side. And I expect I will too one day. Abraham was called a friend of God. There was a closeness between Abraham and God. There was a trust, a willingness to serve, and a desire to fellowship with God in Abraham that God desires from all His children. He wants to call you His friend, too, as well as a son, a child of God.

Secondly, I have learned that the hardest part of all of this testing is the longevity of it. I’ve been two years now without Bronner. Before, I was distressed over leaving him for a weekend. I could have never imagined making it two years without him, but I have. I have, and I’m o.k. God has given me the strength to endure, to wait patiently on the day when I’m reunited with my baby, to wait upon the Lord. It’s hard. Running the long race of life is the hardest part for all of us. Can we keep the faith? Can we fight the good fight? Can we run the race? Everyone can say they love Jesus for a day, but can they love Him forever? That’s the question. Will we be faithful to God, as He is faithful to us?

Jesus told us in the Parable of the Sower that many will hear the word of His testimony and will receive it with joy, but because they have no root in themselves will only endure for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. Randy Alcorn, in his book “If God Is Good,” says that’s a good thing. He writes, “When people lose their faith because of suffering, it’s usually a week or nominal faith that doesn’t account for or prepare them for evil and suffering. I believe that any faith not based on the truth needs to be lost. The sooner, the better.” He goes on to explain that “losing your faith may be God’s gift to you in that only when you jettison ungrounded and untrue faith can you replace it with valid faith in the true God—faith that can pass, and even find strength in, the most formidable of life’s tests.”

As Jesus, our only true example of a life lived out in holiness and perfection, was about to go to the cross, He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternity. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” And then He said, “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour?’ But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” (John 12:24-26)

Did you hear that? “If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me.” Where was He going? To the cross. He was going to the cross when He said these words. What I am learning is that each of us has to follow Him to the cross where He suffered unbelievably, yet He endured it for the sake of love, for us, to bring many sons and daughters into His inheritance. He loves us. That’s really all we need to know in order to take up our own crosses and endure them for His sake. He loves us, and our suffering here in this world “is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen, for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

God explains in Hebrews, Chapter 12 that “It is for discipline you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (vs. 7-11)

Bronner was a perfect baby to me. He gave me such joy. I loved to just look at him. He was so cute, and he was so much fun. He had tons of personality and spunk, and he was always right there in the mix if anything was going on. I loved to watch him play and run and sing and pray. He could sing “Jesus l Loves Me,” and he always bowed his head for prayer when we would pray. And when we would say “Amen,” he would say “Amen.” He knew who Jesus was even at that young age, because he had been taught the scriptures from infancy as the Apostle Paul said of Timothy.

Oh, but holding that baby in my arms was pure heaven, so I have said, that in Bronner, God was giving me a little glimpse into what heaven is going to be like for me, but for now, He’s telling me to put my working boots on, and feed his sheep. For if I am alive, I serve the Lord doing my part to bring many sons and daughters to the Lord. As Paul said, “To die would be far better.” But Rick and I believe that now isn’t the time to give up and die. Now is the time to act. Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” (Luke 10:2) We have to work for our Lord, because we know that this seed, Bronner, has been planted to grow into a fruitful tree bearing much for the Lord.

We’re just thankful we’re able to see so much of what God is doing through our little Bronner. I’m sure there’s much we won’t know or understand until we get the heaven, but there is much we can understand. The Bible, God’s Word, does provide answers if we’ll take the time to search it out. It tells us to “Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

Our family has lost our lives for the sake of Christ, not by choice, but we have. And we have accepted this rocky path of suffering knowing that our Lord Jesus Christ has and is and will redeem all of it so that one day we will hear those same words the Apostle John heard on the Island of Patmos, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

And, thirdly, we have learned that God is bigger than our pain and that life isn’t so much about the pursuit of happiness, wealth, pleasure, or worldly recognition, but life should be about the pursuit of holiness. I kept saying after it happened, “But we were so happy.” “We were so happy, God.” And He said, “But I want you to be holy.”

God tells us over and over in his word, “Be holy, for I am holy.” (Leviticus 11:44) “You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.” (Leviticus 11:45) “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1) And that is just a sampling of verses on the importance God places on our holiness. According to an on-line encyclopedia, the word “holy” appears in the King James Version of the Bible 612 times. I think that says He’s serious about us being holy. In fact, Hebrews 12:14 tells us that “without (holiness) no one will see the Lord.”

So, how do we achieve the kind of holiness that God desires for His people? First, let me say that holiness doesn’t mean the same thing as righteousness. The first time the word “holy” appears in the bible is in Genesis 2:3 as God is talking of a day that would be different from all the other days. “So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that He had done in creation.” So, to be holy is to be different, set apart for the glory of God. And we know that the Apostle Paul said that all his righteousness is like filthy rags compared to a Holy God, and if Paul’s was, so is ours. So, how do we become what God is setting us apart to be? We can be certain we can’t do it on our own. Any good work we do should be a result of our salvation, but it doesn’t earn us our salvation. We know that nothing we could ever do could make us “good” enough to satisfy the righteous requirement of the law, for the bible says that only an “unblemished” lamb could be sacrificed for the sins of a man. We are all marred with the stain of sin, and only the atoning blood of Jesus can wash us clean again.

Jesus is the unblemished Lamb of God slain for the sins of the world so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16) So that “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:1-6)

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) There is no other way. Jesus is the narrow way that leads to life. (Matthew 7:14) He is Jacob’s ladder to heaven. He is the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11) He is the door of heaven who has said, “If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. “ (John 10:9)

Have you found His pasture? Have you gone through the door? Take His hand and walk with Him. He will never leave nor forsake you. And, if you have accepted the free gift of God of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, His Son, be encouraged today that He is able to strengthen you to walk this path of life, that He will be with you in your fiery furnace, and that He will hold your hand during your time of testing. Be faithful. Endure. Keep the faith, and hope. Always hope in the Lord. And, love one another as Christ loved you and gave Himself up for you.

And, please, remember Bronner in you prayers tonight.

Love in Christ,


(Proverbs 3:5)


  1. Sherri, our minds have been on the same path the past few days. As I've begun to read "Purpose Driven Life" again, it brought back so many reminders of our ultimate purpose here, to become more Christ-like, which is no easy feat. I hear a lot of me in your words and feel a bond to you, a bond that mothers should not have, but nevertheless we do-our child going to heaven before us. I just did a post on my blog, "Purpose". Read it. It is neat how God puts similar thoughts on people's hearts. The testing is never easy, and it shouldnt be. Afterall, we're being stretched, molded, chipped away, refined, purified.....all for His glory. I want to make Him, and Layah, proud. I love being given the opportunity to say to others when asked, "how did you make it through all that and still believe in God", He carried me at times, let me walk at times, and other times just sat and rested with me, and now I am stronger, as it is not my own strength, but strength soley in and through Him. As it says in Purpose Driven Life, when you focus on eternity, truely focusing on heaven, your perspectives change. There's a song that i have on one of my posts about a woman named Boothe (yes that's her first name) and she too lost a baby girl, and a Christian singer\songwriter wrote a song to sing at her funeral. It's tough to listen to, but the words are so powerful. here's the link

    our heart aches for home, His presence, and our sweet children. Take care, and I constantly lift you up in prayer. Please do the same for me.

    Mika Shelfer

  2. Thank you, Sherri, for sharing your journey of suffering over the past two years. It comes to me on the eve of walking to the grave tomorrow on behalf of yet another friend who has died because of cancer, yet lives forever now with her Lord.

    So grateful for the road of grace that keeps us all and reminds us that this world is not our home.

    Blessings and peace to you this night~elaine

  3. Sherri,

    We have prayed for you and for Rick and for your sweet precious family all week. We have prayed for Bronner and for all that he is doing for the the Kingdom. What a blessing you and your sweet family has been to ours! I don't know how we could ever thank you enough... or how we could ever describe it in words. Your life has blessed mine beyond understanding. I pray for you often and feel blessed to know you. May our sweet Heavenly Father continue to bring you peace in your days here on Earth....what a sweet blessing awaits you in Heaven!

    Megan (and Chris, Reeves, Lucy and Greer)

  4. Sharing this story and your courage in the face of adversity is an amazing way of sharing faith. I never am sure exactly what to say to someone that is facing a challenge at this level. I will say that you have brought me a complete stranger a higher level of gratitude for what I have and a greater connection to the courage a person can be capable of.

    Thank you for expanding my view on what is possible through Christianity.

    Kindest regards,
    Tom Bailey

  5. I am so thankful for the richness of Scripture throughout this post. God's Word is TRUTH and LIGHT in our struggles; it is the only source of wisdom and discernment in this wayward world.
    When I think of your family, I think of one word...BEACON. You are a beacon of HOPE to so many. I know you may not have chosen this path; but you are walking it in obedience and submission and you are "storing up for yourselves treasures in Heaven..." Heaven. Our REAL home!
    Bless you, Sherri. Your momma heart is precious to our Lord.

  6. Thank you Sherri for posting such beautiful, encouraging words. Sometimes, its so easy to get down and discouraged when life is not what we think it should be. It helps me to see the greater picture and expands my vision to what my life is supposed to be about on this earth. You and Rick and your family's strength makes me want to be more of what Christ would have me to be. Thank You again and I will continue to keep you all in my prayers.

  7. Sheri, You do not know me, but I have prayed for you and your family on countless occasions and watched in humility as I have seen God use you, Rick, Bronner (even as he lives in Heaven), and your entire family in such a mighty way to glorify Himself. As Rick eloquently spoke about last week on the air, we know why there is pain and suffering--it is for the purposes that you so beautifully outlined in your post with scripture. I wanted to comment on this touching post in order to let you know that I am one more of countless members of the body of Christ who continues to love your family and regularly lift you to our Lord in prayer although we may never meet this side of heaven. I realize you would never have chosen this road if given the choice(as nooone would), but I hope that you know how much God has and continues to use you to bring the hope of His salvation to many and to bring glory to Himself. I read this quote today and thought of your family: "Whom God would use greatly He will hurt deeply." - A. W. Tozer. May the grace, peace, and love of our Mighty and Gracious God be your comfort and your shield as you work and anticipate the day you will see your baby boy again in Heaven.

  8. Sherri, thank you so much for sharing your life. I have sent a link to your blog to my sister, another Sherry. My niece, my sister's oldest daughter, went to Heaven on Oct. 5, 2007. My family and I are believers *and* of course, followers, but my sister isn't where you are right now. I do realize that you must still have days where you wonder if you can even get up in the morning, but to read these words from you is such an awesome thing. I think my sister will definitely gain some strength from your words...God Bless you, Rick, and your family. Thanks again.

  9. Sherri, your words are so encouraging and comforting. Thank you for sharing them. Bronner has touched so many lives, I've found encouragement through him and your family as I've grieved the loss of my little brother, who went to Heaven almost a year after Bronner. We are also using Charlie's story and the foundation he started to inspire and encourage others. Our website is God bless you and your family. Thanks for writing! Blessings, Laken Lovely

  10. Your strength just amazes me everytime I hear your name. God is working miracles through you. I wanted you to know that. Thanks for all of your inspiration.

    1. I have heard Rick preach and was so touched by how God has used you both. It has given me so much strengh in my life. I lost my best friend, my sister in July 2008. I had never lived a day with out her. She was just a few months older than me. I could not breath, 1 week later I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I was not sure if I wanted to fight and live. I had to turn quickly to the word of God and know that God wanted me to live. I had to fight for my life and and I am now 4yrs cancer free. God is so awsome, I have much to live for, I see with new eyes, everyday is a great day. Grief is always there,but I can breath and I even laugh more than I have ever in all my life. I believe I have grown so much in God, and hearing your story gives me so much hope,and just so you know my sister had a daycare, she raised so many children in our town. I know Jesus must have needed your little baby boy, and I have to believe my sister is holding him for you,until we get to be with them ourself. My Grandmother taught me, we have to learn to live for the living. I seem to understand.

  11. A friend shared this blog post and I have read it this morning as my devotion. It struck me that my version of "holiness" is nothing but rags and it encourages me to "run the race with perseverance" so I can be more like Christ. Thank you for the encouragement.