(The following is the story of the day Christianna Joy entered Heaven)
My family had just finished lunch, and our kids went outside to play in our yard in our family’s home in Zambia, Africa. My wife and I were talking on the couch when our oldest daughter, Acacia, came running in, franticly calling us to say that there was something wrong with Christianna, our second-born child. We found her laying in the yard, unresponsive and not breathing.
My wife, a doctor, immediately went into action. We began CPR and started praying loud, desperate, and frantic prayers for help. There was no 911 to call, no paramedics in our area, no hope of immediate medical help except for what we could do on our own. I called for a helicopter, but it was 35 minutes away at best.
After almost an hour of CPR and prayer, we stopped. She was gone. This beautiful 10-and-a-half-year-old girl who loved Jesus, her family, and caring for orphans had entered eternity. The tug-of-war between us and Heaven for our treasured princess ended in total exhaustion. All we had now was a the hope she would return to us by some miraculous act of God. The miracle never came on this side of eternity.
The moment we stopped trying to resuscitate Christianna, I had a choice: to trust God or not. Kneeling over her lifeless body, I looked up to heaven and told God that, if this was his answer to our prayers, we would trust him. Little did I know how powerful that declaration would be in our healing process. With tears streaming out of my eyes I looked down on her lifeless body and declared that we are not a people of despair but of hope. Then I reached out and stroked her hair moving it away from her face and bent down and kissed her forehead and whispered how much I loved her and that I will hold her again when Jesus calls me home.
We chose to sing praises to Jesus for the next three hours as a family. Our oldest daughter grabbed Christianna’s journal and read an entry that proclaimed her love for Jesus. It may not be the way people usually process death, but by choosing to trust the Lord in this, our children were able to find hope: in eternity, in heaven, and in Jesus.
Our youngest daughter now talks about how wonderful heaven will be when our whole family is back together. While we would have chosen a different path for ourselves, we have learned the depth of Christ’s love in a tangible way that has given our faith wings to soar. I would give anything to have Christianna Joy back but if it meant losing the depth of hope and joy I have discovered in Jesus, I am content to wait until I see her on that beautiful day when we will celebrate the wedding feast of the Lamb.
You may or may not face this kind of journey on your life’s journey. Still, I wanted you to know that how unexpected things affect us depends largely upon our level of trust in our heavenly Father. After going through this experience, I have a rooted strength to face whatever comes my way. The intimacy that I know share with my Savior has bloomed into a radiant legacy of grace, brokenness, hope, joy and expectation of what Easter was meant to be. You see, Christianna is more alive today than ever! I am in the process of dying in this world as is everyone reading this. She walks with Jesus and dances on rainbows.
Today, we continue to celebrate her life within our family and close circle of friends. "Christianna Joy" means, she who walks with Christ with joy. Boy I wish I could peek into Heaven this Easter and see just a second of what that worship service looks like. Because we who are found in Christ, his Body, are one, death cannot separate us as Paul tells us. I still get to be close to my daughter. Every time I enter the sacredness of worship, I know that my daughter and I are doing the same thing at the same time. As a matter of fact, worship is the only thing I can do with her until we meet in Glory.
I've heard people say many times that God never gives you more than you can handle. That is a lie. If we could handle it, there would be no need for God, no need for grace, no need for the empty tomb. This Easter, remember you can not handle what life throws at you. Rejoice, Jesus can and will. Trust. I have discovered that He is everything He claims to be and so much more. So much more.
(This blog post is a selection from the book "Flipping Missions" that I co-authored with my good friend Tony Myles. To check the book out you can click the following link: https://www.leadertreks.org/store/flipping-missions/ )