I sang Great is Thy Faithfulness at church Sunday for the special music.  I thought about saying something before singing, but then I realized that I needed all the strength I could just to get through the song, so I decided not to.  But this is what I would have said Sunday morning if I could have preached for about 15 minutes:

If you don’t know, I lost my father to cancer when I was 12 years old.  Reflectively speaking, I think I’ve done pretty well for a person who grew up for the most part without a father.  Mostly because of my incredible mother.  But if you’ve ever lost someone close to you, you know it’s not something you ever really get over.  Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him, or wish he had been around for a certain moment in time, or thought about seeing him love his grandchildren.

So when we stood in the choir loft on Father’s Day and heard my sweet friend sing the words to the beautiful choir anthem of that day,

Worthy, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain for us, 
O what wondrous love is this!
We’ll sing Hallelujah, praise the name
Of the king who saves, with truth and grace forever more!

I cried.  I cried a lot.  Maybe wept is a better word.  I know the people in the congregation who don’t know anything about me were wondering what was wrong with the crazy redhead in the choir loft.

But it was in that moment that I realized that we were singing the beautiful words of Revelation 5:

Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”  Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”  The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped. – Revelation 5:11-14

You see, I have no doubt in my mind where my sweet daddy is now that he is gone from us.  The moment he closed his eyes in death, he opened them to Heaven.

And when we sang those beautiful words on Father’s Day, I knew I was experiencing just a small glimpse of what John saw in his visions, what my father has been seeing for 18 years, and what we will see for eternity.  Together.

So yes, I wept, because God was allowing that sweet moment to fill my heart and mind and soul, and I won’t soon forget it.  It was a reminder of his faithfulness to his promises that what we believe is true, and we will be together in the great cloud of witnesses, just not yet.

His faithfulness.

From that moment on during that day, I couldn’t get the lyrics to Great is Thy Faithfulness out of my head.  I even used them in the caption of a photo of my dad on that day.  I asked Steve if we could sing it, and both he and my mom said, “Are you sure you want to do this?  Can you make it through?”  I wasn’t sure if I could, but I knew I wanted to try.  This old hymn was my father’s favorite, and as I’ve gotten older, I can see why.

Because God’s faithfulness is not dependent on us.  And it’s a good thing it’s not.  If God’s faithfulness decreased every time ours did, there would be no point in anything that we believe.  To imagine things the way they would be if God was only as faithful as we are…what a decomposing mess we would have on our hands, with no hope in sight.

But no.  God is faithful.

It is difficult to understand God’s faithfulness in the midst of tragedy.  I’ve certainly been there.  We might think of God as less faithful when he answers prayers differently than we ask him, too.  We prayed for healing for my father, and he gave us that in pieces over 5 years of battling cancer.  Small cycles of remission, boosted energy and strength, medicine to ward off chemo symptoms.  But he still died.

It’s hard to feel God in those moments.  It’s hard to trust and believe that God is doing what we would have asked for, if we knew what he knows (paraphrasing Tim Keller, here).  It’s anger, it’s despair, and it’s pain like you’ve never felt before.

But when it was all over, God was faithful to our prayers because my father WAS healed – with a new body in Heaven.

And since then, we have seen God glorified over and over in the life and death of my father.  People who bring us stories of what he had done for them in his ministries, secrets we didn’t know he had, and precious memories of a life well lived for his family and the churches he shepherded as pastor.

If God is most glorified in death, then let it be so.  If God is most glorified in my pain, so be it.  If God is most glorified in whatever way, may I always take the backseat to his glory.

This earthly pain is temporary compared to the eternal presence of God because of this hope and faith.

If you’re wondering, it took me a while to get here.  Perhaps in my adult years I have understood these things a little more completely.  But it’s only in submerging myself below the depths of God’s grace and mercy and full belief in his character that I can see this clearly.

As Steve and I sang this yesterday, the presence of the Holy Spirit was palpable in the room.  I recounted the hurts that I knew of dear friends in the sanctuary, and I knew their hearts were crying over these words, too.  I thought about all the people sitting there who had experienced God’s faithfulness in sickness, in sadness, in lostness…and we all sang together.  Maybe not out loud, but we did.  We worshiped a mighty God who is faithful to his promises constantly, day in and day out, and he will never not be faithful.

The words are familiar, and can be sung from rote memory, just as any old hymn.  But I beg you to read them – sing them – hear them – freshly today.

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father
There is no shadow of turning with thee!
Thou changest not, thy compassions they fail not,
As thou hast been, thou forever wilt be!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To thy great faithfulness, mercy and love!

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide
Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine with ten thousand beside

Great is thy faithfulness!
Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning, new mercies I see!
All I have needed thy hand hath provided
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!