I’m sharing this again during Holy Week because if I’m honest this week presents lots of moments when I have to sort through my theology once again.
Dominic’s death is inextricably tied to the days between Palm Sunday and Resurrection Sunday. And my heart is twisted into all kinds of uncomfortable shapes every year around this time.
I’ve said before that what I write is as much (or more!) for myself as it may be for anyone else so I’m reminding my own heart that God did not snatch Dominic from my life.
His death is not a punishment nor a hammer nor a lesson.
This is a question that comes up all the time in bereaved parents’ groups: Did God take my child?
Trust me, I’ve asked it myself.
How you answer this question can mean the difference between giving up or going on, between turning away or trusting.
So this is MY answer. The one I’ve worked out through study, prayer and many, many tears. You may disagree. That’s just fine. I only offer it because it might be helpful to some struggling and sorrowful soul.
When my perfectly healthy, strong and gifted son was killed instantly in a motorcycle accident on April 12. 2014 my world fell apart. My heart shattered into a million pieces. And after three and a half years, I’ve yet to even FIND all of those pieces much less put them back together.
So what does a heart do when that happens?Because, try as I might, I cannot stop time.
Even THAT awful day only lasted 24 hours.
When the sun rose again, the pain was still there. And behind that pain and mixed with it was something else-disappointment, disaffection, distrust.
Old Elizabeth, young Mary-both bearing sons. Zechariah’s doubts, a young maid’s submission-he was supposed to understand God through study and practice, she was the ignorant one yet trusted.
Priests within a Sabbath walk from the manger slept on unaware that God had broken forth into their world while outcast shepherds got a personalized and most glorious birth announcement writ large across the sky.
Perhaps the most poignant contrast of all is a tired young mother pondering quietly what this might mean for her and her newborn Son and shepherds telling everyone they meet what they saw and praising God for giving them the privilege.
Mary, too, pondered all of these events, treasuring each memory in her heart.
20 The shepherds returned to their flocks, praising God for all they had seen and heard, and they glorified God for the way the experience had unfolded just as the heavenly messenger had predicted.
Luke 2:19-20 VOICE
My heart beats with Mary’s. She knew and understood part of what was going on but had no way to anticipate or comprehend precisely what it meant to be the mother of Messiah.
She pondered the shepherds’ visit and their story.
I’ve pondered too.
“Ponder” means “think about (something) carefully, especially before making a decision or reaching a conclusion.” (Oxford Dictionary, online).
When Dominic was killed I dragged everything I thought I knew about God and how He worked in the world into the glaring light of child loss. I examined and turned it over. I compared my notions with Scripture and with my ongoing experience.
I was forced to make a decision.
I had to reach a conclusion: Was God who He said He was or was this all a made up, feel good story I told myself? Is the Bible true? Is Jesus real? Was His sacrifice sufficient and does it guarantee eternal life?
After long and careful thought I decided that my Heavenly Father was faithful, His character is trustworthy, every promise He made is “yes” and “amen” in Christ.
I imagine Mary had many moments when she wondered what God was doing in and through her. I suspect she had her doubts.
I think often of the ultimate pain and horror she endured at the crucifixion.
But she held on.
And the Lord called her blessed.
I am holding on to truth and hope with both hands.
Sometimes my faith wears thin.
But I know, know, know that my Father is trustworthy.
We really don’t know how much Mary understood about what was happening in and through her. Gabriel visited her, yes, but even his message wasn’t comprehensive. Have you ever thought about what or how much Mary knew? Does it give you courage to trust God as things unfold in your own life?
How has child loss impacted your faith?
The shepherds praised the Lord because everything the angel told them was accurate. Has your personal experience affirmed the truth of Scripture?
Can you find reasons to praise the Lord even here, even now?
You are the Almighty God, the King of the Universe, Creator and Sustainer of life. You know the end from the beginning. You are working all things for my ultimate good and for Your glory.
But it’s hard to walk along a path when I can’t see far ahead. Sometimes it’s a struggle to trust and not be afraid. I do ponder things in my heart. I want to make sense of what You are doing (at least what I think You are doing) and what I’m feeling.
Help me lean into your truth, to trust your heart even when I can’t trace your hand. I believe, help my unbelief!
Thank You for every evidence that points my heart in the right direction. Thank You for showing me more of yourself. Teach me to praise You for all You are and not only all You do.
So often it seems like God is dragging His feet, holding out on us, refusing to grant something we desperately desire.
The people of Israel waited and waited and waited for Messiah.
Many felt abandoned.
But God wasn’t being slow, He was waiting for the precisely perfect moment to send His Son.
Around the time of Elizabeth’s amazing pregnancy and John’s birth, the emperor in Rome, Caesar Augustus, required everyone in the Roman Empire to participate in a massive census— 2 the first census since Quirinius had become governor of Syria. 3 Each person had to go to his or her ancestral city to be counted.
4-5 Mary’s fiancé Joseph, from Nazareth in Galilee, had to participate in the census in the same way everyone else did. Because he was a descendant of King David, his ancestral city was Bethlehem, David’s birthplace. Mary, who was now late in her pregnancy that the messenger Gabriel had predicted, 6 accompanied Joseph. While in Bethlehem, she went into labor 7 and gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped the baby in a blanket and laid Him in a feeding trough because the inn had no room for them.
Luke 2:1-7 VOICE
An entire kingdom was mobilized to fulfill prophecy!
Because Rome demanded taxes from conquered peoples and wanted every penny owed, a census was ordered. Because the only way to get an accurate count was to order folks back to their ancestral hometowns, Joseph had to go to Bethlehem. Because of the timing, Mary was bursting with baby and gave birth.
Just as promised: “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. ” Micah 5:2 KJV
Caesar was acting in his own self-interest.
Mary and Joseph were complying with the law.
Nature took its course as Jesus grew in the womb.
All the while God was weaving together the strands behind the scene to bring forth His purpose and provide salvation for His people!
I’m not privy to everything God is doing in the world. And, frankly, what I see sometimes looks like He’s not doing much. I want Him to step in and make things right according to my limited knowledge.
But He’s working behind the scenes in ways I can’t imagine or comprehend.
He has a purpose and plan that will not be thwarted.
I do not for one moment believe that God Took My Child. But I absolutely, positively believe that He is using what the enemy meant for evil to accomplish good.
So I try to be patient.
Even though it’s a lifetime.
Because no one who waits on the Lord will be disappointed.
It’s so easy to read the familiar words and forget that each element of the story was important in fulfilling prophecy. Have you ever looked back on a series of seemingly unrelated events and realized how they came together to orchestrate God’s purpose in your own life?
I have often wondered how much Joseph and Mary might have thought about (if they thought about it) the words of the prophets as they fulfilled God’s commission to faithfully raise His Son. Can you put yourself in their position and imagine the weight of responsibility and also the fear of uncertainty they might have experienced in real time?
I admit that waiting is hard. I long for a supernatural revelation that gives my heart a handle on how long I’m going to have to practice patience. But I take some comfort in the multitude of promises kept by my God and His ever-faithful, always trustworthy character. When your heart doubts, what promises do you cling to?
You literally moved Heaven and Earth to bring salvation to Your people. You work where I can’t see and in ways I can’t comprehend.
But it’s hard to hope when things look dark and it seems as if You are slow to act. And sometimes it looks as if evil, death and sin are winning. That’s when my heart has the most trouble holding onto hope.
Help me cling to truth in spite of my feelings. Give me light in the darkness. Teach my heart to trust and sing hope over my soul. You are Faithful and True.
Even if I wait a lifetime my waiting will not be in vain. Every one of Your promises is “yes” and “amen” in Christ. The end is guaranteed. Victory is assured.
It’s so easy to decide that since the world isn’t what I want it to be, I’ll just ignore the greater “out there” and create my own little corner filled with people and things that suit my preferences.
But that’s not who I’m called to be.
Jesus has called me as a conduit of His love, mercy, compassion, truth and grace to a hurting world.
I am inundated every day with comments or messages from struggling hearts. They are hungry to know that God sees, that God cares and that His people are willing to listen and minister His love to others.
So when God tells me to reach out- I DON’T resist.
I may be the only hope a hurting heart can hold onto.
If God is calling you to lend a hand, lend an ear or lend your time, DO IT.
Be the drop of His love in the ocean of another’s need.