The story of Janelle Groff written by Mary Alysse Dodds
God will protect my family in the Middle East. Nothing will hurt us. I believed that, and then my husband was killed.
“My life is not my own,” I prayed as a youth. “I’ll sacrifice anything for you, Jesus.”
Then Jesus held me to it. Al Qaeda targeted and killed my husband. My two sons were fatherless.
Now My lofty promises felt naive, but God knew they came from the depths of my heart. He knew I’d cling desperately to Him even as I beat his chest, angry, hurt, and betrayed.
“Why didn’t you warn me, God?” My ideal of living sacrificed for Jesus was shattered. It wasn’t supposed to end this way.
Still I felt protected. In the shock, I felt overwhelming peace.
“You should feel free to remarry if I die,” Joel said amidst the sound of distant explosions. The thought paralyzed me. I abruptly ended the conversation.
But God knew this was going to happen. Joel sensed and received prophecies he would be martyred for his faith. He even warned me before we were married. Still, I thought God would physically protect us from the enemy.
Then Joel was forever with God, protected more than I could ever protect him here on earth. His death inspired the salvation of many. Hundreds of Arabs protested Joel’s death in the streets of our city. More were saved after Joel’s death than during his life.
We’d said so many times the price would be worth it. In the daily tears, the unendurable loss, I felt the eternal protection of people I loved, people worth the sacrifice.
Thankfulness shined a light. My family and church provided the support the boys and I needed. My financial needs were abundantly met. I had children, a part of Joel to stay with me. Blessing in the midst of pain.
“But why did you let this happen, God?” I felt an offensive sting when I read the Bible. I knew I needed it like cleaning a gaping wound, but it hurt like hell. “You have no idea what this feels like, God.” But I knew he could relate.
Offense and gratitude sat together. I cried every day. I wanted to face everything head on that first year. I wanted to feel all the pain and grief so I could be done with it. Every single-mom decision and need overwhelmed and exhausted me. My deep identity in being a wife was shattered.
The second year only solidified, yup, it still hurts. Grief turned to depression. I started Prozac. Like the postpartum depression, I was at the end of my rope. Had God been preparing me to shoulder the pain? Was that protection?
Grief took time. The cliche was annoyingly true. I started to embrace the reality that I was a widow, and tell people in conversation. Acceptance invited hope, hope pushed out fear and made room for confidence. Confidence in my savior, redeemer, and protector.
God had to be my husband and a father to my boys. I had to find my identity in Christ alone.
I did remarry as Joel suggested. To my surprise, I feel miraculously normal and more settled than ever before. I’m embracing being happy. But I hold it loosely because my view of protection will always be bigger than it used to be.
Janelle is a wife, mother, and homemaker. She loves music and leading worship. She and her family make prayer, missions, and the Holy Spirit a part of interacting with neighbors and everyday life. Janelle’s a sweet, deep, and steady friend.