Sunday worship services, Bible studies, AWANA, small groups, prayers at the dinner table, prayers before bed. All of these spiritual practices helped form the bedrock of faith for the Betz family. Mom and Dad teaching kids the importance of a growing relationship with Christ. Following Jesus has been the heartbeat of their home; a home filled with the rhythm of hope, a family walking lives filled with laughter and promise. 

In the blink of an eye, that hope was put to the ultimate test. Would their faith still stand when laughter was silent and promise seemed to crumble around them?

A Mom’s Intuition

I remember standing with Lindsay at a worship team gathering in 2015 when she shared with me and another team member that her five-year-old son, Tyler, was having intense headaches, nausea and vomiting. She was concerned because the doctors were telling her it was migraines, but her mom’s intuition told her it was something more. Those of us standing beside her were no experts, but we were moms and we told her to go with her gut. A mom’s intuition is not to be triffled with.

Lindsay’s hunch proved to be correct. Tyler’s symptoms continued and after countless hours and phone calls, doctor visits and scans, Lindsay and her husband, Jon, heard what they had been dreading; their precious five-year-old had a brain tumor.

The shock and magnitude of what could be ahead stopped Lindsay and Jon in their tracks. The steady cadence of their lives was shattered. Their hope was challenged.
On the night they received the news, Lindsay lay alone in bed. She stayed home to tend to their seven-year-old daughter, Natalie, while Jon processed alone at the hospital beside Tyler. I can only imagine the scenarios that ran through their heads as they asked themselves, “Is this the start of losing Tyler?”

In those initial moments, Jon and Lindsay turned to God. They each strongly felt His presence. All of the practices of hiding God’s Word in their hearts, building their personal relationships with Jesus, the hours spent praying and sharing faith with their children, were going to count in the harrowing days ahead. Each of them speaks of crying out to God through that rst, sleepless night. Neither seemed to be questioning God, “Why us?” Instead, Lindsay and Jon were gearing themselves up for, “How? How do we walk this hard road ahead in a way that honors you, Lord?”
Both Jon and Lindsay were sure God loved them unconditionally before this earth- shattering news and believed He would continue to love them through the days ahead. Tyler’s illness was not the beginning of their journey of faith, but rather, the forge to further re ne a faith that had been shaped through the years.

Jon remembers the moment he acknowledged that God loved Tyler even more than he did. It was in this moment that Jon saw himself completely offering up Tyler’s life to God and trusting Him with the outcome. Visualizing this act brought Jon a sense of peace even in the midst of tragedy. “God loves Tyler more than I do. That’s an amazing kind of love because I know how much I love him.”

Hard Decisions

Jon and Lindsay run a photography business together so they’re used to working as a team. God prepared them for the teamwork that this journey would require. The morning after the discovery of the gravity of their son’s condition, the Betz team went into action. There was a tumor in their son’s brain and they were going to do all they could to get it out. They set out to trust God and honor Him through every step on the road ahead. They committed to model for their children what it looks like to trust God explicitly.

Jon and Lindsay saw the Word of God come alive in the chaos of chemotherapy, radiation, surgery and a myriad of doctor’s appointments over the next 11 months. But that didn’t make the journey easy.

Lindsay looks back, “On the morning of my 38th birthday, Jon and I met with our doctor. Our conversation began with, “I need to know if we are going for cure or comfort.” Jon and I were faced with the very hard decision of continuing the fight with a ridiculously aggressive and harsh treatment plan or ending the fight and keeping Tyler comfortable until his passing. Even now, I’m at peace that we fought.”

On days like these, it became clear that their faith wasn’t just a Sunday thing. They understand that the Bible delivers unique truths at different times in our lives. There are promises that they could sense more personally in this season than ever before. They found strength in Psalm 91 and in the first chapter of Joshua.

My refuge and fortress: my God; in whom I trust. ...He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge. Psalm 91:2, 4

I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous ... This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:5-6, 8-9

Jon and Lindsay believe God will not forsake them. Their trust is in Him to do what he says; to provide strength and to be present wherever the road takes them — even if the road leads to death. 

A Thousand Pieces of Hope

Death was not what Jon and Lindsay hoped and worked for, but it became a part of their story. On October 7, 2016, Tyler died at the age of six. After almost a year of praying and ghting for healing and life to be the answer, Tyler left to nish his journey in heaven.

Tyler has been gone for months now. The cadence of their family will never be the same, but Jon, Lindsay and Natalie’s eyes are still xed on Jesus as they experience what it means to totally rely on Him for their strength and courage. It is hard. It is heartbreaking. Though they trust God for their journey, the pain and longing are very real and very close.
This June, the day after her 39th birthday, Lindsay re ected, “This year, Tyler is healed. It’s a powerful reality. Would I have loved to have held him yesterday? Without a doubt. Would I have loved a card from him? Absolutely. Do I miss him? My heart aches with how much.”

“Yet our road constantly asks us to see with God’s eyes; to trust in His sovereign plan. So we reorient our vision to His each and every day. In light of eternity, there is comfort and hope that trumps our earthly pains and longings. Some day, every longing is redeemed and satis ed in Jesus.”

“Grief has its own timetable,” Lindsay adds. “Some days are hard and some are unexpectedly broken.”

“The loss of Tyler’s physical presence has tangible impact to each of us. He’s in our hearts, yet the loss of his physical presence is real and palpable. Natalie feels it. I feel it and Jon feels it.”
Jon says he feels like his heart got trampled and is now being glued back together. But you can still see it is glued. It will never go back to “normal.” He feels like he has been blinded and can’t see the road ahead. His purpose feels uncertain.

He shares, “When Tyler was alive, we prayed and hoped for his physical healing. As hard as it was when he was here, at the end of the day you could give him a hug, hold his hand, pray with him. But now that he’s gone it’s immeasurably harder. The hope of seeing him healed here is shattered into a thousand pieces. There’s nothing left to ght for now. As a dad I want to be able to ght for my kids. There’s still the promise of seeing him in heaven. But some days that feels so far away.”

In the midst of hard days, Lindsay wrestles with hope: “God asks us to place our hope in Him alone. But as humans we naturally attach our hope to earthly solutions, to an earthly outcome we’re praying for. But right now our hope has no other landing place than in God — in the nal restoration that He promises.”

Jon and Lindsay are both creative, and have made the difficult choice to share their gifts with the Woodmen community even as they grieve. This spring, Lindsay returned to singing in weekend services on Woodmen’s worship team. Jon serves through photographing Woodmen Kids events. He and his collection of vintage Coleman lanterns played a huge part in the church’s 2016 Christmas Eve video, featuring scriptures about God’s light being proclaimed on a forest path in the dark of night.

Jon recently has recently taken to the road himself, bringing along his camera on trips to Cuba and Route 66. Many of his stunning photographs of Havana and the American Southwest express emptiness and entropy, a longing for something that has moved on (see Jon’s swing set image at the start of this story). Perhaps they offer a glimpse into the deeper story of restoration that is still being authored in his artist’s heart.

“Sometimes it’s like a ton of bricks collapsing on top of me. I pray and try to get it off, to think of something else, but five minutes later the feeling is back again,” Jon says. Even in the midst of uncertainty, Jon confirms that he still places his confidence in the goodness and mercy of the Lord, on good days and rotten ones. He knows God’s thoughts are higher and His ways are not bound by earthly circumstances, so Jon makes the choice to trust what he knows over what he feels.

More Than a Sunday Faith
“When people ask me how I’m doing,” Lindsay explains, “my most common answer, and the best one I have, is to say, ‘We’re hanging in. We’re not overcome.’ And those are both true. I think that’s what grieving with hope is — letting the hope eclipse the hurt. It’s what I call The Hope Eclipse — when you let your tears and sadness be overcome by hope, rather than let the tears and sadness overcome you.”

A lament has forever become part of their life’s song. Lindsay says, “We give ourselves freedom to be sad. We let the tears come when they do. It still amazes me at how sudden and unpredictable the moment often comes.” The Betz family clings to the words of David in Psalm 139:13-15:

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Jon and Lindsay choose to continue to rely on God with the cadence of their lives, regardless of what comes. This kind of trust comes only from a life of living and pursuing more than Sunday faith. It’s the only thing that gives us a chance to survive when faith collides with brokenness. It’s the kind of faith that charts the course toward hope that can eclipse the hurt.