“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” Job 13:15a
Through tears as I recount Her Story today, I can’t help but think of Job. A righteous and faithful man, one who feared the Lord yet faced what seemed to be unending and undeserved trials. And his response? “Yet will I trust Him.” There was no stopping Job’s faith, and there was no stopping hers either. Not even death itself could weaken her faith in the Lord. Though she has gone home to be with her Savior, her legacy of faith lives on and continues to impact the lives of others. Her faith has left a mark on this world; an impression that I pray never fades. Her story is told through the eyes of her best friend, Bonnie. This is her story…
Her father had always been an alcoholic. Wine was his poison. And although he knew the Lord and wanted to be free from this bondage, the drink was his weakness, his constant sin struggle. He had been raised in a German home, and his family made wine. From the young age of a child, he was surrounded by it. It was his “normal”, and it became his folly. Therefore, she was raised under this influence. There were numerous times when she and her best friend would come home to find him lying drunk on the couch, tears streaming down his face. He was bound, not only by alcohol but also by depression. Despite this controlling addiction of her father’s, she was always very involved in church and in their youth group. Although not perfect, she was a good girl. Rebellion was just not her thing. She was kind, loving, and strived to do “the right thing”, whatever that might be.
Clearly things weren’t ideal at home, but nothing could have prepared her for what was about to come crashing down into her life. When she was just 14 years old, a state patrol officer came to their house at two o’clock in the morning with news that would change their lives forever. Her older brother Bruce, who was 21 years old, had been found dead in his car. He had committed suicide. Bruce was the only one that had ever confronted her father about his alcoholism. He never left a note. He never said goodbye. She was devastated. How could this have happened? How could she have not known his inner pain? She had lived her life to this point certain of God’s love. This was the first time she ever questioned it.
This tragedy left her parents heart broken. To bury a child must be the most difficult of pains. Not only were they struggling with the loss of their son, a loss that was so sudden and so tragic, but instead of finding comfort and encouragement from their church family, they received their judgment. “This had to be God’s judgment on them for her dad’s drinking problem” seemed to be the common consensus. It caused her and her older sister Gerrie to really begin to question the church, a struggle that Gerrie carried with her until she died. The fallout from this incredibly harsh response from their church resulted in the downward spiral of not only Gerrie’s life, but her father’s as well.
The years following Bruce’s death were painful. At this point in her life, she had a relationship with Jesus, but it was before she truly understood His grace. At the age of 19, she remained involved in the church along with her mother, and they both were organizing a funeral for her best friend’s grandma. When it was time to begin cleaning up the food reception, her mother stayed, but she decided to go home early. Other than the funeral, it seemed like any other ordinary day. She pulled into the garage, went into the house, and started going about her normal routine. She went upstairs. Then, she saw it. A note on the dresser. Written in her father’s handwriting were these few words: “My brain can’t take it anymore.” Panicked, she began searching the house to find him. She went down into the basement…not there. She searched outside…not there. When she was turning around to come back inside the house, she saw him through the garage window, hanging from a rafter. How had she not seen him when she pulled into the garage earlier? It was as if God had blinded her eyes by his grace until later. She immediately called her uncle who owned an ambulance service, and he came right away. Knowing she needed to get to her mother as soon as she could, she drove back to the church where they were still cleaning up after the funeral. “Mom, you need to come with me.” There weren’t words to describe what she had just seen, so she looked at her mom and asked her this one question: “Mom, do you believe that all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord?” Her mom replied yes. Then, she told her. Dad had committed suicide.
These devastating losses in her life propelled her into a season where the pressure of picking up the broken pieces and making everything work in their home was put on her shoulders. In the midst of it all, she had two very close friends, two who never left her side. They tell her story through tears, remembering her drunken father who although racked with addiction, had such a heart for the Lord and desired to be set free from his chains. After her dad’s death, her mom moved out to Arizona to be with her family, a strong Christian family who were ready to surround them with the support and love that they all desperately needed. It was in this time of being exposed to such incredible love that she started to get a glimpse of what life in Christ was really supposed to be. Her church upbringing came with a heavy yoke of religious rules and obligations, but it was void of God’s grace and His joy. They all began to see that living a life for Christ could be full of joy and adventure. She was beginning to be set free.
She and Bonnie decided to follow her mom out to Arizona, and so they drove across the country from Ohio, deciding to begin a new chapter in their lives. Almost immediately, they got very involved with Campus Crusade for Christ and started a beautiful new life of pursuing the Lord. Coming from almost a Mennonite background, they both began to see God’s grace and His love. Up until this point, they did not know this side of their God. Only His wrath and His judgment for sin had been spoken of. Grace was like a breath of fresh air. It amazed them both to think that the God they had feared for so long had always been a God who loved them and despite their many shortcomings, pursued them with His grace. They both began to fall in love with this Jesus who was full of mercy and grace.
She was like a sponge, soaking up as much knowledge as she could. She had always been full of life and love for others, but this was more true of her now than ever before. Those first few months in Arizona proved to be a tremendous time of spiritual growth for her.
All of the pain from her past had kept the walls in place around her heart, walls that were intended to protect her from more hurt and pain. Those walls began to crumble as God began to set her heart free to pursue Him more. Even though she had every reason not to trust “the church”, she took a leap of faith and decided to get involved at a church in Arizona, and it wasn’t long before she was baptized. This was just the beginning of her genuine commitment and walk with the Lord.
She threw herself wholeheartedly into serving the church. The more she learned about the Lord, the more she wanted to know. Just a short time later, she decided to enroll in Capernwray Bible College, and once she was accepted, she could hardly wait to go. After her time spent there, she came home to Arizona and decided to apply to Dallas Theological Seminary to fill an open secretary position. As she grew in her relationship with the Lord, her desire to serve Him with her whole life grew as well. Some might say that fate led her to DTS, but it was nothing short of God’s providence and His perfect plan for her life. It was there that she met her future husband, Tom Finch.
She was in her late 20’s when she married Tom, and the only reason she waited so long was out of fear. Every man she ever loved had died, and tragically. Truly surrendering her life to Christ enabled her to give that fear to the Lord, and in that she was set free. After they married, he became a pastor, and suddenly she was a pastor’s wife. They were in New Jersey for a while serving a church there, then Indiana, and eventually God led them to Wisconsin. For someone who loved children and wanted to raise her own, it was hard for her to wait to have a family. They were married for seven years before they had their first child, a boy, and they named him Joel. She was thrilled. Although she had always wanted girls, from the first moment she laid eyes on her beautiful son, she never could have imagined it any other way. About two years later, God blessed them with a second son, Jonathan-David. This time, however, things quickly took a turn for the worst. He was born with trisomy syndrome, a chromosome disorder that took his life after only a few days. Death came crashing into her life…again. She had lost so many that she loved. How would she survive this too? It was her unwavering faith in a matchless God that rescued her in this darkest of moments. Her best friend remembers calling her after he died. Through tears, Bonnie recalls the faithful response of her grieving friend, just days after her loss: “Well, I am a pastor’s wife, and now I will be so able to sympathize with members in our congregation when they have to go through the death process.” Her love for people despite her trials was astounding. And that’s who she was. Come what may, she would be found trusting the Lord with all her heart. She had such a genuinely, beautiful heart, and that attitude of loving and serving others marked who she was in everything. If God could use her pain, she was willing to be a tool in His hands.
Well, God wasn’t finished with her yet. Over the next few years, they were blessed with two more boys, John-David and Jeremy. Three boys total. Despite the years and the distance between them, her friendship with her best friend remained. Bonnie still remembers the day, nearly six years later, that she received the call from her, relaying the most tragic news. She had colon cancer. By this time, they were in Wisconsin, pastoring a small church, and she was cleaning houses to help them make ends meat. Still, in spite of it all, even cancer didn’t weaken her faith in the Lord. She was a fighter, and fight she did. Chemotherapy and radiation was what the doctor prescribed, and the treatment seemed to have worked. Hope flooded their hearts as she went into remission for about five years.
Bonnie happened to be in Illinois at a conference around this time, and she wanted to come and visit her in Wisconsin. They worked out the details and met up for lunch. Looking back, Bonnie remembers that something was different about her friend this time. She wanted to know all about everyone, their lives, and the details. She wanted to absorb all the information that she could because she knew that this might be the last time she would see them. Although Bonnie was unaware, she knew she was sick again, and she knew how important this visit was going to be with her best friend. Bonnie had made it to Wisconsin just in time, because she and her family were packed and moving back to Arizona. Enjoying her time with her best friend, Bonnie went home, her heart full. It was just a few days later, though that she received a call from a mutual friend who told her that her dear friend who she just visited with days before was in the hospital. The cancer had returned, and it had spread to her brain. She was now back in Arizona where her mother still lived, and she courageously began the journey through another round of chemo, resulting in the loss of her hair. Her mom, who never remarried after her dad’s suicide, was by her side taking care of her every step of the way. Her sister, Gerrie, called Bonnie and told her, “If you want to see Pat while she’s still alive, you need to come right now.” They knew the end was drawing near. God in His providence provided a ticket for Bonnie, and she flew out right away. Although it had been years since she had lived in Ohio, that was where their friendship began, so Bonnie brought her little things from Ohio that she knew she would love. Bonnie remembers her mother meeting her at the door when she arrived. Bonnie asked her through tears, “How are you doing it? You’ve lost so many.” Her mother’s simple reply was, “God is good. He knows what He’s doing.” In that moment, it was so clear to see how her mom’s faith had bled into her daughter’s life. She was already bed-ridden and not completely aware of her surroundings, but she was still there. Those last days that Bonnie spent by her side were filled with tears and joy, seeing her best friend displaying the most beautiful smile even when facing death. Knocking on death’s door, and she still had so much joy. She lived life to the fullest until her dying day. They said goodbye to each other, and it was two short months later that she went home to be with the Lord.
At her funeral, her son remembered his mother with these remarkable words: “My mother lived life as an exclamation mark.” She loved her husband and her sons more than anything in the world. She seized each day, and she chose to make the most of this short life that was given to her.
Bonnie tells Pat’s story through tears, remembering the years of wonderful friendship they shared. There certainly are times when she wonders how God could take someone so faithful, but she never doubts or questions God’s sovereignty in it all. Pat’s life blessed more people over the years than you could imagine. Despite the enormous amount of loss she faced that could have given her every reason to walk away from God, she ran to Him instead and clung to Him with all she had. Her faith was resilient, and her trials proved her faith genuine. You couldn’t be around her for long without experiencing abundant life. Completely aware that you can never relive a single day, she lived her life to the fullest. She overcame everything that the enemy used in her life to bring her down. She was victorious. Cancer took her, but it did not win. She was rescued from this life of trial into the arms of her Savior, and her impact lives on to this day.
Her firstborn, Joel, remembers his mother with these beautiful words: “My mom sacrificially lived her life for God and for others. She had a profound impact on those in her life while she was here on earth. I believe she also changed many lives in her passing. God used her life and continues to do so in unfathomable ways.” And I pray that today, in sharing her story with you, your life is changed and your faith in our awesome God is propelled forward.
“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”
This was her life’s motto, her desire, to walk hand in hand with the Lord. And now she does.
Though shadows deepen and my heart breaks
I will not question the way He leads
This side of heaven we’ll know in part
I will not question my broken heart
We’ll talk it over in the by and by
We’ll talk it over my Lord and I
I’ll ask the reasons, He’ll tell me why
When we talk it over in the by and by