I’ll be honest-I bristle more than a little bit when people suggest that bereaved fathers don’t feel grief as deeply as bereaved mothers.
They absolutely do.
The problem is that, as a group, bereaved fathers are less likely to make their feelings known, less likely to talk about the impact grief has on their lives and less likely to allow others into their private world of pain and sorrow.
For that reason, fathers are often overlooked grievers.
But they shouldn’t be.
Dads aren’t bystanders in the shattered world of child loss-they are participants as parents of a son or daughter whom they love just as much as any mother.
So just like Mother’s Day is hard for moms, Father’s Day is hard for them.
It’s a commonly repeated untruth that there are 365 “fear nots” in the Bible.
But there ARE a lot of them.
While many folks like to interpret these commands as admonitions to the trembling hearts standing, kneeling or falling on their face before the Angel of the Lord or begging to be delivered from a perilous situation, I think they are an invitation.
I think they are an invitation to walk into the perfect peace promised by the King of Peace.
They are an invitation to rest in His Presence.
They are an invitation to admit my weakness and appropriate His strength.
I love the book of Psalms because in many ways it feels like the most accessible and “human” book of the Bible.
David and others poured out their hearts to God-no filter, no mask, no pretense-the good, the bad, the ugly, the hopeful, the desperate. So while we could explore many other “fear not” verses, I will start here.
“I will bless the Eternal, whose wise teaching orchestrates my days and centers my mind at night. 8 He is ever present with me; at all times He goes before me. I will not live in fear or abandon my calling because He stands at my right hand.
9 This is a good life—my heart is glad, my soul is full of joy, and my body is at rest. Who could want for more? ” ~ Psalm 16:7-9 VOICE
The Psalmist says a lot in these three verses:
he relies on the truth found in God’s Word to guide his days and focus his thoughts at night
he trusts that God is with him always
he knows God will fight for him
therefore he can rest secure
When I spend time in Scripture, saturating my heart and mind with God’s Word, I have truth readily available to combat the lies of the enemy.
Satan wants me to worry and fret, to doubt my Father’s goodness and faithful love and to shake my confidence that God is for me.
The more I sit with Jesus, the more I listen to HIM and learn His voice, the less power the enemy of my soul has over me.
Another favorite :
I am hardly fearless.
In fact, I struggled with fear of the dark until I was nearly 40 years old. I only overcame that fear when necessity forced me to face it and I walked out trembling reciting every verse I could remember about not being afraid.
This was one of them.
I face different fears now.
When the one thing you think won’t happenDOES happen, the thought it might happen AGAINis never far from your mind.
So all this virus talk is working on that fear. People I love might get sick. People I love might die. I know exactly the wreckage death leaves behind and I don’t want to live through that again.
But I might have to so I’m clinging to the truth David sang hundreds of years ago:
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
Psalm 27:1 KJV
the Lord is my light-He illuminates my path and my heart
the Lord is my salvation-He alone can save me (in this life or in eternity through Christ)
the Lord is the strength of my life-He made me, He keeps me and I am His
with the Creator of the universe caring for me, what can anyone or any force do to me without His consent?
I have nothing to fear
When I accept my Father’s invitation to crawl up into His lap, rest in His arms and rely on His strength, I am fearless.
But like a child I often run away just when I most need His comfort.
I love this translation of Psalm 94:19 because it reflects my temptation to bring my anxiety, sorrow and fears to God but then to take them back:
After the multitude of my sorrows in mine heart; thy comforts made glad my soul. (And after a multitude of sorrows gathered together in my heart; once again thy comfort gladdened my soul.)
Psalm 94:19 WYC
God knows I am made of dust. God knows my heart is prone to fear and worry. God knows my feelings often drive reason right out of my head.
He’s not surprised by my trembling knees and weak hands.
He doesn’t turn away because I am afraid.
“Thy comforts made glad my soul”-God will comfort me in my distress. He will wait for me to turn to Him and will wait for me to turn to Him again when I turn away. “[O]nce again thy comfort gladdened my soul.”
He never tires of holding out His arms to me.
He says, “Fear not, little one.”
I see you.
I love you.
Come here and let me comfort you.
Use an online or print concordance to find at least 3 other Psalms that speak about God’s desire to comfort us when we are afraid. Copy out one of them and put it where it will encourage your heart.
What frightens you most today? How can these verses help your heart hand that fear over to your Father?
Do you consider yourself a fearful person? Why or why not?
Have you conquered any fears? If so, think about who or what gave you the courage to do it. Can you weave your previous experience into your current situation?
List at least three times you have been afraid of something that MIGHT have happened but DIDN’T happen. Did your fear contribute in any way to the outcome?
How can thinking about “Do Not Fear” as an invitation instead of an admonition strengthen your faith?
Father God, When I look around at how impossibly different the world is today from only a few weeks ago my knees buckle and my heart trembles. I know I’ve never really been in control but at least there was the illusion of control.
I am afraid.
Thank You that I am not defenseless in the battle against fear and worry. When anxiety rises up within me let Your truth be my sword and shield.
Help me run to You. Help me climb into Your lap and rest in Your Presence. Deafen my ears to the lies being whispered and even shouted that threaten to undo me.
Speak courage to my heart and sing comfort over my soul.
There are all kinds of ways child loss plays with your head.
One of the most common and often repeated questions among bereaved parents (especially those who have lost their only child , all their children or a child before or at birth) is this: Am I still a mama (or daddy)?
Short answer: YES. Absolutely!
The fact that your child has taken up residence in Heaven and is no longer here to hold and love and parent on earth changes NOTHING about your status.
Being an almost mother isn’t a thing. You have seven children, whether they made it here or not doesn’t take away from the fact they existed. They were yours, and they were loved fully if only for those small moments.
You are a mother, Grace. I am so, so sorry you were never able to hold your babies, but you are, and always will be, a mother.
Brittainy C. Cherry, Disgrace
For the uninitiated, it may well seem that the lack of a physical presence changes how a parent’s heart feels or thinks about a child.
But it doesn’t.
Sure it’s more complicated-in fact I’m not certain that six years has been time enough for me to figure it out-but I am still Dominic’s mother. He is not an only child, but even if he were, I’d still be a mother.
I know that for those in our “club” who had only a few minutes or hours with a precious child it can seem even more difficult to convey to others that our daughter or our son is very, very real and important to us.
When there are few witnesses to the beautiful life and light of a tiny baby, it can almost seem like a dream.
But it’s not.
So for every single parent who has wondered if you are “still” a parent-please accept this affirmation: You ARE a parent. Your child matters. Your relationship is ongoing regardless of your child’s address.
It’s kind of counterintuitive really-that my initial response to Dominic’s death would be affirmation of my faith and my response weeks later would be doubt.
But it makes a lot of sense really.
When the unthinkable happens, if your heart is already turned in a particular direction the path of least resistance is to keep flowing downhill.
A bit later, when shock has worn off and your brain wakes up and you begin to do the “math” suddenly it’s not so easy to believe that God is good, He is sovereign and He has a perfect plan.
I wanted explanations!
Like Job I had a list of questions for the Almighty. And also like Job, I found that when He showed up (not in person but through His word) I could only cover my mouth in shame.
When I was beleaguered and bitter, totally consumed by envy, I was totally ignorant, a dumb ox in your very presence. I’m still in your presence, but you’ve taken my hand. You wisely and tenderly lead me, and then you bless me. 25-28 You’re all I want in heaven! You’re all I want on earth! When my skin sags and my bones get brittle, God is rock-firm and faithful. Look! Those who left you are falling apart! Deserters, they’ll never be heard from again. But I’m in the very presence of God— oh, how refreshing it is! I’ve made Lord God my home. God, I’m telling the world what you do!
Psalm 73:21-28 MSG (paraphrase)
Here’s the good, good, good news: God isn’t surprised at my anger, disappointment or lack of understanding.
He- like every good parent who recognizes a child is reacting out of ignorance-takes my hand, holds me close and waits until the energy of rebellion and frustration spends itself, and says, “There, there, dear one. I’m here.”
I can’t scare God away. He’s the Perfect Father.
So if you are struggling with questions and struggling whether or not to take them to God (as if He doesn’t know)-go ahead. Hand them over.
He is neither afraid of nor offended by our weakness, our impertinence nor our honest questions. He wants us to let them go. He wants us to speak them aloud, admit to our own hearts we have them and then release them.
Because in the space created in surrender, He can work.
In the gap between our own strength and the awful struggle ahead, He will pour grace, mercy, endurance and hope.
He never leaves us nor forsakes us.
My parents would argue I am young.
My children would laughingly accuse me of being old. (My skin is definitely sagging!)
Some days I feel one way or the other and it has nothing to do with the years I’ve lived and everything to do with the hardships I’ve endured.
But I can say with absolute certainty that I am more sure now than I was before that God is God.
He is good.
He will redeem, restore and resurrect.
Have you ever been bitter? How do you think it might have informed your feelings about God?
Are you bitter now? Have you considered telling God about it?
Do you feel God is near you? Why or why not?
When the psalmist compares himself to a dumb animal he’s referring to the fact that oxen or donkeys go where their masters tell them to (or not!) and either comply or resist with no real understanding of why they may be asked to do this or that. But we are not dumb animals. We can choose to trust our Master because of past experience and the sure promises of Scripture. How does focusing your attention and heart’s affection on the Truth of Scripture help you surrender?
Our flesh will fail. It’s not a question of if but a question of when. Honestly,my flesh has failed many times in these 55 years. I’ve written before that I’m convinced the years of Bible study before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven were years spent preparing my heart to receive that blow. I was not spared, but I was prepared. If you haven’t made a commitment to spend daily time in Bible study and the Presence of God, would you be willing to try to do it now? Have these days of reflection given you any new nuggets to hold onto?
I know You can drag me around like a recalcitrant child or a misbehaved pet. But you don’t. You want me to bring my hurt, my anger, my bitterness, my disobedience and distrust to You.
You don’t run away. You aren’t hard to find. You don’t turn your back on me. You are always a breath away-waiting to hold my hand, wrap my heart in your love and whisper courage to my soul.
Help me run first to You. Always, always to You. You truly are my only hope. My true salvation. My Rock and my Shelter.
Keep my eyes focused on You and not on people around me. Comparison only breeds discontent. I know that one day-one glorious Day-the song I’ll sing will be to my Redeemer and tell of Your faithful goodness to me.
We’ve all done it-pretended to be looking somewhere else when we pass a needy soul.
Who has time to get involved?
They might be an addict or have a contagious disease or mental illness. They might be too lazy to work, too unpredictable to trust, too likely to be here next week and need something again. It might cost more than the five dollars we’re willing to hand out.
So we walk on by and hope they don’t force the issue by standing in our way.
But God never ignores a hurting heart.
He never redirects His gaze so it doesn’t fall on the one begging for mercy.
He does not ·ignore [despise or disdain] ·those in trouble [L the suffering of the afflicted]. He doesn’t hide his face from them but listens when they ·call out to him [cry to him for help].
Psalm 22:24 EXB
How amazing that the God of the universe, the One who hung the stars in the sky and told the sea, “This far and no farther!” hears me when I cry out to Him for help!
And not only does He hear me, He longs to comfort me with His love.
He does not despise my weakness or look down His nose because I’m unable to solve my own problems or help myself.
Even when others ignore me or try to make my pain small, God is listening. He never sleeps. He’s never too busy. He’s never hoping I go away and stop bothering Him.
He knows my name.
I’m not a faceless, nameless one of thousands or millions chattering away like background noise in a crowd.
He hears MY voice.
God-my God-has a personal, specific relationship with me, His child.
He leans in, bends down and listens attentively to whatever I tell Him. Like any human father, His heart is pierced when mine is broken.
I am so, so thankful that the God I serve loves me.
He specifically, purposefully loves me with unconditional love.
Even when I’m weak.
Even when I’m running away.
Even when I question the things He allows in my life.
He will never look away or stop reaching for me.
What does it mean to you that God hears you?
Do you always FEEL heard? Why or why not?
When have you felt God’s personal care and encouragement?
How might you help your heart hold onto the truth in this verse when it seems God isn’t listening or at least isn’t giving you the relief you seek?
Can you find two or three other verses that emphasize God’s attentiveness to His children?
Sometimes I am willing to give mental assent to the fact that You hear me. And yet my heart argues that my head must be mistaken because the answers I beg for are long in coming.
The silence is deafening.
But I know your ways are not My ways and Your time is not my time. Give me confident assurance that You hear me whenever I cry out to You. Thank you that in Christ I can call You “Daddy” and always rest in the truth You are for me and not against me.
Fill my heart full of Your love. Overwhelm me with Your grace-grace to ask and grace to endure no matter what the answer may be. Amen