I have always, always felt a special duty to tread lightly with respect to those parents in particular. I want to honor them and never suggest I speak for them. I’ve started and discarded at least a dozen posts on child loss and suicide.
So when a mom who lost a child to suicide shared this in one of our closed groups, I messaged her and asked permission to publish her comment here.
So here are HER words, precisely as she shared them:
I think we often interpret Old Testament Bible verses in terms of New Testament reality.
Sometimes that’s warranted because the verses foreshadow the fullness of Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection.
But sometimes we miss out on the deeper meaning of what God was saying through His prophets.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the verse, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it” quoted as a general blessing/admonition/encouragement at the beginning of a worship service or just the start of an ordinary day.
I don’t think that’s technically a misappropriation of the sentiment, but I do think it falls far short of what the Psalmist was trying to convey.
The Temple stood on a hill above Jerusalem and those last steps for the pilgrims who traveled faithfully three times a year to celebrate the appointed festivals were hard. Many had walked miles and miles and were just plain tired.
So they sang songs (Psalms) to encourage their hearts as they plodded forward.
If you have a Bible with notes you’ll see them marked as “Songs of Ascent” because that was exactly what they were.
In addition to the expense, time, effort and commitment it took to make it to the Temple, pilgrims were expected to offer a sacrifice. Some could bring their own and some had to purchase a lamb or ram or other sacrificial animal from those offered by vendors just outside the inner courts.
It could be easy to resent the cost of coming.
It would be absolutely understandable to get just a bit disgruntled making those last few steps to plunk down a sacrifice to a God they couldn’t see.
So the Psalmist says, “This is the DAY(the appointed feast, the reminder of covenant, the renewal of promise) the Lord (Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and you) has made (ordained, appointed, set aside). Let us rejoice (revel in the fact that He has chosen us of all people, that He is faithful, that we can come and worship) in it.”
God doesn’t need my lamb or goat or calf.
The feasts weren’t designed to jog His memory regarding my relationship with Him, they were designed to help ME remember that I am creature and He is Creator.
And I need that reminder most when things are hard, when I am tired and when I may have forgotten that worship is a privilege.
Some days are uphill all the way.
I’ve had a few of those lately.
And while this verse isn’t really about ordinary days, it helps my heart as much on those as it does on the special ones. ❤
If you follow my personal Facebook page you know that part of my family evacuated ahead of Hurricane Dorian.
We are waiting the storm out at my parents’ farm in a safe spot. It was an unexpected opportunity to see one another and a sweet blessing (the visit, not the storm!) but a houseful makes it hard to do the kind of writing I normally do.
So…you’ll see some reposts for a couple days.
Hurricanes and random shootings and awful accidents can make a heart remember that relationships are really what matters.
One hard, hard lesson I’ve learned from waking up one morning to a never-coming-home son is this: You may not have another chance to make amends, say “I love you“, kiss a face or hug a neck.
I’m here to tell you: don’t drown your important relationships in unsaid words, unshared feelings, unacknowledged wounds.
All that does is guarantee distance grows between your hearts.
If you let the distance become too vast, or the pile of unsaid truth get too high, you might just find you can’t reach that far or that high to reconnect.
It takes a bit of brave to say what’s important and uncomfortable.
If yesterday’s verses were Paul’s closing arguments, these verses are his hallelujah!
When I am weak and weary and overwhelmed by the daily trudging uphill along the path of grief, my heart comes here.
Because truth is, over and over and over God has said in His Word, demonstrated by His actions and proved by His promises that love endures.
It was love that sought Adam and Eve in the garden.
Love that spoke to Noah and gave him strength to build the ark.
Love that drew Abram from the land of idolators, set him apart and made him father of nations.
Love that rescued the Israelites from Egypt.
Love that overwhelmed a young virgin and made her mother of Jesus the Christ.
And Love Incarnate that chose obedience unto death-even death on the cross-so that our sin debt was satisfied and the gates of Heaven opened wide to all who believe.
Love will not be denied.
Can anything separate us from the love of Christ? Can trouble, pain or persecution? Can lack of clothes and food, danger to life and limb, the threat of force of arms? Indeed some of us know the truth of the ancient text: ‘For your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter’. 37 No, in all these things we win an overwhelming victory through him who has proved his love for us. 38-39 I have become absolutely convinced that neither death nor life, neither messenger of Heaven nor monarch of earth, neither what happens today nor what may happen tomorrow, neither a power from on high nor a power from below, nor anything else in God’s whole world has any power to separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord!
Romans 8: 35-39 PHILLIPS
There is nothing that can separate me from the love of God.
I am not powerful enough to do it.
Death is not powerful enough to do it.
Love reached down and resurrected Jesus.
Love will reach down and resurrect my son.
On my hardest days, my darkest days I remember this: as fierce as my mother love may be, it can’t hold a candle to the ferocious, eternal, unquenchable, undefeatable, reckless, perfect love of God.
When I am deep in despair, I remind my heart that all this love I have for my child(ren) is just a tiny drop compared to God’s love for me AND them. Does it help your heart to think about how fiercely God loves you and your child(ren)?
I have shared the story before of my son running barefoot through the woods, briers and all, to rescue one of our goats from between the teeth of two pit bulls. It’s my favorite picture of God’s redeeming, relentless, reckless love. Can you think of a personal example that reminds you of God’s enduring, unquenchable, unrelenting and rescuing love?
Theology matters. What I believe about who God is and what creation is in relationship to Him matters. If He made everything (and I believe He did) then it is all ultimately subject to His will. That is amazing reassurance. Nothing. No. Thing. can separate us from His love. No created thing is greater than its creator. Put that thought in your own words. What do you fear might separate you (or your child) from God’s love? In light of these verses, do you think that’s a reasonable conclusion? Why or why not?
Your love endures forever. Help me remember that. Open my eyes, Lord, that I may comprehend the depth, the width and the height of Your love. If I could grasp even a fraction of that, I’d never be afraid for a second that anything could get between You and me. Your love is relentless, reckless, pursuing and almighty. Nothing in creation can stop Your eternal, redeeming love.
My child may have made a foolish or even a sinful choice in his or her last moments on earth, but even that is not enough to separate him or her from You if they made a genuine profession of faith in Christ. How arrogant are we humans to think we can somehow undo the great redemptive work of the cross!
Thank You for this beautiful reminder in Paul’s words. Let them sink deeply into my spirit and bring life to my bones.
Romans is a dense book full of quotable verses often taken out of context.
Today’s verses include some of the most hopeful and, frankly, hurtful verses tossed at broken hearts.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. ” (Romans 8: 28 NIV)
Often this verse is shared by well-meaning friends who want us to “look on the bright side”. They can’t comprehend that the darkness of child loss is so complete our hearts can’t imagine light still exists.
But when you see that verse and the ones that follow in context, a heart can find a foothold.
A similar thing happens when we pray. We are weak and do not know how to pray, so the Spirit steps in and articulates prayers for us with groaning too profound for words. 27 Don’t you know that He who pursues and explores the human heart intimately knows the Spirit’s mind because He pleads to God for His saints to align their lives with the will of God? 28 We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan. 29-30 From the distant past, His eternal love reached into the future. You see, He knew those who would be His one day, and He chose them beforehand to be conformed to the image of His Son so that Jesus would be the firstborn of a new family of believers, all brothers and sisters. As for those He chose beforehand, He called them to a different destiny so that they would experience what it means to be made right with God and share in His glory.
Romans 8: 26-30 VOICE
Paul has laid a foundation earlier in chapter eight for the Spirit’s work in the life of the redeemed. The Holy Spirit testifies to our sonship, is a down payment on what’s to come, informs us that all creation is waiting for redemption and prays for us when we don’t know how or what to pray for ourselves.
As we align our hearts with the heart of God, our will conforms to His and we are positioned to receive even the hard things of life as having passed through His loving hands.
Not all things are good.
Let’s just get that out of the way right now.
Sin has infected every aspect of life on earth. Disease, genetic mutation, environmental destruction, people’s personal foolishness, sin and cruelty all add up to awful outcomes.
The sting of death has been removed but the fact of death remains.
Frankly, life is hard.
But all those things that are outside the perfect will of God-the pain, the heartache, the destruction, the awful, awful sadness-aren’t outside His power of redemption.
He takes those dark moments, months, years, LIFETIMES and weaves them into a beautiful tapestry that ultimately displays His glory and our transformation into the likeness of Jesus.
I am a co-heir with Christ.
One day I will look more like Him than I ever thought I would.
And it will be the pressure of pain and struggle that squeeze me into the mold of His likeness.
Not everything IS good, but everything will work TOWARD good.
You can take that to the bank.
Have you ever had “all things work together for good” tossed at you? How did it make you feel?
Does seeing that verse in context make it easier to read/digest? Why or why not?
Being conformed to the likeness of Christ is painful, regardless of how the pressure comes. Can you see how the pain of child loss has molded your heart into a closer approximation of the heart of Jesus? Why or why not?
Why is it important to make a distinction between the idea that everything that happens is good versus the idea that everything that happens (good or bad) can be used by God FOR good?
I remember that dark morning just having no words. I think all I could manage was to repeat the names of God. When has the Holy Spirit prayed for you? Are you encouraged by the idea that even if you don’t know what or how to pray, He has you covered?
Lord, I know people don’t mean to do it but it hurts my heart when they toss Your words at me like a volleyball expecting me to just hit it back and act like nothing’s happened.
My world stopped. My heart was shattered. Child loss is not good. You can use it FOR good, but it is not good.
Thank You that Paul was a faithful scribe and put Your truth in context. Thank You that I can look up all the verses and see that the message You gave him was not that ALL things are good, but rather that even the awful, heartbreaking, terrible things can be USED for good in Your loving, sovereign hands.
Give me the courage to trust You with even this. Help me lean in and take hold of an eternal perspective so I can endure patiently. Give me strength to finish strong. And when the process of conforming me to the image of Christ seems too hard to bear, remind me that You are here and will give me sufficient grace.
For those of us who carried a tiny life inside as it grew larger and larger and thought we might just burst open before he or she made an exit from the womb into the wide world, we know exactly how hard waiting can be.
We also know how fast waiting goes from “I’m not sure just when” to “it’s happening RIGHT NOW”.
Some of the most painful waiting is the hours of intense labor.
Before the blessed culmination, it hurts! A lot!
And then the beautiful fruit of all that pain, struggle and patience is in our arms.
Paul says that the whole creation (every single thing on the planet) is waiting in much the same way. Waiting, waiting, waiting for God’s perfect plan to reach fullness and be revealed in all its excellent glory.
It is plain to anyone with eyes to see that at the present time all created life groans in a sort of universal travail. And it is plain, too, that we who have a foretaste of the Spirit are in a state of painful tension, while we wait for that redemption of our bodies which will mean that at last we have realised our full sonship in him. We were saved by this hope, but in our moments of impatience let us remember that hope always means waiting for something that we haven’t yet got. But if we hope for something we cannot see, then we must settle down to wait for it in patience.
Romans 8: 22-25 PHILLIPS
Just as a pregnant mama feels first the tiny flutter and then full-forced kicks of the baby in her womb, our spirits feel the promise of life as it should be. The closer we walk with Jesus, the more we fill our hearts and minds with His living word, the more our lives diverge from the world we see and long for the one we haven’t yet laid eyes on.
Yearning is the word.
It can make my heart impatient.
Sending one of the precious lives I’ve carried inside me on to Heaven makes me even more impatient for the perfect promise to be made perfect reality.
Paul is right-knowing and tasting is both a blessing and a challenge.
I know, know, know that this life is not all there is. I am utterly and irrevocably convinced that one day the broken world I live in will be recreated into the perfect world God intends it to be. So I hold onto hope with both hands like the lifeline it is.
Sometimes I get tired of holding on.
Sometimes I want to let go and just say, “What difference does it make?”
But I don’t.
Because at the moment of my weakness, the Spirit speaks courage to my spirit. Jesus whispers, “You can do it” to my heart. The Father sings sweet consolation over my soul.
So I tighten my grip and wait. ❤
What evidence do you see that “all creation” groans? (If you back up a couple verses, Paul goes into a little more detail.) Does it encourage your heart that the whole world is somehow waiting too?
If you’ve carried a child, think back to how quickly (assuming you weren’t scheduled for delivery) things went from “I’m not sure when” to “We need to go now!”. Does that help your heart imagine how very quickly all this waiting might end?
What part of waiting is hardest for you? (Any kind of waiting.)
How do you help your heart hold onto hope as you wait?
People say don’t pray for patience because the only true path to patience is trial. Are you more patient now than you used to be? Why or why not?
Waiting is hard. No way around it. And waiting in painful anticipation of blessed relief is even harder. So, so many things are not right in this world. Death is everywhere. How I long for the Day when death is a totally defeated foe! How I long for the Day when all things are made right!
Thank You for the witness of the Spirit who continues to speak courage to my own spirit. Thank You for your word which breathes life into my soul. Thank You that no matter how hard it is to hold onto hope, You will give me the strength not to let go.
You have not abandoned me or the world You created. Your plans are sure. I will wait with hope because I know You never fail.
I was blessed to live several years in Colorado and it never got old to head off in the mountains, round a curve and come upon a grove of trembling golden aspen. They demanded I step outside the car and drink them in.
Photographs don’t do them justice.
You have to be there, see them, hear their leaves make music in the wind and smell the cool, clear air of the mountains to understand.
When Paul says that the sufferings in this life are incomparable to the glories of the next, I think he had something like this in mind-Heavenly experience is so far outside mortal language and understanding, it’s simply impossible to describe.
Through that prayer, God’s Spirit confirms in our spirits that we are His children. 17 If we are God’s children, that means we are His heirs along with the Anointed, set to inherit everything that is His. If we share His sufferings, we know that we will ultimately share in His glory. 18 Now I’m sure of this: the sufferings we endure now are not even worth comparing to the glory that is coming and will be revealed in us.
Romans 8: 16-18 VOICE
It’s no accident Paul tags this assurance on the end of declaring the fullness of my relationship to God the Father through Jesus His Son. If I, like Christ, am a child of God, then I. like Christ am an heir to the promises.
It’s a fact, not a theory.
God doesn’t lie. He will do every thing He says He will do.
I can rest assured in that truth.
We endure many hard things for a guaranteed earthly return on our time, money, energy, strength and tears.
How much more sure are the promises of God?
The glory to come must be some kind of wonderful it if makes the pain of child loss so small there’s no comparison.
Am I willing to trust Him even here, even now?
What’s your first impression of these verses? Do they hit a nerve? Make you defensive of your pain and suffering? Are they comforting?
What does it mean to you that God is Father? That you are a co-heir with Christ?
Have you ever had the last verse tossed at you by a well-meaning (or not so well-meaning) person trying to “cheer you up”? How did you respond (internally or verbally)?
Write out your own example of an awe-inspiring experience that stopped you in your tracks? Read it back to yourself aloud. Do you feel like you were able to convey the depth and breadth of your actual experience in words? Why or why not? Does this give you more or less confidence in how amazing Heaven will be?
I am thankful I can call You Father. I am thankful my position in Your family is secured by the blood of Christ. Thank You for the gift of salvation through His sacrifice. Thank You that the Spirit bears witness with my spirit that I am Yours.
It’s hard to suffer well sometimes. It’s hard to hold onto hope when pain is so very real and Heaven is somewhere I can’t really picture well. I’m trying to lean into the promises here and throughout Your word.
Strengthen me by Your word and with Your strength. When my heart is overwhelmed, calm me with Your songs of deliverance. When my grip is weak, wrap Your arms around me and help me hold on.