by April Hernandez
This was something about which I was rarely thinking as I went about my daily life, helping my husband to build his third Spanish ministry for the glory of the Lord while working a secular job. Tomorrow was something that, quite honestly, I took for granted. My husband and the Lord always took care of the details in my life, and I was quite happy to let them do so; I did not have to think about tomorrow.
Then came the phone call we all think will never come to us—“Mrs. Hernandez? I’m sorry to inform you that your husband has been in a very serious car accident.”
To this day, I am not quite sure how I got from my house to the hospital emergency room that night. All I know is that I went from just having spoken to my husband only hours before to making flautas for his lunch to sitting in an emergency room lobby, waiting and praying for the nightmare to end.
It is strange how a simple phone call can change the course of one’s life forever. Since that fateful night, I have been on a constant roller coaster ride that, at times, seems to have no end in sight. Some days, I am up and feeling as if I were on top of the world. Other days, I am overwhelmed with the ever-present fact that I am a widow and have been rerouted to planning and living my life alone.
I have encountered many “firsts” in the many months since my husband went to be with the Lord. It has not been easy doing the things that he always did for me, but I have come to find that I am not alone. God has surrounded me with many good friends and a loving family who have all helped me to cope and to get through all of these “firsts” in my life.
One of the most difficult decisions that I had to make on my own was to chose where I should ultimately live, now that my family is just myself and my youngest, college-aged daughter. After months of prayer and counsel, I made the decision to stay in the home in which my husband had chosen for us to live. It was also where we had celebrated many happy occasions together.
Content with my decision, I planned a mini-vacation with two of my daughters and a friend on Memorial Day. I had won a gift certificate to the Dillard House during our church’s spring program, so we made the short drive up to spend the day in Dillard, Georgia. We had a fabulous time and were on “cloud nine.” The month of May had been hectic with two graduations, and we were grateful to have had some downtime in which we could relax and enjoy each other’s company.
Shortly after we returned home from Dillard, I received a text message from my landlord. He wanted to stop by with his wife to speak with my daughter and I. They came over that evening, and after sitting down in the living room and exchanging a few pleasantries, he informed us that he had been unemployed for ten months. He had to put his home on the market and would need to move into our house. They were apologetic as they explained that they had wanted us to stay in our home for as long as we needed, but circumstances had forced them to make this decision.
We found ourselves facing the insurmountable task of looking for another home. I was in shock, to say the least, because I had not seen this coming. It had taken me months to finally decide that I would be comfortable staying in this home that I had once shared with my husband; for the first time in many years, I found myself worrying about tomorrow.
Although heartbroken and shaken and sad that my daughter saw me in tears once more, I picked myself up, grabbed my computer, and began looking for a new home, all while pondering what would happen tomorrow. I texted my pastor’s wife, Shannon Reed, telling her everything that had happened. I asked her and our pastor to pray about the situation and inquired whether they knew of anyone who had a home for rent because I had exactly one month to find a new home! She said they would pray, and she stated boldly, “Don’t worry about anything. You will not be homeless. There is plenty of room at the church for you to stay, if need be, until God provides.” Never having thought of myself as “homeless,” I was encouraged that there was no doubt in Shannon’s mind that God would provide for me.
Within twenty-four hours, my pastor contacted me to say that a gentleman in our church had a property that had recently been vacated. This man was looking to get out of the landlord business, but after hearing of our situation, he was willing to let us rent his home. Better yet, for the same price that I was previously renting the other home, I could rent this new place and no security deposit would be required! The new landlord allowed us to paint the interior, and he also installed new wood flooring and carpet throughout the home. Even though the home definitely needed some TLC and there were other obstacles to overcome while there, God provided exactly what I needed at just the right time!
I am a strong believer in God already being in all of my tomorrows. I cannot take the time to share all of the many times that God has provided for me in my tomorrows, but He has proved himself faithful, time and again, each and every day since my husband had passed away. He has always been with me, and I am never alone. God has taught me through His Word and through lessons of life that He already knows what is going to happen in my life today and tomorrow, even when I do not know.
TRUST in the Lord.
Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
Preachers often quote this well-known verse when they want to convey to their congregation the importance of trusting God with their lives. However, when applying this truth to my life personally, it has been easier said than done at times. Most of us can testify of how difficult it is to put this Biblical command into practice!
Many times when things go wrong in our lives, we want to take things into our own hands and make everything right in our own strength. When we do this, we all too often fail miserably at getting a good result. It is so much better to trust in the Lord and in the fact that He knows best, no matter what happens. My daughters often remind me that “God’s got this,” and I do not need to worry.
After my husband died and we were planning his funeral, I desired to plan what would please him, from the music that was played to the person who would preach at the service. I had an idea of who he would have liked to have preached his funeral, and tried my best to make a way for this pastor to be at the funeral to preach. However, I did not realize at the time that the person my husband really wanted to preach his funeral was a totally different man. God, not me, made a way for this man to come to the United States to preach my husband’s funeral. As this man preached that service, I discovered my that my husband had already asked him years ago to preach this very service!
Why is it that we can trust God for our salvation, but when it comes to our lives and our futures, we have a hard time trusting Him? We can trust God to work things out because He already has things planned according to His sovereign will.
Whether feeling like it or not, OPEN the Bible daily.
Deuteronomy 4:29 says, “But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.”
Again, I could quote many verses that tell of how we should seek after the Lord on a daily basis, especially if we truly want to know His will for our futures. However, sometimes, we do not fully understand what that means. God looks down from Heaven every day to see if His children are truly seeking Him. How do we seek? We seek Him by opening our Bibles and reading His Word, not just a few short minutes a day but every single day! We will not find the solutions that God has for our problems if we are not faithful in our daily Bible reading during the rough times just as much as we are during the easy times.
After my husband passed away, within two days, my home was filled with family members—my parents, my daughters, their families, and my sister and her family. I could barely think straight and I found myself without a quiet place to wrap my head around what was happening. I found myself frequently grabbing my Bible and going out to our small patio to sit alone. I would look up at the sky, cry, and talk to God. I even talked to my husband, telling him everything would be okay, even though I could not see how it would be at the time. Then, I would take my Bible, read at least one chapter, and be ready to push on with whatever the day had in store.
The only thing that kept me grounded after my husband passed away was staying faithful in the things that really kept me close to God. I continued to pray to God, even though I did not always understand the what or the why of my circumstances. I continued to read my Bible, even though sometimes I did not feel as if I were getting much out of it. A quote I recently read states, “Don’t say God has been silent when your Bible has been closed.” We should not expect solutions to our life situations if we stop reading our Bibles and cease praying for God’s guidance.
Big or small, MIRACLES still happen.
Job 5:8-10 says, “I would seek unto God, and unto God would I commit my cause: Which doeth great things and unsearchable; marvellous things without number: Who giveth rain upon the earth, and sendeth waters upon the fields:”
Often, when we go through rough times as Christians, we harden our hearts. Especially if God does not do a miracle right away to straighten things out, we forget about the miracles that God has already done in our lives. A miracle can mean different things to different people. It can be something spectacular or something small about which a person has been praying forever.
Personally, I consider it a miracle that I am even able to share my personal testimony without breaking down in tears every five minutes! It has not been easy, but God has shown me His faithfulness in even the tiniest ways. In Psalms 37:25, the Bible says, “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.”
One thing God did for us was to make a way financially for my daughter to finish her senior year in a Christian high school. He then provided for her to be able to have her senior pictures taken without any cost to us through the love of a good friend. Along with Him providing our home when we were in a housing crisis, I could tell of many more times, large and small, when He provided for us. We must remember that even miracles take a little time and do not always happen overnight.
OBEY God’s prompting.
1 Samuel 15:22 says, “And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”
If we want God’s blessing on our futures, we will obey what He tells us to do, WHEN He tells us to do it. As Christians, we often feel the prompting of the Holy Spirit in different situations, yet we fail to obey what He tells us to do.
In my situation, I must honestly confess that only months after my husband passed away, I felt the urging of the Lord to move from that house into something not so spacious. However, because it had only been a few short months since he passed away, I was uncertain of what to do. I was comfortable in my home because it held many memories of the last years with my husband. God had other plans though, and since I made no move to obey His prompting, He had no choice but to PUSH me out of the house, almost literally! I really have no one to blame but myself, but He knew I was going to do what I did, and He still provided a new home for me.
D.L. Moody once said, “There will be no peace in any soul until it is willing to obey the voice of God.” Sometimes we think we know better than God, and we disobey His voice. We often think that we cannot do what God has asked us to do, but God will never prompt us to do anything we cannot do. He will always give us the strength and wisdom necessary to follow through with whatever He asks of us. He already knows our future, and it is our job to simply OBEY.
No matter how rough it gets, REST in the Lord.
Psalm 37:7, “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.”
After going through a hard time, we may feel exhausted and as if we do not know which way to turn. We may tend to be anxious about the path we are traveling, sometimes doubting whether it is the right path. We may wonder about what God’s will actually is now for our lives, now that everything changed.
One of the things with which I struggled after my husband died was deciding where I would go to church. My husband had been a pastor and I, a pastor’s wife, for more than 25 years. My whole purpose and position in life had changed the moment that he went home to Heaven. I prayed long and hard about it. I discussed the options before me with my daughters, and after attending an evening service at Peachtree Road Baptist Church and hearing a sermon titled “Fight to Be Stable,” God confirmed for me that this was the church that I needed to attend at this time. I was fighting a daily battle of staying focused on finding a purpose or a reason to move forward, and this sermon helped me tremendously. I knew that this church was going to help to get me back on track in the Lord’s service. During that first year, my new pastor’s wife told me this: “Do ONE THING at a time. Take ONE STEP at a time. God is not going to judge you if you’re not ready to do something; He already knows what your limits are.”
REALIZE that God will answer.
Genesis 35:3 says, “And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went.”
It is so easy for us to get caught up in our problems. Even though we pray and pray and pray about something, it may seem to take such a long time for God to answer or to respond. We need to remember that God is in control, and even though we do not see how things are going to work out, we need to trust in the Lord and know that they will. God hears and knows about our distress. God is with us wherever we go, especially in the trials. I cannot begin to tell you the many times I have felt His loving arms around me during the time of coping with the loss of my husband.
When I was driving to the hospital the night of my husband’s accident, I prayed for God to spare his life. I could not bear the thought of this being the way that God had decided to take him home to Heaven. I cried and prayed the entire way there. When we arrived at the hospital, we were met by an emergency room caretaker and shown to a room with numerous medical personnel. They sat me down and told me that my husband had just been taken up for emergency surgery. I barely heard a thing they said after that, and as they proceeded to give me his personal belongings, I had a feeling in my heart that he was not going to make it. Even so, I prayed; and although I felt in my heart that he was gone, I had a type of peace.
It is important that while going through extremely difficult trials and trying to make important decisions, we realize how close God is to us. He is right next to us and will not let us fall. He also may not always answer right away or in the way that we prefer to have Him answer, but He will always answer. A quote that has encouraged my heart along these lines is: “You may not understand today or tomorrow, but eventually God will reveal why you went through everything you did.” Realize and trust that He will answer, and He will.
OPEN your heart and delight yourself in the Lord.
Not only do we need to open our Bibles daily, but we also need to open our hearts daily. It is so easy to become BUSY and BITTER about our situation and think that God has forgotten us. Maybe we think He has no further use for us, or at least, we may begin to think this way as, day by day, we let ourselves wallow in our sadness and in difficult circumstances.
The Bible says in Acts 16:14, “And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.”
It is so important that when we go through difficult times, we seek and strive to be a help to others. I love to study about Lydia in the Bible. She was such a servant. Her story has taught me how important it is to put aside my own troubles and to strive to be a help and a blessing to others in the church.
I can truly say that my church, along with many other friends and families across the nation and the Spanish world, have been a blessing and an encouragement to me and my family throughout the years since my husband passed away. Although it would be so easy to never come out of my house and to sit in a corner, wallowing in my own grief and never go out again, I have felt the prayers and have welcomed the encouraging words and support from everyone.
Some may ask how I could go from serving the Lord for over 25 years alongside my best friend to not having the sense of purpose that I once had. I can only tell you how I have tried to move forward. First, I opened my heart to God’s Word and His people. I did not stop going to church and did not blame God for my problems. Second, I opened my heart and my eyes to the fact that I am not the only one suffering in this world. There are others all around me who are going through the same thing.
After hearing a sermon that Pastor Reed preached a few months back, I took my pastor’s wife aside and told her with tears in my eyes, “I want you to know that, even though I am not ready to be fully involved in everything in the church, I totally support you and Pastor Reed, and the vision you have for the Lord’s work here. I will do my best to be a blessing to your family and help in any way I can.” I remembered that I had been where she was at that time— a pastor’s wife with a young family— and the encouragement that church members give can mean a whole lot. We must not be afraid to open our hearts, to get involved, and to be a help to others. God’s people are supposed to encourage and to support one another. If all I can do is to invite a family over to eat one afternoon, or babysit their children while the pastor and his wife go out to eat by themselves, I need to do it. I need to open my heart to whatever the Lord wants me to do to be a blessing to others.
Lastly, WORRY NOT about tomorrow.
Matthew 6:33-34, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”
So many times, we let our circumstances get the better of us. We fret and worry about the littlest things. We forget that God is in control. We need to learn to take a step back and TRUST in the Lord. Everything will work itself out in His time, not in ours. It is so easy to forget this truth! We may think that we are in control and that we know best, but it is really the Lord Who knows what is best for us.
When my husband’s life was slipping away in the hospital, I thought, “Lord, if you take him, what will I do without him?” Although I could not see the answer then, God has since answered that question every single day that He allows me to live. He says, “You’ll do just fine. You’re doing just fine, April.”
Is life now the way that I would like it to be? No. Not a day goes by in which I do not think about all of the plans that my husband and I had for when my children were all grown. Although we did spend a great amount of time together even when our children were all living at home, we had plans to travel and to serve the Lord together in different ways. God had other plans.
I believe I have been guilty of doing my fair share of worrying about things since my husband has been gone; but, I came to find out that it was all a great deal of wasted time and energy. God had worked everything out as He had seen fit. I do not know what the future holds or even how I will handle what comes my way, but I do know that I need to trust the Lord in every step I take. I must remember that He knows what is best for me. After all, the Bible does say in Psalms 37:18, “The Lord knoweth the days of the upright: and their inheritance shall be forever.”
I have strived day by day to put these things into practice in my own life. Though it has not been easy, nor do I expect it to be, I am learning daily to concentrate on the here-and-now and to let God take care of my tomorrows because He knows what lies ahead.
That was such a blessing, April! Thank you for sharing your heart and your struggles and how God has brought you through. That was such an encouragement to me, especially as the wife of an ailing husband. God bless you!