PROSSER – Despite a life-changing realization that helped her deal with her husband’s death, Tanja Gorham said she still has times when she forgets to place her trust in God.
“All I did for close to a year (after her husband’s death) was sit in a chair reading and watching Turner Classic movies,” said Gorham, the guest speaker at the Lower Valley Christian Women’s Connection monthly meeting in Prosser earlier this week.
“I finally asked God what he wanted me to do that I wasn’t already doing, which was a laugh, since I wasn’t doing anything.
“I figured I would end up ministering to women who were suffering what I suffered. But no group of women showed up at my door asking for help.”
Gorham said she had forgotten the lesson that she learned as her husband succumbed to multiple sclerosis. God is sovereign, and what happens is His plan. She said that sometimes we cannot understand the plan, but we need to learn to accept it.
Gorham said she grew up in the small town of Summerville, Ore. and was introduced to God when an after-school Bible club came to town.
“My parents didn’t go to church,” she said. “All I knew about Jesus was a baby in a manger.”
She said she clearly remembers the first day she attended a club meeting. She said she learned for the first time about God and sin, and learned how to accept Jesus into her heart and be saved.
Her faith helped lead her family, including her parents, to God as well. When she was a teenager, her family moved to Chicago, where finding a Christian club helped her get through the transition from small town to big city.
But she turned away from God as she grew older. She returned to her hometown and married. Both she and her husband were not religious. But when her sons were born, she felt they needed to experience church.
“I asked God to forgive my waywardness and sin, and he did,” she said.
In 1985 her husband was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. After reading a book on the disease, she said she felt angry and betrayed.
“I was angry at God and very afraid,” she said. “I want to fix things. But there’s no fix for M.S.”
She started to plan for how her family would survive if the worst happened to her husband, but left God out of it. But then her life got worse.
“That same year I started to have trouble breathing,” she said. “I found out I had a sack of fluid near my lungs, a pleural effusion. I got even more angry, thinking how if Darrell became too sick, I wouldn’t be able to take care of my children.”
In her despair, she finally turned back to God and felt some relief.
“God was waiting until I got to the end of my rope,” she said. “It’s sad He has to wait until we get there before we turn back and ask for help.”
The pleural effusion drained away gradually, but she still felt anger that she was losing her husband to a debilitating disease.
“I clearly remember the day I came to grips with it,” she said. “I don’t remember a lot at my age, but I remember being saved, I remember the day of Darrell’s diagnosis and I remember the day I accepted what was happening.”
She described reading a story about a pastor and his son hiking in the mountains. The son fell to his death, and the pastor turned away from God. Eventually, however, the pastor remembered that God is sovereign, and accepted his son’s tragic death as part of God’s plan.
“I knew I had to accept God’s plan for Darrell and I,” she said. “I laid my anger at God’s feet, and peace and joy came to me.”
She described her husband’s slow death as multiple sclerosis took its toll on his body.
“We could no longer sit on the couch and cuddle,” she said. “We couldn’t walk on the beach or go camping. I could not even get a hug. The man that God had given me to be my husband could not move his arms enough to hug me.”
She found solace in worship, reading scriptures and song. She said that when worshipping, the focus is on God instead of our own problems.
Gorham said as she planned for her husband’s death, she thought through every detail of the memorial, who would be notified, even what building to hold it in. But she didn’t make any plans for what she would do after his death.
She assumed God would call her to help others, but it didn’t happen the way she expected it to happen. Instead of hordes of women needing her help showing up at her door, it was through getting back into her normal life that she was able to help others.
She said she found her calling in being available, talking with people and, most importantly, listening to them in a non-judgmental way. She said simply going on and living her life helped her find people who needed help and to be the shoulder they leaned on.
“Having God make a difference in your life doesn’t mean everything is going to be good and hunky dory,” she said. “It means He will be there to carry us through the tough times. If you need help, it’s as simple as asking.”