In times of suffering you flee from what brings pain and run to what brings comfort. Suffering, in a way, shows us the core of who we are, where our hope is and where we find security.
This Wednesday, February 27th, marks the 1-year anniversary of my brother, Samuel Ray Sinclair, being diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). I remember exactly where I was when I received the news. My heart sank and my thoughts immediately went to how I could best love and support my brother in this moment. I quickly called him and tried to be the supporting and loving sister that I know he needed, wishing I could be next to him in Houston. Wishing I could be present. I remember affirming him in our shared hoped in the Lord and that God would only bring this upon Sam to lead others to come to know him. Sam agreed, as tears streamed down his face in fear of the unknown. Little did I know how much God would do in the next 72 hours in order to bring glory to His name.
Sam was quickly rushed to M.D. Anderson in Houston, where they started on chemotherapy and a multitude of tests to determine the best treatment plan. It wasn’t long after, that literally hundreds of people started to arrive at the hospital. Sam was one of the most well connected people. His passion for relationships and loving on people is far more than I can ever or will ever know. They were there to be present with him during this time of suffering. I remember calling him again the next day and laughter and joy were in his speech. He was loved on so much by his friends and my parents who were constantly there with him.
Friday morning, March 1st, Sam complained of a severe headache and was quickly rushed to receive a CAT scan of his brain. Shortly thereafter he slipped into a coma, induced by a brain bleed. Mom and dad rushed to the hospital and soon called with the news.
I was stricken with fear of the unknown. “This can’t be happening”, I thought to myself. Immediately, I pleaded with the Lord to work a miracle. Not knowing any specifics or what was going to happen, my husband, JT, and I hit our knees in prayer. We got on the first plane out of Louisville and my other brothers, Chris and Charlie, also got on the first plane to Houston from their respective cities.
The entire way traveling to Houston I couldn’t stop listening to piano hymns while reading Psalms. I started with the first chapter and just read and read and read. I knew nothing could bring more clarity or comfort.
After arriving to the hospital, we quickly realized that Sam’s condition was irreversible. He was going to die. We gathered around in his bed, sang hymns, shared memories, talked to him, wept in anguish and prayed. I’ve never experienced such utter pain in my life. It didn’t even feel real. I held his warm, strong hand and pleaded with him to get up. We all did.
At 11:10pm on Friday, March 1st, 2012, my brother Samuel Ray Sinclair, age 31, passed away. The Lord had kept Sam stable just long enough for us all to be together as a family and have a few hours together. Oh, how sweet the Lord is. Even in those moments of gut-wrenching pain, I could see God’s grace.
It was gracious for Him to give us time together as a family. It was gracious for Him to allow my parents to be with him the last 48 hours of his life. It was gracious of Him to surround Sam with hundreds of friends. It was gracious of Him to save my brother from his sins!
As we left the hospital that night and in the days after, I remember repeating to myself over and over, “God is in control. God is in control. He is our only hope.” I just couldn’t wrap my mind around what was happening or going on, but that is the truth I had to cling to. I remember asking my closets friends, “Please pray for joy among the saints as we rejoice at the grace of God in my brothers life. May God grant us peace and grace to face the days ahead.”
This was and is my hope: Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again.
Christ will one day return and he will speak the same words we spoke, “Sam, get up!” and Sam will rise! Oh, that I will be able to see him again!
The suffering of losing my brother has reminded me of my depravity and the certainty of sin’s curse – death. I hate death. I hate the pain and despair it brings. But for me, it does not stop there. I know where I place my hope and in whom I am secure. Christ will come again and restore all things and that is the day that I long for. But until then, I press on and run the race God has laid before me. That I might make much of Him and glorify Him in all that I do so that others may come to know Him.
This past year has been one of much heartache and joy. I never knew how much I’d need my husband, our church, our friends, and our family. They have surrounded me, poured love out on me, been present with me, and prayed for me. Suffering really is meant to be shared among community. They have prayed for the peace of God which surpasses all understanding to guarded my heart in Christ. It has.
The pain is not gone and at times, Sam’s death doesn’t feel real. But the one thing I know is real is my constant comfort and hope.
Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again.
“What was lost, God will restore.” – John Piper