Q & A with Gerard Long, author of Awakening to God
In May 2014, while still grieving the suicide of his teenage son eight years prior, Gerard Long, president of Alpha USA, faced the accidental death of his precious daughter. Reflecting on his daughter’s tragic drowning, Long encountered a sobering parallel that shifted into high gear the urgent mission to which he has dedicated his life—a “rescue mission,” as he calls it, for believers to reach out to those around them who are spiritually sinking. Although the Long family endures intense suffering, Gerard still sees hope in this life. From their brokenness flows a new passion to share the gospel of Christ and encourage others along the way.
How has your faith endured such tragic loss?
It’s only God’s grace (His ‘empowering’ presence with us through the Holy Spirit) that gets any of us through each day. When you experience unbelievable suffering and loss this truth comes home to you in a very real way. Part of the way God sustains us is through the love and prayers of the saints. The fact that believers are literally Jesus’ body here on Earth has really come home to me after Rebecca’s terrible death. It’s as though God has been reaching out to love and take care of us through family, friends and, sometimes, total strangers. The outpouring of grief has been amazing and it has flowed in prayer, hundreds of letters, acts of amazing kindness and just a wonderful sense that God’s love is reaching us through His Body.
Another key has been scripture. It’s amazing how God speaks to us through His word if we have ears to hear and eyes to see.
Have you ever been tempted to turn away from God?
Yes, there is a constant battle with unbelief and ‘taking offense’ over what has happened. It’s very hard at times. There is a fight of faith involved but we must keep our hearts from the arrows of the evil one. After Jesus told His disciples they had to eat His flesh and drink His blood some of them turned away saying, ‘it’s too hard.’ Jesus turned to the twelve and said, are you going to leave as well?’ And Peter said, ‘where will we go, you have the words of eternal life!’ At the end of the day, there is nowhere else to go – we are in Him. He has us.
Also, Jeannie did lose faith for two years after Alex passed and she now describes it as the worst experience you can imagine. After initial relief of not having to believe anymore, she went into total darkness – no hope – everything was meaningless. Knowing Jesus is the only way and we cling to Him in our total brokenness.
In your darkest hours, what gives you hope?
After Alex passed in November 2005 and my sister in January 2006; I had an amazing revelation of eternity. It became very clear to me that, as scripture tells us, our life on earth is but a vapor, a breath, and then we move on to our real home with the Lord. As C.S. Lewis said, ‘life on earth is but the cover page of a never ending story!’ We’re told to fix our hearts and our minds on things above (Colossians 3:1-2), and to look at the unseen things that are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18). Knowing what’s coming gives me great hope (‘for the joy set before Him’ – Hebrews 12:1-2). We are going to see our loved ones again and we will be with them forever (John 11:25-26). For now though, although we suffer incredible pain because we miss them so much, there is work to do for our Lord. When we’ve finished the work He has planned for us (Ephesians 2:10) we can go home! What a great day that will be (Philippians 1:21). After the Cross, comes the glory (1 Peter 4:11-12).
“Awakening to God is an inspiring book for anyone exploring the adventure of faith!”
-Bear Grylls, adventurer
“Awakening to God is a great read for anyone interested in knowing God.”
-Roma Downey Burnett, actor, author
Gerard Long is a minister, author, motivational speaker, and former banking executive, who is passionate about Christ. In 2006, Gerard retired from a highly paid banking career and joined Alpha USA full-time to help more people explore the meaning of life. As the executive director of Alpha USA, he leads the organization whose mission is to serve local churches in presenting the gospel to their communities through the Alpha course. A widely used introduction to Christianity, Alpha is supported by multidenominational churches and now operates in more than 169 countries. More than 3 million people have taken an Alpha course in the USA, and over 24 million worldwide.