Rebekah and I met many years ago, shortly after I first moved to the US to go to university there. Neither of us could have imagined how the Lord would, over time, bind our hearts together in our love for His kingdom nor how He would use our friendship to deepen each other’s faith in Him. Seeing Rebekah and Justin worship Jesus even as their hearts were broken, was an amazing testimony to me that Jesus is truly enough. I am so humbled that she would be willing to share the story of their son’s brief life and death here on the blog today. I needed to read this interview today as I experience afresh the brokenness of this world in my life and in the life of people I deeply love. I pray the Lord uses this to strengthen your faith as well, whatever your suffering is today.
Worthy Hope–Share about you and your family:
Rebekah Kline: In 2005, a girl from Kentucky (me :), Rebekah) met a guy from Nebraska (Justin) in the Dominican Republic on a mission trip. It was love at first sight…”and the rest is history!” It has been a rich life together from the very beginning. By just our 4th year of marriage, Justin and I had moved to the hood of our city to become missionaries, had three children, and buried one.
God blessed us with two awesome little girls, Eliza Jobi and Jersie Cruz, and in 2012 we were overflowing with joy to welcome our first son to the family, Ezra Blaize. When the nurse first handed him to me, he was so beautiful that it literally knocked the b
reath out of me for a second! When Ezra was 2 months old, I was home alone with all the children while Justin was in Nebraska for the death of his grandpa. On a Sunday evening, when I went to wake up Ezra from his nap, I found that he had stopped breathing and had passed away in his sleep. No cause was ever found for his death – he was a perfectly healthy and very strong baby boy – and so it fell under the category of SIDS.
WH: Did you have a theological framework for suffering when little Ezra went Home to be with the Lord?
RK: When Ezra died, it was like the earth cracked open and darkness swallowed me up. It was the most intense sorrow I have ever known…but it was also the most intense grace I have ever known! As I’ve reflected on the darkest of those days when the pain was the most raw, I have said many times that it was THEOLOGY that kept me from drowning. I am so grateful for my rich Christian heritage which so well prepared me for this trial. (And many, many other things I could point to throughout the course of my whole life that God was using to train and prepare me for such a time as this! He is so mindful, isn’t He?!) Even in those earliest days of deep sadness, what held me up was what I knew to be true about
1. the CHARACTER of God and
2. the PROMISES of God.
My faith remained intact and unwavering, simply because I knew that He is good and He has done right by me. Somehow He was going to make this serve our great good and His great glory. During those times when I was certain that I was going under and was going to drown, I leaned hard on the truth that God in His perfect wisdom has chosen suffering to be the irreplaceable pathway to be close to Him. I had been taught that it is through the hottest fires and the deepest waters that we learn the richest things about God…and now I know it’s all true!
WH: How did your theology of suffering grow through this trial?
RK: In the ER while we waited for the outstanding team of doctors and nurses who worked so hard to revive Ezra, my dad and my brother were by my side in place of Justin who was still in Nebraska. (They also happen to be two of my pastors!) They were talking with me about heaven and eternity and the good and perfect character of God; my head was spinning. I clearly remember my thought process in that room: “Is this stuff all true?!?! I’ve been a believer for over 20 years and now I’m actually wondering if this is all real?! What I’m going to do is lean real hard on it, and if it’s not real, then it’s not going to hold me up and I’ll fall. But if it’s real, then it will hold me up.” I found out that all the things I’d been taught about God and His Word, all the things I had ever read or heard…it’s all true! I have learned that God Himself calls us to these deep waters, He is WITH US as we go through them, and He is always actively at work to bring good. We began to enter into more precious depths of who God is for us as He showed us these things.
WH: How have Jesus and the Gospel become more precious?
RK: Because of Jesus, all of God’s righteous anger toward my sin is gone, so there is nothing left in God’s heart toward me except goodness! Even THIS.
WH: How have you seen God advancing His kingdom?
RK: God has done great things through the brief life and death of Ezra Blaize. “Ezra” means “helper.” God has used him to help several see their need for Jesus and place their trust in Him! He has used Ezra to build up our faith in His grace that is sufficient for us and made perfect in weakness and to help us hold the things of this life more loosely.
“If Thou shouldst call me to resign what most I prize, it ne’er was mine; I only yield to Thee what was Thine.” (Charlotte Elliott, 1834)
To lose a child is to lose your most precious possession on this earth. But suffering cuts the cords that tie us to earth! When the Lord took Ezra, there was one less cord to fasten me to this world and another band to draw me toward heaven. I love what Charles Spurgeon said,
“Trials drive us from earth. Happy is the trouble that drives us from earth.”
WH: How did the Lord use community to sustain you?
RK: One of the sweetest ways that Jesus showed Himself to us was through His body. We were overwhelmed by the love and prayers and compassion of the body of Christ, and we knew that it was God Himself caring for us! In many ways, I understood the Incarnation more deeply than ever. Through the loss of Ezra, we experienced Jesus putting on flesh and coming to us in our need. How could we doubt the goodness of God when we saw it so clearly in His people?! Justin and I were convicted to the core by the example set for us.
I still cry to this day when I think about one of the many stories I could share about my dear friend Aylin who was given a special gift to enter into our sorrow with us and carry the heavy weight of the burden with us. The first few nights after Ezra’s death were stifling. The enemy would whisper in my ear all night long, “It’s your fault. You killed your son.” I’m not sure if Aylin was aware of this dark spiritual warfare, but I’ll never forget her text message late at night that said, “I want to keep watch with you.”
Here is a brief clip from Ezra’s funeral where Justin and I share more about God’s grace and how He is a very present help in time of need.
“My heart is broken – never to be mended – but God is enough.” (Amy Carmichael)