I think it’s safe to say that we all like to start each new year off on a positive note. We tend to see it as a time to start over, set new goals, have a new perspective, and do everything we can to have a great year. That’s the idea, at least.

For my family, the year started off as anything but. My 51-year-old uncle, Greg, was fighting the battle of his life. Cancer had taken over his body for the third time in just seven years. Everything that could have possibly gone wrong did. One issue after another caused a forced, long-term hospital stay. At the beginning, we were hopeful that he would just be in there for a few days. As days turned to weeks, and the weeks turned to months, it was an emotional roller coaster that I wouldn’t wish on anyone’s family.

Greg was the spiritual glue of our family. He was intelligent, wise, kind and loving. He had a great impact on every person that ever came into contact with him. He lived and loved in a way that all of us Christians want to strive for. I think it’s safe to say that we all desperately wanted a miracle for Greg.

It would have been easy for our family to lose hope, question God, or even be angry at him for not healing Greg. As the weeks dragged on, and Greg’s body grew weaker, our faith did not. We remained steadfast, clinging to the Lord with every fiber of our being. We knew that God could touch and heal Greg at any second if he chose to. Though he didn’t, we continued to trust in his perfect plan. We knew that, even though the pain and suffering seemed so unnecessary at the time, it was all going to be used for his glory. We trusted that, even if God chose not to heal him here on this side of heaven, an eternal healing would be coming.

I was in constant awe of how my family showed their faith in action, admiring their attitude, strength and continuous trust. Although I knew that everyone that was in God’s plan, and I knew there was a purpose for this storm we were in, I found myself questioning God. “Why would you allow this suffering and anguish to continue for so long?” Begging and pleading became part of my daily routine. I couldn’t stand to see my uncle like that for another second. Yet, every week, we would go to the hospital to see him and his faithful, loving, God-fearing wife by his side, loving him like Jesus does. She was not only Greg’s rock — she quickly became ours. Never in my life have I seen a woman with such courage, strength and commitment to her husband and to the Lord as my Aunt Tanya. From day one to day 60, she showed us what it looked like to go through the darkest trenches and lowest valleys with grace, courage, strength, love and unending devotion, both to her husband and to her Savior.

We could all take a page from her book. She could teach us all a lesson in what it looks like to trust God through all trials and triumphs. No matter what circumstances life throws your way, cling to him. Trust in his plan and open your eyes to the things he is trying to teach you.

Our entire family was surrounding Greg, singing worship music, celebrating his life as he took his last breath. What was easily the hardest day in most of our lives was the best day of his.

We can celebrate today knowing that my uncle is in paradise, sitting beside the One he has worshiped for most of his life, free from the pain and the suffering and the hardships of this life.

We long for the day until we can see Greg face to face again, but until then, we will trust the Lord in all things, knowing that every single second of pain and suffering was for a purpose.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
— 1 Peter 1:6–9

Suffering and hardships are inevitable. Believers and non-believers go through many of the same storms of life. The difference for the Christian is not the absence of the storm, but the presence of the Savior.