“Your wife was found– DEAD!”
The reality, shock, and pain that this news hit me with is hard to articulate. I was in my house, receiving this heart wrenching information from two policemen dressed as civilians the morning of December 26, 2003.
Just two days before, our son, David, had turned two years old on Christmas Eve. The following day, my wife went missing, only to be found the day after, dead under very traumatic circumstances. What was I to do, and what was I to believe? Where was God, and why did He not intervene? Could anything good be born out of this tragedy?
The questions are many when tragedy like this hits us. The temptation to ask the “Why?” question is strong. Why me, God? What wrong did I do to deserve this? For me, the questions were especially relevant since I had left the security and comfort of my own country (Norway) some months earlier, to move to the Philippines with my small family. We wanted to serve the Lord long-term in this beautiful country, and this is what I got – the tragic death of my wife!
By the grace of God, I did not go down the long road of demanding an answer for the “Why?” question from God. Instead, I decided to stay in the Philippines to pursue what the Lord had for me, even if I still was in deep pain and with many unanswered questions.
One thing that helped me in this process was a quote from the Lord of the Rings movie, where Frodo was sharing his heart with the wise man Gandalf. On reflecting on his own faith as a ring bearer, a call that could lead to his death, Frodo said, “I had wished this never happened to me.” Gandalf’s wise answer to Frodo was the same thing that also helped me: “That question comes to all who see times like this come their way. But it is not for them to choose. What they must choose is what they do with the times given to them.”
A time was given to me, and I embraced it! Out of my severe pain, I started to write. I wrote a eulogy for the funeral which I gave to our friends and family in Norway. Out of such pain, something was birthed, and I– the person who struggled the most in high school with essay writing– suddenly felt the call of the Lord to start to write.
Little did I know that this started a long string of events that not only led me more into the fullness of God’s call in my life (I became an author of three books in 5 years), but it was also the very thing that eventually brought me to meet my present wife, Karen.
In the midst of the darkness of my own story, God was painting a bigger picture. The bigger picture became clearer as I met and got to know Karen. In her, I found a friend and one who complemented me in a deep and profound way.
We got to know each other through an article I had written in a journal which I published. In reading the article, she felt like I was copying her own ministry brochure. It was the same message that she was spreading and teaching others about. For the first time, she was reading an article published in the Philippines, confirming the very thing God had spoken to her. She then e-mailed the publisher, thanking him for the article, and telling him that the journal confirmed her calling and the message that God had spoken to her.
That publisher happened to be me. The email from Karen led to our meeting for the first time, which was mainly about ministry. There was no love at first sight. However a spiritual attraction was definitely there, and I was excited to meet someone in the Philippines who embraced the same things that God had put in my own heart, and whom God had spoken to in a very special and personal way.
A natural friendship and ministry partnership started. In a year’s time, God started to bring us closer together. She became my editor for the books I was writing.
Prior to working together, the Lord already started to speak clearly to her that God was bringing us together for marriage. One morning, she felt that the Lord spoke to her about the Church in the Philippines. The Church was a Sleeping Beauty in need of awakening by “the kisses of the prince.” After receiving this word, she wanted to share it with someone. She felt the Lord asking her to share it with me, but she was hesitant since she felt this was very personal and we were still only acquaintances. But then she challenged the Lord and said, “If You really have destined us together, then that would mean that You have spoken the same word to him.” She then suddenly received a text from me, and she almost dropped her phone. I told her that I was in the process of writing a book entitled The Arising Bridal Generation, and one of the chapters I was writing was entitled “The kisses of His mouth.” I started the chapter with the story of Sleeping Beauty, comparing how the Church was just like Sleeping Beauty in need of the kisses of Prince Jesus to be awakened.
Karen was good in writing and had a degree in theology. I had nothing, except a message that she was also carrying. Together, we were able to better articulate the message God had given us. But more was happening. As we worked together– sometimes for whole days– a deep feeling of belonging and companionship was being birthed. I especially remember one night: we had been working the whole day together, and suddenly from the depth of my being, laughter was coming forth. Where did that come from? I wondered. I did not fully understand it, except that I was awakening to the fact that there had to be a special connection between us. Soon, I realized what was happening: love was rising in me, and God was truly bringing us together in a very amazing way– not just as friends and ministry partners, but also as husband and wife.
In the process of getting to know Karen, I also realized something: she was born on December 26, the date that had made me grieve because of my late wife’s death. The circle was complete. God had truly turned the tragedy of December 26 into something beautiful. Out of the ashes in my life, new life had been born. God knew how to turn tragedy into something beautiful.