You can also read this story on my brother’s website by clicking here.
I cannot believe last week marked 3 years since Jamie went to heaven. It’s really unbelievable. I remember him every single day, but chose to remember him this April 23 by enjoying the sunshine, making enchiladas b/c he loved mexican food, and squeezing my family tight. I asked the kiddos what memories they have of their Uncle Jamie. Chloe remembered sitting on his lap while she was scared in a storm at Mimi’s house and him telling her “I’ll keep you safe”. Max was reminded of sitting at his piano and him telling them to name any song they wanted and he would play it for them. Josie of course was just an infant, but we love telling her all about her Uncle Jamie. She talks about him like she remembers him and that makes my heart glad.
God has been so good to our family. This is a little piece I wrote this past January that just barely grazes the surface of all God has done in my life over the past 3 years. I thought this might be a good time to share it with you. There is so much more to tell, but this is my very feeble attempt at putting some of it into words briefly. He has poured His love and grace out to me so much and I want others to know that the real question beneath our “why God?”,is usually: “Who are you, Really?”
A Story of Fractured Faith Made New
Crystal M. Johnson
In the late summer of 2008, I sensed God preparing me that “cancer is coming to your family, but you will overcome.” I assumed it would be me, that it would be many years down the road, and then I went about my day . Three months later, my brother, Jamie, announced that he had cancer in his liver. The news seemed too devastating to be real.
Jamie’s impact in life was far reaching. He served as a police officer, detective, teacher, and a maestro on the piano. He radiated love, compassion, and charisma, but most prominently, faith. His faith in God was the cornerstone in his fight with cancer. He stood in belief that he would be healed of the melanoma that had invaded his lymph nodes, lungs, bones, and heart. As I thought of Jamie’s faith and revisited God’s words to me, I was certain “overcoming” meant my brother would be healed and that he would have a miracle story.
As Jamie fought for his life through chemotherapy and biotherapy treatments that put his body through horrid trauma, family, friends, and strangers linked arms in belief for his healing. We read and believed every scripture on healing, fasted corporately, encircled his house in prayer and fell flat on our faces before God in prayer.
Jamie’s body deteriorated rapidly and on April 23, 2009, he claimed his crown in heaven. It still takes my breath away to type those words. God gave us many gifts in his last two days. Medically, he should have been in a coma when he was brought to the hospital, but he wasn’t. Just hours after he arrived at the hospital he stopped breathing and appeared to be gone. The nurse said “you have three minutes to decide about resuscitation”. As the family scrambled to decide what to do, Jamie opened his eyes and very clearly said “let me go”. Over the next several hours he talked and worshipped God with uplifted hands. The following day he slipped into a coma. In his final minute he began moving his mouth as if he were in awe of something. A tear slipped down his cheek and he closed his mouth in a seemingly decisive way and died.
In the months that followed, I found myself confused. Why hadn’t my faith worked? I had prayed and believed fervently. My beliefs collided with reality. My heart was shattered as I grieved the loss of my brother and my faith was threatened. If I couldn’t believe the verses about healing, could I believe the rest of The Bible? Had God abandoned me? Rejected my faith? Did He care? Did He even really exist, and if He did, was He good? I didn’t want to have these unthinkable thoughts as a christian and pastor’s wife. They were there, nevertheless, and I began a spiral into the pit of despair.
But God, did not leave me in that place. He reached down and rescued me, healing my brokenness one stitch at a time. Even when I couldn’t feel His presence He was lovingly bandaging my wounds. He gave me just what I needed each day. One morning I was so confounded and kept thinking “I just don’t know what to do with this.” He reminded me of this verse: “keep putting into practice everything you learned and received from me–everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:9) I clung to this truth and kept my conversations with Him going. I took all of my dark feelings, confusion, and questions to Him. He didn’t chastise me for lacking trust, but reminded me that as much as I loved my brother, HE LOVED HIM MORE!
I still don’t know the answer to why Jamie died in spite of our belief for a miracle, and honestly no answer would satisfy anyways. But I do know that God is faithful in all circumstances and that we have a choice to make. Will we run towards Him or away from Him when things don’t go our way? Will we take the road of bitterness and darkness or the road of light and restoration. I am so grateful for all He has done, is doing, and will do, as my relationship with Him grows sweeter, through good times, and bad. What the enemy meant to destroy my faith, God has used to strengthen and purify it, and it is just part of life, that this will continue until I take my last breath. My faith no longer rests in what God does or does not do for me, but in Who He is; my trusted, faithful King. The One who was there, patching me up, even when I couldn’t feel Him. Even when I was mad at Him. Even when I doubted. He taught me how to keep talking to Him even when the conversations were tough, just like any relationship. So with my faith made not yet perfect, but new, I rejoice that the song of Jamie’s life plays on…..
If you are struggling with your faith, keep talking to God. The real danger doesn’t come when we have doubts, fears, or questions, it comes when we shut our hearts off to Him instead of talking to Him about it. Or when we pretend we don’t have the doubts and questions and never let God bring His truth and love to them! There were times my prayers were literally “Lord, help me to pray. Help me to WANT to pray”. Just keep sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly. His grace will not fail you. This is where we get to discover Who He really is. Much love to you wherever you find yourself in your faith journey called life. I encourage you to read Psalm 27 in “The Message” version of the Bible by clicking here.
“If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Christ died and rose again for this very purpose-to be Lord both of the living and of the dead.” Romans 14:8-9
“Today when you hear His voice, don’t harden your hearts”. Hebrews 3:15
“I’m sure now I’ll see God’s goodness in the exuberant earth. Stay with God! Take heart. Don’t quit. I’ll say it again: Stay with God”. Psalm 27:13-14 (The Message version)