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By Evelyn Burt
I became a widow on January 27, 2014, when my husband, Bob, passed away from cancer. Becoming a widow isn’t something you anticipate as you plan your life. But God, who knows all and does all things well, knows how to take care of us in every situation.

In 2006 Bob had just been promoted to Chief of Navy Chaplains, the highest position one can achieve as a chaplain in the Navy. It was a huge promotion; he had become a Rear Admiral! We had raised two beautiful daughters, Lisa and Leanne, who blessed us with two great sons-in-law, five wonderful grandchildren, and one precious great granddaughter.

When Bob, always the picture of health, went in for his annual physical, we were surprised that the doctor wanted to run more tests. We were even more surprised at the doctor’s report: Bob was in Stage 2 of multiple myeloma. The cancer had already affected 65 percent of his bone marrow without a single symptom! It was one of the most surreal moments of my life.

We were in Newport, Rhode Island, visiting a chaplain school the day we received the doctor’s call. The sun was warm, the weather perfect. I looked at Bob and saw a picture of health. How could this be a correct diagnosis?

We strolled along the Cliff Walk beside the ocean and tried to digest the news. Thoughts, mostly of disbelief, raced through our minds. Before long we headed back to our room to call our parents and our daughters who were anxiously awaiting the results.

I remember asking God for strength as Bob had asked me to make the calls. With each phone call I felt reinforced with God’s grace and peace. Because the news seemed so hard to believe, I did not cry; I just felt numb.

Bob and Evelyn in 2013.

Bob and Evelyn in 2013.

As I lay in bed that night, my mind began playing out the worst case scenarios. (Isn’t that what we typically do when we receive bad news?) Tears began to trickle down to my ears.

Suddenly I sensed God speaking to my spirit, “Evelyn, what are you trying to do? You are trying to figure out the end of My plan and that is not for you to know. Your job is to trust Me. This is going to be a test of your faith. This cancer is not about you or about Bob; it is about My glory!”

The word “test” brought an instant response. “I don’t do well with tests, Lord,” I said.

He reminded me of the time He supplied the Israelites with manna. They were instructed to gather only what they needed for that day. “This is how My grace and strength is going to be supplied to you: one day at a time,” He told me.

He went on to say that He had entrusted Bob and me with this journey. When someone entrusts you with something, it totally changes your perspective. God did not put this journey on us, but He did entrust us with it. Wow!

I reminded myself that Bob was a gift to me from God, and that night I gave Bob back to Him. I truly wanted to pass this test to honor God. I told Him if He would receive more glory by taking Bob home to be with Him, I would accept that; however, my prayer was that His plan would be for us to enjoy a long life together. I also promised that with His help and strength, I would not allow myself to focus on all the “what ifs.” Rather, I would turn my thoughts back to Him and His promises that He would see me through this journey. The incredible peace and confidence I had in God was nothing less than supernatural.

Bob was prepped for a stem-cell transplant with several rounds of chemo and many, many prayers. The doctors and nurses were amazed at how well he did. It was like a miracle to us.

Bob was able to stay in the Navy and finish out his final tour of duty as Chief of Chaplains, completing 36 years of active duty. We had the opportunity to travel as he was sent to visit many of the Navy’s duty stations throughout the world. His health was restored, life was good, and we were blessed!

Bob with his great granddaughter, Jaiden, whom he absolutely adored.

Bob with his great granddaughter, Jaiden, whom he absolutely adored.

I honestly thought that first round of cancer and the stem-cell transplant was a once-in-a-lifetime event. For the next six years cancer was the furthest thing from our minds. I believed we had passed our “test of faith” and it was a “done deal.” God had used us as an example of what it means to live out our faith when things don’t go the way we want. Bob was in a position of leadership and high visibility, and we were giving God all the glory. We believed we had received a miracle.

However, about two years after Bob retired, the cancer returned. The news hit us like a shockwave. Once again our faith was tested. God reminded me of our conversation when Bob was first diagnosed. God was still promising to see us through this journey, and His strength and peace were still there for the taking.

As Bob underwent radiation, more chemo, and a second stem-cell transplant, God blessed us with His amazing peace and inner strength. We had a few months of maintenance treatment and then in May of 2013 we learned the cancer was again taking hold of Bob’s body.

Bob put up a valiant fight, but we both agreed that we were in the all-knowing hands of a gracious God and He was using our lives for His glory. We did not feel defeated or discouraged. We were confident that God had a plan that was greater than our vision, and we trusted Him.

Several times during the last days of this journey I felt I had come to the end of my strength, and I had, but God reached down and supplied the strength I needed. One day I happened to be at the hospital by Bob’s bed when I was handed the results from a recent test. I suddenly felt very alone – even afraid – as I tried to interpret the narrative portion of the test. The words “innumerable spots of cancer” stood out.

Tears flowed and I ran out into the hallway crying out to God, “You promised You would not put me through more than I can bear, and this is more!”

I felt like my whole being would collapse. Then in my mind’s eye I saw myself standing at a “T” in the road. A sign pointing to the right said, “My peace and My strength.” The sign pointing left said, “Your emotions, tears, headache, swollen eyes, and despair.”

God was giving me the opportunity to choose which way I should go. Everything within me cried out to follow my emotions. However, God reminded me that He had given me peace and strength for this journey. I could choose to continue to walk with Him by faith or go with my emotions.

I had to make a conscious effort to follow God’s direction. Although it went against the very grain of my emotions, I knew I could continue to experience His peace and strength or I could follow my feelings and end up in a mess!

As I cried out to God to help me, I felt His presence reach out to me, saying, “Let’s go. I will carry you.”

Evelyn Burt at Bob’s resting place.

Evelyn Burt at Bob’s resting place.

At that moment God took me by the hand and He has never let go. He carried me right over the top of what I call the “slippery slope of sorrow,” so easy to slide into and so very difficult
to escape.

During the days preceding and shortly after Bob passed, Open Bible President Randall Bach regularly phoned to check in on us. I shared with him that I was feeling guilty. I wasn’t experiencing the kind of deep grieving I expected to have and couldn’t understand why. He quickly assured me that I never have to feel guilty about a gift God has given me!

I realized God had performed a miracle in my life. He had promised to be my strength and peace during this journey, and He was keeping His Word. My response was not natural; it had to have been the Lord. That doesn’t mean I didn’t shed tears or feel sad because I certainly did, but those moments were brief. Then I drew on God’s promised strength and was able to move on. He still carries me daily and my heart is full of gratitude!

As my son-in-law so aptly said, “Bob received his final orders for heaven,” and my husband was not one to turn down orders! I believe God is not finished with me, and I want to complete the plans He had for me when He created me. I choose the joy of victory instead of the grief of defeat!

A Burt family gathering.

A Burt family gathering.

I believe in divine healing, but often healing comes through the God-given wisdom of doctors providing medicine and treatment. The most perfect healing comes when we leave our earthly bodies and put on our new, immortal bodies. Bob is enjoying the very thing most of us long for, life in heaven. Because of my faith in Jesus, one day I will be reunited with Bob and all my other loved ones that have passed on.

God has taught me so many lessons through the loss of my husband. Here are some:

Surrender to God.

God impressed upon me the importance of recognizing and returning ownership of my husband to God. Bob ultimately belonged to God. He was on loan to me.

Everyone deals with grief differently. Grief is a natural response to losing someone or something precious to us. Even Jesus experienced deep sorrow during His time on earth. Momentary meltdowns are one thing, but spending days and nights in deep, heavy sorrow day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year can be devastating not only for you, but also for those around you.

Our lives are not all about us.

They are about fulfilling God’s plan and the purposes He created for each one of us. When we acknowledge His will and purpose in our lives and release control of our own plans, we also release much of the pain and suffering we would otherwise experience.

Stand on God’s promises.

God promised He would not put me through more than what He would give me strength to bear. I promised to turn the natural, negative thoughts that came to torment my mind back to Him and His Word. God kept His promises and I kept mine!

Memorize Scripture passages.

When I lay in bed at night or during other times that my mind started to wander into thoughts that brought sadness to my heart, I deliberately began quoting passages of Scripture. This was key in turning my negative thoughts back to the One who promised to be all I needed, the One who promised He would carry me through this journey.

A passage of Scripture that became very dear to me is found in James 1:2-5 (VOICE):
Do not run from tests and hardships, brothers and sisters. As difficult as they are, you will ultimately find joy in them. If you embrace them, your faith will blossom under pressure and teach you true patience as you endure. And true patience brought on by endurance will equip you to complete the long journey and cross the finish line – mature, complete, and wanting nothing. If you do not have all the wisdom needed for this journey, then all you have to do is ask God for it; and God will grant all that you need. He gives lavishly and never scolds you for asking.

Steadily move forward.

I ask God what plans He has for my life, preparing myself to be available to do whatever He asks of me and trusting that He will supply all I need. I share my stories wherever I have an opportunity to encourage others. When we keep these blessings to ourselves, we are missing out on blessing others.

God has promised abundant life but does not force it upon us. As we learn to release all that we have into His hands and place our complete trust in His plan, we can move forward in our lives and enjoy His many blessings.

About the Author

Evelyn-Burt-250pxEvelyn Burt, an engaging and inspirational speaker, is the author of Living as a Person of Destiny, a five-week study on living with destiny and sharing God’s love. She has two married daughters, five grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

About The Author

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Since 1920, Message of the Open Bible has been a medium to celebrate all the wonderful things God is doing through His people in Open Bible Churches – from personal testimonies, to news-related stories, to inspirational articles by quality authors.