To Honor Debora Bunch
A week ago today, our church family lost a great woman, Debora Bunch. She was our youth pastor’s wife and a dear friend to many, many people. After battling Leukemia for several years and exhausting pretty much all of her other options, she got a bone marrow transplant in March of 2010. Though she was declared “cancer-free” after the transplant, she experienced serious complications after the procedure, one being Graft- versus-Host Disease. Her fight to live and her family’s God-given strength drew our church family and community together in an amazing way. Through lots of ups and downs, this family (and everyone watching them) continued to ask God for Debora’s healing and waited, with great hope, on a miraculous turnaround. Hospice was called in two months ago, but I (and most other people, it seems) was still believing with all my heart that things were going to improve and she would live. My mom called me very upset last Thursday with the news that Debora had died. I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. I was shocked. And crushed.
This news began a flood of tears, emotion, and thought that has gone all over the place in the last week. I have to admit that I was very disappointed and even frustrated. Things like this always arouse questions… Really God? After ALL of this struggle over the past three years….this is how it ends? Why wasn’t she healed on THIS side?? And while I’m asking, tell me again why so many cold-hearted, hateful people survive illnesses and live to be old while so many genuine, good-hearted people die young?? It’s in vulnerable moments like these that our enemy is quick to whisper accusations against God into our ears. Thankfully, in God’s incredible timing, Thursday, January 31st was day 21 of our church’s corporate fast (which I see as VERY significant to the timing of Debora’s home-going). Because it was the end of the fast, a worship service had already been planned for Thursday evening. I went to the service, and wow, it was exactly what my heart needed that night. So many of us just sat and cried in God’s presence as the worship lingered. It was a heavy but also sweet atmosphere.
Debora’s death has stirred a lot of memories. One that has come back to my mind is something Darin (her husband) shared about four or five years ago. He was speaking to our young adult small group about difficult circumstances and things in our lives that we don’t understand. He told us how he had had to wrestle with a lot of things during his and Debora’s journey, one being the possibility that she could die. He said that he had made the decision that no matter what the final outcome was for Debora’s story, he was going to walk forward with God and continue trusting Him. He then made it personal for each of us by encouraging us to get alone with God about our own “big things” – the things that we hold dearer than anything else, the things we’ve hoped and prayed for for years, the things we dream over. He, in so many words, told us that we have to settle in our hearts that we will still fully trust God and continue to walk with Him even if these things that are very precious to us don’t turn out the way we wanted. Wow. I could hardly hold back my tears as he spoke. It’s one thing to be moved as you watch someone else lay their heart’s desires on the altar… It’s quite another to release your own to the Lord. We all have things that we’ve wept over, prayed for, and dreamed about. So his words cut right to the heart. I’ve never forgotten what he said. Hearing him share this and knowing what was at stake in his own life challenged me in a deep way to allow God to do this in my own heart.
Watching the Bunch family (not only Darin and Debora, but also Acen, Davia, and Caedmon) as they’ve journeyed through something so difficult and scary has been truly amazing. There is no other explanation for the grace and strength upon their lives except the supernatural presence of God. Darin has continued to minister over the last three years, and there has been such an anointing on his speaking. I’m seeing more and more that there is a reason for the strong anointing on people’s lives…and there is a price for it, too. One thing a horrible situation will do is refine you, if you allow it. Darin’s ministry to others is living proof of that. He has allowed the fire to refine and purify him rather than growing bitter. A scripture comes to mind…Psalm 4:1. Some versions read “Thou hast enlarged me in my distress.” Another one puts it “In pressure thou hast enlarged me.” I heard Lance Wallnau speak on this scripture, and it SO applies to the Bunchs’ story. Difficult, uncomfortable circumstances enlarge our capacity to love, our hunger for God, our sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, our anointing, our compassion for others, our value for what’s real, on and on and on. The picture I see in my mind when I hear this scripture is a balloon being blown up and how it looks as it gets bigger. I see us becoming like that in the Spirit when we choose to worship, to trust, to submit to God during painful seasons of life. This scripture has come to my mind several times as I’ve thought about Darin over the last week.
Debora’s service on Monday night was yet another unbelievable part of this story. There were about a thousand people there, and the atmosphere was so worshipful and full of hope, even in the midst of heavy hearts. To hear Debora’s children and husband speak at her service was amazing. My mom and I were talking about it later, and she said that there were definitely a lot of godly men in that service, but God has really used Darin to raise the bar for how a husband can love his wife – in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, through thick and thin. I totally agree with her. I see God calling each of us higher. This was definitely the first time I’ve seen a husband as the main speaker for his wife’s service. WOW. Again, it just points to how big God is and how powerfully He manifests Himself in lives that are totally surrendered to Him. Below is the link to her service:
In one of Joyce Meyer’s messages, she says that trust requires unanswered questions. This is so very true. And it’s okay to have questions. But we can’t hold God hostage to our questions, demanding answers before we’ll trust Him or give our hearts to Him. This is the root of a lot of the supposed atheism in our world – unanswered questions, horrible disappointment, or circumstances that can’t be understood. People harbor bitterness and anger in their hearts against God because of their unanswered questions, when they’re really only hurting themselves by responding this way. What has cynicism ever done for anyone?? Instead, we’ve got to run to God with our pain and questions and ask God to keep our hearts pure in the process. I mean, honestly, either way (with God or without God), we’re going to have pain in life. There’s no way around it. And as one of my favorite speakers, Tracy Stewart, has said, “I’m going to make my pain work for me!”
I’m reminded of one of the best lines from The Chronicles of Narnia. They are wondering about this lion, Aslan, and ask, “Is he safe?” “No,” they’re told, “but he is good.”