Introduction by Dr. Judi Jackson
Associate Dean of Students and Coordinator of Women’s Programs
Below is the second article in our series of stories written by NOBTS students who completed the recent course “Expanding Your Women’s Ministry through Writing” during Red Carpet Week last May.
When I met the author, Melinda Hendrix, earlier this year, my heart ached over the tragedy that had pierced her family. Yet, even as we talked briefly before a class, I sensed an incredible peace that was the result of a broken woman seeking God’s hand and heart. In light of the recent passing of beloved NOBTS professor John Gibson, I felt that Melinda’s words of hope would point us to God’s promises at a time we need it most!
Melinda Hendrix is a student in the Graduate Certificate program in Women’s Ministry. She serves as Women’s Ministry Coordinator at Broadmoor Baptist Church In Madison, Mississippi.
Bitter or Better? My Journey through Pain
By Melinda Hendrix
Has life ever knocked you down? Have you experienced a faith-shaking event? How deeply do you trust God when circumstances seem overwhelming? If I had been asked those questions seventeen years ago, my response would have been much like Peter’s in Matthew 26:33, “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.” But God knew my shortcomings. He knew when tested I would fail, just like Peter. The gift He gave Peter, He also gave me and I will be forever grateful. By allowing me to see my own weakness, He taught me how to truly trust in Him.
On Mother’s Day, May 13, 2007, my youngest son, Tait, was injured on a soccer field. He had broken the L5 vertebrae in his back. For several months we prayed for God’s healing. But God chose not to heal. I realize now, when the decision was made to have the necessary surgery, my attitude began to change. Through the surgery and the long months of recovery I became very bitter and angry with God. Did He not know how faithful I had been? Did He not understand that sports were Tait’s passion? How could He do this to my son, to our family? What was God thinking?
It was there in the depths of my despair that God spoke. Not audibly but in my heart. The pain and bitterness I was experiencing were meant to get my attention. God wanted me to see that my faith had become stagnant and I was not as deeply rooted as I thought. I was not growing spiritually. That is not what God has planned for me or for you. We are to be diligently seeking Him and allowing Him to shape us into His likeness. Second Peter 1:10 states, “…for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble.” Well, not only did I stumble, I fell completely off the path. Bitterness will do that to you and Satan loves it.
The lessons God taught me were hard and uncomfortable. He showed me that when life is good, trust is easy. But when trials come and your faith is tested, being rooted deeply in God’s Word and His promises will give you sure footing. While I knew much about the Bible and had been faithful to my occasional Bible Studies, to grow spiritually I needed consistency. I needed to be diligent and intentional, studying God’s Word and not merely reading it. I am so thankful that God’s love allowed me to experience the devastating pain of failure, to see how weak my faith had become, and then, to encourage me to pursue Him passionately. Just like Peter, who wept bitterly over his failure, was able to rise up and speak God’s Word with all confidence and boldness I, too, was determined to stand firmly on Christ.
I began in Genesis and soon discovered that by studying the Old Testament I was coming to know God like never before. I caught a glimpse of His heart, His holy character, His passion, His faithfulness to keep His Word and how He works in the lives of mankind. Spending time in God’s Word and with Him in prayer, I began to grow spiritually in ways I had not imagined. My life began to be firmly planted in my relationship with Him. Through the pain of my failure, He redirected my path for He knew what lie in my future.
In the early hours of June 4, 2014, Tait, at the age of twenty-seven, was killed in a motorcycle accident. It was the worst day of my life. When the policeman knocked on the door to notify me Tait’s bike had been discovered, the first thing that came to mind was Job 1:21, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” My tears seemed endless, yet God had given me peace. I remember praying for reassurance that God was in control, that Tait was with Him enjoying life, and that He would give me the strength to walk in such a way that He would receive glory.
Desperately needing to feel God’s touch, I began to look for Him. I needed the reassurance that He was there with me at the point of my deepest pain. I was not angry with God, for Psalm 139:16 says, “…all the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” Believing God’s Word, I knew this was not a surprise to God. I also knew God loved me. As I walked through the accident scene, I realized what God did for me. Tait lost control of his bike while crossing the dam on the lake where we live. God spared me the anguish of not knowing what had happened to him with the quick discovery of the accident and the location. Because his body was thrown into lake, the search and recovery team was called to the scene. They spent much of the day diving for his body attracting the attention of the media and onlookers. But God had hidden his body and no pictures surfaced on social media or the nightly news.
In the hours I spent awaiting news of recovery, I was able to recall meaningful conversations and beautiful memories Tait and I had shared. I remembered a letter he had written to me three years earlier for Mother’s Day. He preferred to share his feelings in written form rather than face to face. It was a wonderful gift. He expressed his love for God and how he had grown spiritually through a devastating disappointment in his life. He thanked me for the example I had been in his life and how much he loved me. At the time, I was overjoyed that he was walking with the Lord and growing. But now, as I read the letter, I saw even more. He stated it to be a letter of reassurance, exactly what I had prayed for. But even more astounding were these words Tait had written, “…if I live to be 27 or 127 I am happy and know in my heart I am doing what God has planned for me.” Immediately, I recognized that God had been at work three years ago. God knew I would need tangible evidence and He had prepared it ahead of time.
The day of the burial was rainy and wet, quite messy outside but, as we left the house and crossed the dam, the rain stopped and a beautiful double rainbow appeared. It remained visible all the way to the cemetery. God was showing Himself faithful to me. I could go on and on describing God’s tender touch in countless ways but the fact remains, He knew this day would come and He had answered my prayer. While my heart was heavy with loss, my faith was intact and solid, praising God for the life of my son and the time I had been given. Bitter? Not this time. Better? Absolutely, for I know my God and I trust Him completely.