And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28, NIV
I recently attended a funeral for the mother of one of my students who had lost her battle with cancer. She was a beautiful woman with a heart of gold. She served her community, spent years volunteering in her daughter’s elementary school, and brought a light to our high school parent association meetings.
After the funeral, my eyes filled with tears as I stood in the church vestibule holding a sobbing teenage girl. I didn’t know her mother very well, but I had grown close to this student.
I also felt the anguish my student was feeling because I have walked this road before.
My dad was my hero. Even as I sit here writing, my mind is flooded with memories: how it felt to be carried in his arms; how his hand was always so much bigger than mine, no matter how old I got; how his laugh sounded; and, how much he loved my mother. My dad was larger than life, and cancer never outshone his presence.
I remember visiting him in the hospital a few weeks before he passed away. I held his hand while he slept and silently cried as I prayed for God’s will. I left the hospital that night in anguish. When I got home, I remember lying down in my driveway because I wasn’t quite ready to see my family, even though we were all walking this road together.
As I lay on the cold concrete looking up at the stars, I remember crying huge, heavy tears that soaked my hair. I wondered how I was going to survive the loss of the biggest person in my life; I knew it was coming soon. The stars were so bright that night and the air was crisp and cold. Everything about that moment has been indelibly inked in my memory.
That was 20 years ago, but as I held my student that day, the grief and pain of losing my father bubbled back up to the surface, and I was once again that young adult lying on the cold, concrete driveway, looking up at the stars.
I could minister to my student that day because I felt her pain. I will be able to continue supporting her because I know what is coming. I’ve been where she is and I will be there for her as she goes on.
God has turned something that nearly broke me into a chance to help another hurting soul. He has used my pain to build a ministry. God can work all things—even the loss of the most important person in my young life—for good.
No matter where you are in this moment, no matter what challenges you are facing, God is there. He is making all things work together for good according to His will. Whether you’re lying on the cold ground looking at the stars through tears or standing in a church vestibule hugging a child who just lost their mom, you can cling to the hope that God can and will use your struggles to minister to your students.
Lord, You are the great physician and as such, we humbly ask that You heal our heartaches and bind up our wounds. Use our sorrows for Your glory and give us the strength we need to effectively minister to our students. Give us grace to respond to the hurting, faith to know You are in control, and courage to make a difference.
Copyright Jessica Burchfield
Jessica is a high school theatre and photography teacher from Florida.