In the year leading up to Justin’s death, I prayed many prayers for him. He was a troubled young man trying to find his way in a world that had left him fatherless and searching for an identity that would make him feel complete. Justin knew Jesus. He struggled every week with his mental illness and angry thoughts. He knelt at the altar and honestly reflected on and shared his pain.
It is almost impossible to imagine the pain of losing a child suddenly and traumatically the way most of us have. Yet, with Justin watching him self-destruct up close and personal, and fighting for every inch of his life was almost worse. I remember walking into church in October 2004. I was weary, we had just spent a week unraveling the mess of having to pick him up from the police for breaking curfew. We would learn that week that he had been sneaking out regularly, experimenting with alcohol and prescription medication all trying to turn off his mind. He sat shaking violently as tears were streaming down his face.
“Momma, I need help. I can’t do this anymore.”
It broke my heart. We had been hoping to get him help sooner, but he had been adamant. He didn’t want to be medicated or otherwise labeled as defective. He pretended to be normal while his life spun vigorously out of control. As I felt the tears stinging my eyes that day in church I said, “I don’t even know what to ask for anymore. Would you just pray for my son?”
A few hours later, my friend – and Pastor’s wife – came rushing up to me at the evening service. She thrust a paper in front of me and said, “Michelle, God has given me a word for Justin – It’s continue. You know, like Philippians 1:6 – God will continue the good work He began in him at salvation.”
We immediately went to the prayer room and knelt there hands tightly clasped praying for my prodigal son. We looked up ten or so Scriptures that we prayed over her adult prodigal and my teenage one. All had the word continue in them. We prayed hard, we prayed often, and we prayed believing. His life began to improve.
After the New Year rolled around and 2005 came in full swing, those prayers came more feverishly and more often. Our cry to God became more desperate. My son’s life began to spin again, first slowly and then into full blown mental, emotional and social issues that threatened to destroy my marriage and our family. It was more than I could take. I would lay on my bed at night and weep to the Lord – Crying out in anguish over my child. I would go to Justin in the night to lay hands on him and pray. I had him on prayer chain after prayer chain, as well as in the counsel and company of godly men. I searched Scripture and held fast. Then one night, as we concluded an exercise at Bible study where we were supposed to write our most ardent prayer request on an index card a revelation and a release came.
The instructions were to write out the request, hold it up to heaven and instead of continuing to pray that request over and over again, thank God for the answer by faith instead. I started that night and continued throughout the next few months. That day, as I made my way to the hospital certain of very little except that I needed God’s strength and peace to face whatever lay ahead I found myself praising God for little things… That my son was alive when I got to the hospital, for a family and church that loved us so, that God would ultimately have mercy on my son and provide the peace I would need to carry on. When he died I found myself praising God and thanking Him for the 17 years of life we had with him. My soul finds rest in God alone… He is my hope, my strength and my song.