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 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.
I realize not every parent enters child loss with the same reverence for Scripture and trust in the promises of God that I had when Dominic left us.
So it may be hard for your heart to believe the words we’ve been reading and studying this month. It may be near impossible for you to feel that God is a good Father, that He has not abandoned you and that He has a purpose and plan for your life, even here in this awful Valley.
If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that while I still have faith, it’s a tested faith. I have dragged every single thing I believed before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, held it up and scrutinized it in the cold light of loss.
Some things I don’t clutch so tightly anymore. Many things I wouldn’t spend five minutes defending anymore. But there are absolute, rock-solid, foundational truths that I will declare with my dying breath.
The character of God is flawless. His ways are holy and good. He will not allow the enemy of my soul to have the last word. Death is (ultimately) defeated and victory is sure.
When I was on my face in mourning, when dust was my food and bitter tears were my drink, these are the promises that breathed life back into my broken heart.
Remember [always] the word and promise to Your servant, In which You have made me hope. 50 This is my comfort in my affliction, That Your word has revived me and given me life.
Psalm 119: 49-50 AMP
When people in the Bible asked God to “remember” it wasn’t that they thought He forgot. It was a way of reciting truth to their own hearts and praying God’s words back to Him.
So when I was just on the other side of the awful news but past Dom’s service and all the people and activities surrounding it, I began most days in my journal with something similar.
I would write out a verse confirming God’s promises to me and my family. I would make it personal-put our names in it- and pray it back to Him. The more I did that, the more my spirit was revived. The more my spirit came back to life, the more I was able to listen to and hear from Him.
It’s a slow, slow process.
The blow is sudden, severe and debilitating (no matter how your child left this earth).
Recovery cannot be rushed along.
I feel most days like I’m still receiving hope and life in drips and dribbles.
But the more I focus my mind’s attention and my heart’s affection on God’s sure promises, the more alive I feel.
And one day I’ll be fully alive-as Dominic is right now- dancing, laughing, singing to the tune of millions of rejoicing voices.
Until then, I’ll keep pointing my heart in the right direction.
My own plans are made. While I can, I sail east in the Dawn Treader. When she fails me, I paddle east in my coracle. When she sinks, I shall swim east with my four paws. And when I can swim no longer, if I have not reached Aslan’s country, or shot over the edge of the world into some vast cataract, I shall sink with my nose to the sunrise. ~Reepicheep
C.S. Lewis, Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Do you have hope? Why or why not?
Do you think you can influence whether or not hope lives in your heart? Why or why not?
What do you do each day to feed hope in your heart?
If you are new on this journey of loss, you may be certain you will never feel alive again. You may think you will never feel hope or joy or anything besides sorrow again. I promise that if you will let the words of God sink in, if you will take your heartache to Him and allow Him to touch the broken places, you will begin to revive. How do Reepicheep’s words speak to you today?
If you are farther along the road of loss, record some specific moments when you felt God met you and breathed life into your spirit.
Truth is that all life comes from You. There is nowhere else to turn but to Your face, Your hand, Your heart. Part of me wants to give up and give in. I want to be rid of this pain, this heartache, this sorrow and unrelenting despair. But I know You have a purpose and plan for me even here, even now.
Help me choose to make space for Your word and Your love to penetrate my heart. Help me offer up my broken bits to You and wait patiently for You to weave them back together into something beautiful.
When I have nothing left, touch me. When I give up, encourage me. When I can’t see the light for the darkness, shine on me.
There has been an interesting back and forth in my spirit since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.
Before I got the knock on the door I didn’t really fear for my children’s safety.
They traveled the world, did things that would make others cringe, ran into situations when others ran away and I can honestly testify that other than the typical, “Be safe!”, comment by mothers everywhere, I did not sit up at night wringing my hands hoping they’d be OK.
Then Dominic was killed less than a mile from his apartment. An ordinary evening doing ordinary things except for his foolish choice to go too fast on his motorcycle.
And everything changed.
Suddenly imagining child loss was not necessary. I was living it in technicolor reality.
There was no earthly remedy for my heartache. No safe space in the physical world for me to carry my pain.
Only God could comfort my mama heart.
God is our shelter and our strength. When troubles seem near, God is nearer, and He’s ready to help. So why run and hide? 2 No fear, no pacing, no biting fingernails. When the earth spins out of control, we are sure and fearless. When mountains crumble and the waters run wild, we are sure and fearless. 3 Even in heavy winds and huge waves, or as mountains shake, we are sure and fearless. [pause][b] 4 A pure stream flows—never to be cut off— bringing joy to the city where God makes His home, the sacred site where the Most High chooses to live. 5 The True God never sleeps and always resides in the city of joy; He makes it unstoppable, unshakable. When it awakes at dawn, the True God has already been at work.
Psalm 46: 1-5 VOICE
I don’t know about “fearless” but I can testify the fear that consumed me in the wake of Dominic’s death for the safety of my earth bound kids was eventually replaced with a calm assurance that nothing had really changed.
They were still in the hands of a God who loved them more than I did.
They were still secure for eternity because they had put their faith and trust in the finished work of Christ.
They were still just as likely (or unlikely) to be the targets of another’s (or their own) sinful or foolish choices.
And our hope was not (never has been) in THIS life. Instead it is in the eternal life God offers all through Jesus.
Ezekiel records a vision of seeing first a trickle, then a stream and finally a river flowing from the throne of God and giving life to creatures, trees and those who eat them.
Truth is, there is no stopping the plans of the Almighty.
And there is no stopping the flow of life from Jesus to His sheep.
I am so thankful for this promise, this truth and my own testimony that God is indeed the Giver of life, a safe Refuge and a sure Foundation.
Would you describe yourself as a fearful person? Why or why not?
We are all afraid sometimes. What do you do when you are afraid? To whom do your share your fears?
How can you make today’s verses personal and allow them to encourage your heart?
I love the water analogies in Scripture. They really speak to my heart because with a farm full of critters I can see how critical water is to life on a daily basis. Has the trial of child loss (or other hard place) made you more or less thirsty for the Living Water Christ offers?
Sleep can be hard to come by when you are overwhelmed with grief, stress or fear. Does it help your heart to think about God as the God who never sleeps? Why or why not?
What do you want from God right now? What would it look like for Him to be your personal place of safety?
Who do you need to release to the care of the Father? Who are you worried about that you need to place in His hands?
You are never caught by surprise. You know the end from the beginning. When things overtake me help me remember that You are there. I need a refuge from this life of grief and pain. I need to rest my feet on the solid Rock of Your presence, Your goodness and Your provision. Open my spiritual eyes to see the way You are working even here, even now.
I want to drink from Living Water. I want to be so filled with Your grace, mercy, love and strength that no matter what life throws at me my testimony is to Your sustaining power.
Joy seems a distant memory. Days when laughter flowed freely and fully from my belly out of my lips are like a dream. Give me joy again. Even tainted with sorrow, give me joy. Thank You that I know you are near and that You have a plan.
I have to admit that when I read the book of Job NOW, it’s no longer an intellectual exercise or detached theological foray into suffering and the sovereignty of God.
I was always appalled at what Job and his wife (remember her!) suffered. I was always a bit confused by God’s question to Satan, “Have you considered My servant, Job?” I was both comforted and confounded that God set boundaries but set them at the bare minimum to spare Job’s life.
Just being honest here.
Pastors and teachers love to talk about the sweeping arc of the story. They love to pull out lessons about how to comfort others in suffering, how to endure suffering ourselves and how, in the end, God restored to Job the things that had been robbed from him.
But my heart walks slowly through those pages. My soul weeps with every new blow struck against a man who, by God’s own account, was a righteous servant of the Most High.
I wonder if David knew the story of Job. It’s believed to have been one of the oldest books in the Old Testament.
If he did, I wonder if he took comfort in the knowledge that God eventually restored Job to a place of blessing, honor and safety.
David certainly knew what it was like to ride high on the wave of God’s favor and then to be dashed to bits on the rocks of adversity. He slew Goliath and then he was anointed king. He was Saul’s musician, ultimately his son-in-law and then his enemy. He knew that God declared his glorious future but he lived for years hiding in caves, eating what he could find and serving random wealthy patrons in hopes of a little peace between Saul’s attempts on his life.
So when he survived yet again, he wrote this Psalm as praise and prophecy.
He rode upon a heavenly creature,[a] flying; He was carried quickly on the wings of the wind. 11 He took darkness as His hiding place— both the dark waters of the seas and the dark clouds of the sky. 12 Out from His brilliance hailstones and burning coals broke through the clouds. 13 The Eternal thundered in the heavens; the Highest spoke; His voice rumbled [in the midst of hail and lightning].[b] 14 He shot forth His arrows and scattered the wicked; He flung forth His lightning and struck them. 15 Then the deepest channels of the seas were visible, and the very foundations of the world were uncovered At Your rebuke, O Eternal One, at the blast of wind from Your nostrils. 16 He reached down His hand from above me; He held me. He lifted me from the raging waters. 17 He rescued me from my strongest enemy, from all those who sought my death, for they were too strong. 18 They came for me in the day of my destruction, but the Eternal was the support of my life. 19 He set me down in a safe place; He saved me to His delight; He took joy in me.
Psalm 18: 10-19 VOICE
Again, David paints a vivid picture of God as Mighty Warrior.
But not just any warrior, raging through battle, unaware of who may be on His left or right. God is the One who protects His anointed. He is the One who reaches down and rescues.
God set David in a safe place. When He declared, “Enough!” no enemy could come further.
David had the sure promises of God to lean on. He knew that God is in control even when things feel out of control.
In the same way, the Lord established a hedge of protection around Job. He set the limits for Satan. He had him on a chain.
Of course there’s no indication from Scripture that Job knew his suffering had any limits. And while he didn’t sin by accusing God of wrongdoing, he certainly voiced his pain, indignation and desire to end his suffering through death.
I feel like I’m living in a space between the personal, rock-solid promises God gave David through Samuel and others and the blind faith of Job where God’s hand and purpose were concealed.
I know that every promise of God in Christ is “yes” and “amen”.
I know that the end has been written and everything that has been stolen, broken or touched by death will be redeemed, restored and resurrected.
But some days I wonder how long I’ll have to wait until I see those promises fulfilled. I wonder how much more I might have to endure, give up or lay down before I reach my heavenly Home.
That’s when I call my heart back to this picture of God as a Warrior who will always rescue me-both here and in the hereafter.
God has put my foot on a solid Rock.
When sorrow threatens to drag me deeper than my heart can bear, He reaches down and pulls me up.
When fear finds me in the dark and whispers lies in my ear, He makes His Presence real and speaks comfort to my soul.
Like Job and David and millions before me, I can trust the One who promises.
I can rest in His unfailing love and absolute sovereignty.
He never lets go.
If you are like me, sometimes we read Scripture like a story book-we already know the ending and often ignore the very real human drama people were living through. Does it help your heart hold onto hope to know that even after God rescued David from the hand of Saul, he (David) was still not in full possession of the promise that he’d be king? Why or why not?
Child loss is absolutely the most devastating blow I’ve suffered in my life and it was a long, long time before I was able to look up in my brokenness and look for blessings. When I did, I found that while there was no cosmic scale that could balance my loss with whatever I might still have or gain, my heart was strengthened when I noticed blessings again. Are you able to look for blessings yet? If so, does it encourage you? If not, would you be willing to try to find one little smile-inducing good thing a day for a week?
I love, love, love David’s words: “He reached down His hand from above me; He held me. He lifted me from the raging waters.” Our God is a personal God who does not despise us because we are weak and unable to save ourselves. He delights in reaching down and lifting us up. How do those words make you feel? When have you felt God reach down and lift you up?
We end our study of this Psalm with verse 19: “He set me down in a safe place; He saved me to His delight; He took joy in me. ” We are ultimately set safely in the redemption of Christ (if we have received that gift by faith). But I also believe we can live our lives in a safe space even in the midst of suffering when we choose to focus on Who God is and refuse to let circumstances blind us to His love, His goodness, His promises and His strength. What concrete steps can you take to help your heart focus on truth when your feelings threaten to drag you into falsehood?
You are the lover of my soul, my Mighty Warrior, my Savior and my Good Shepherd. Help me hold onto those truths when life threatens to undo me.
Give me the courage to face pain and suffering in the sure knowledge that You see me, You are with me and You will rescue me. I may not get a miracle or even a medical cure, but I will have the final victory in Christ.
When death and the awful darkness of grief roll over me like a flood, push it back with Your light, love and life.
Let me hear You singing joy over my soul.
***I combined today and tomorrow’s writing assignments***
Not just physically tired-although there are plenty of days when chores done in the Alabama sun beat my body down.
I’m soul weary.
My heart cries out, “No more! I can’t carry a single other burden! I’m buckling under the load!”
He knows that this world is a harsh place for tender hearts. He recognizes that other people heap heavy weights on already laboring souls. He understands that work and worry and even well-doing wear us to a nub.
And He offers a way of escape.
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden andoverburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will [a]ease and relieve and [b]refresh [c]your souls.]
29 Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest ([d]relief and ease and refreshment and [e]recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls.
30 For My yoke is wholesome (useful, [f]good—not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne. ~Jesus
Matthew 11: 28-30 AMPC
The Pharisees and Sadducees (religious leaders at the time Jesus walked the earth) had overloaded people with rules, rules, rules and obscured the truth of Who God is and what He really wanted from them. They focused solely on outward compliance with man-made additions to God’s law and blinded themselves to the inward attitudes that should be a hallmark of God’s people.
Like us, they wanted boxes to check off.
They wanted lists to maintain.
Above all, they wanted to measure themselves against a standard that made them look good, often at the expense of others.
More importantly, their holier-than-thou lifestyle made regular folks feel like they fell so far short and were so far from the heart of God they didn’t dare ask Him for help.
Jesus said, “Enough!”
He said, “I don’t despise your weakness. I don’t dismiss your pain. Let Me help you take that off and give you a perfectly fitted burden. Yoke your life to Mine and we’ll carry it together.”
The most caring teamster carved the wooden yoke that joined his two oxen precisely to fit their unique shape. He checked it often to see if it was causing pain and he made adjustments when necessary. He yoked well-suited animals one to the other so that the burden was distributed evenly.
Any ill-fitting addition to a creature being asked to do a job makes that job oh, so much more difficult. It wears sore spots and tender places. It guarantees that you won’t get full cooperation nor highest performance.
We have many burdens to bear in this life. Some are of our own making, some are thrust upon us by others. Some are just a function of the fact we live in a world tainted by sin.
Jesus promises that the burden He asks us to bear He will make bearable when we bring it to Him.
Are you weak and heavy laden?
Are you struggling under a load that threatens to undo you?
Have you yoked your life to Christ and asked Him to help you?
He’s waiting for you.
There are all kinds of burdens in this life. What feels heavy to you right now?
Have you offered it to Jesus? Have you asked Him to help you bear it?
Is it hard for you to lean on Jesus? Why or why not?
Do you ever try to hide your weakness or weariness from others?
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were focused more on rules and less on relationship. What’s your faith heritage? Have you been in churches where there was a strong focus on rules? How did that impact your understanding of God?
Father God, I can be like the Pharisees and make up lists of rules I think I need to follow to gain Your approval or at least to make myself look good in the eyes of others.
That’s not helpful for me or anyone else. Give me courage to tear those up.
Teach me Your gentle ways, Jesus. Help me lean into Your love and to yoke my heart to yours.
No matter how much we love someone, we will eventually fail them somehow.
I know I recite my failure as a mother quite often-usually when I’m tired, weak, stressed and especially burdened with this grief I haul around like a bag of bricks every day.
So it’s hard for me to comprehend the unfailing, faithful, never-ending, compassionate love of God.
But it’s true whether I can wrap my mind around it or not: God’s love never fails.
That’s the message Jeremiah was tasked to deliver to Israel in the midst of some very awful circumstances.
They had really messed up. And they were going to reap the consequences of their sin.
It was going to hurt.
But God had not abandoned them. He had not forgotten them. He had not stopped loving them.
31 For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. 32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. 33 For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.
Lamentations 3:31-33 NIV
The God I serve and Israel served is a compassionate God.
He is so very compassionate (which means to suffer alongside) that He chose to send His Son to take our sins, to receive our punishment, to pay the penalty and redeem us for Himself.
Grief is part of this life.
Before Jesus lived on earth, suffered, died and was resurrected, grief was part of the ongoing penalty of sin.
So Israel was punished when she turned from her true Husband and ran after idols and foreign gods.
Now, the penalty has been paid. Yet grief remains.
Our enemy the devil works evil in the world. People’s sinful choices result in death and destruction. The whole earth groans under the general burden of sin which means genes mutate, disease runs rampant and our bodies fail.
God does not always intervene.
But He always comes alongside.
He always offers comfort and promises that grief doesn’t last forever.
He takes those evil things, the broken things, the painful things and the hard things and weaves them into a beautiful tapestry that will eventually reveal His faithfulness, goodness, love and glory.
I’ve written before about whether or not grief and loss is a punishment from God. Yet these verses plainly state, “though He brings grief”. How do you explain them to your own heart? Have you thought through and developed a consistent theology that both acknowledges the truth that in the OT God DID bring grief (punishment) on His people for their sins and that in the NT God, through Christ, has taken all the punishment for every sin? (For more on this, read this post: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/01/15/is-god-punishing-me/)
Have you ever felt God was suffering alongside you? Do you think God suffers at all?
Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd. Most of His followers would have firsthand knowledge of the sacrifices a good shepherd makes for his sheep. That’s not something many of us know much about these days. Can you paint your own word picture of unfailing love?
Have you confronted the question of why evil exists, why pain is persistent, why death and destruction still reign? Are you afraid to go there? Why or why not?
I used to embroider quite a bit and really love the Corrie Ten Boom poem cited above because I understand it well. The top side of my work was lovely (most of the time!) but the underside was awful! Do you have confidence that God is weaving ALL the things in your life into a tapestry that will eventually reveal how even the dark and ugly experiences, feelings and heartache work together to make a beautiful piece of art? (See Ephesians 2:10)
Father God, Thank you that I live this side of Calvary!
Thank You that although this life is filled with sorrow and pain I can rest assured that if I’ve received Your gift of forgiveness through Christ You are not punishing me for some forgotten sin. Thank You for your unfailing, faithful, compassionate love.
Help me to remember in the darkest moments, the most desolate path, the deepest pit You are there. Over and over and over You remind my heart that I am not alone. When I can’t comprehend how You might weave the next dark thread into the tapestry of my life, help me trust You anyway.
You are the Master Weaver. You are the Potter. Give me a willing heart to yield to Your work in my life.