Shock, Heartbreak, Comfort, and Blessings by: Jennifer Acker

Just two weeks ago there was a conference in Anaheim, CA. This was the 6th year of the conference and I have been excited to attend every year. I had planned to miss the conference this year due to my job change, however, the unexpected happened. I received a call from a former colleague and she said the person who was supposed to attend the conference from her organization had a family emergency, and could not attend.  She wanted to know if I could attend in his place.  She wanted to know if the conference would help me in my new role at the church (yes, absolutely!).  Airfare, hotel, and registration were all covered, I just needed to say yes.

Shock! I had mixed emotions. What incredible heartbreak that the other person had such a serious family emergency and at the same time, what an incredible opportunity I was being offered! What did I do? I graciously said yes. Four days after that phone call, I hopped on a plane and headed to California. What a blessing!

Shock. I made it to California, but my luggage did not. I have heard about it happening to other people, but this is the first time it had happened to me. I tried to stay upbeat and remind myself that little things like this are just an inconvenience and should not ruin my day.  It got harder as my bag approached the 36 hour mark of being missing.

At the conference, I attended a 3-day pre-conference training on a wonderful parenting curriculum (which was led by two of my friends). I was so thrilled to be there and spend that valuable time with them…soaking in all that knowledge to bring back to the families here at church. I was comforted that they were so welcoming as I wore whatever outfit I could throw together at Walmart at 6am before the training (thinking my bag would be delivered overnight as the airline had said).

Comfort! My bag arrived, the days went on, the conference was great, and it was wonderful to see all of my colleagues and friends from my former profession. It was a blessing to be there. I gained valuable information to bring back to the Children’s Ministry and I was making plans on how to implement the new ideas.

Shock. On the 5th day of the 6-day conference, from my hotel balcony, I could see my friend (who just led the 3-day training) being loaded into an ambulance.  I could see his wife climbing into the front seat of the ambulance. What happened? Heartbreak.

The people who attend this conference each year are like family to one another. They rallied around his wife and provided comfort and support as she awaited test results and visits with doctors. They prayed with her, hugged her, and loved her. I had the honor of sitting with her for a few hours through the night as she waited for her family to arrive. She shared fun stories of the two of them as well as some of their favorite pieces of scripture. This particular passage has not left my mind since she shared it:

Philippians 4:4-9
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with Thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praise-worthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me –put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Shock.  That she can focus on such powerfully positive words at a heartbreaking time like this. Comfort. The amazing comfort this scripture brings and how it describes this incredible couple perfectly.

Heartbreak. I received a message from her around 6am the next morning saying that her husband had passed away. My first reaction was shock that they had come together to this conference, and heartbreak that she would go home alone. But I was wrong, she would NOT be alone. The ultimate comfort is that she has her incredible faith in God, her dependence on Jesus, her comfort in the scripture, her village of friends, colleagues, and family.  We will all miss him, she will miss him most. We will all carry on her husband’s wonderful teachings to the families we meet, we will carry on his spirit, his faith in God, and his desire to make this world an incredible place for every single family. He was a blessing to this world.

After that shock and heartbreak, I have read that piece of scripture almost daily for two weeks and found incredible comfort.

I am so thankful that I did not let my lost luggage ruin my day earlier that week, because, while it was a shock, it was nowhere near the shock of what was to come. The shock of her losing her husband, the field of marriage and parenting education losing an incredible man, and the rest of us losing a great friend is heartbreaking. And yet, the scripture helps to comfort the heartbreak.

I encourage you to read that scripture passage frequently, let it be your guide, let it be your reminder, let it help center your perspective on the things that happen each day. My friend used to say “what you focus on will grow.” He always encouraged parents and spouses to focus more on the positive things with your significant other and your children so that those positives would increase and the negatives would decrease. What a comforting outlook to have in this world.

Let’s focus on the positives and the blessings and let’s help them grow!


Photo by: Ian Schneider

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