We are a people who love a good mystery as long as it leads to a good ending-bad guys vanquished, questions answered, motives revealed and a tidy resolution.
But real life is rarely so neat and squared away.
There are smaller mysteries that sit at the back of our minds but we can ignore and then there are the big “What ifs?” and “Whys?”
The cosmic questions that rock our world and threaten to undo us.
These are the questions that filled my mind and kept me awake at night after burying my son. Questions I was free to ignore before they took up residence in my soul and echoed in my head with every thump, thump, thump of my beating heart.
I’ve had more than one person suggest I compile these blog posts into a print resource.
It would be a daunting task.
Much of what I write is meant to be a short, stand alone musing about one aspect of grief or another and I’m not sure how to weave individual posts into some sort of cohesive fabric or narrative that would be worth anyone’s time or effort to read.
So I have an honest question: Do you, faithful reader, think such a thing would be helpful?
Is it worth the time, energy, effort and seeking publisher permissions for quotes?
If you do think it’s a good idea, what format might be best? Short essays/posts collected by topic or a narrative of my journey punctuated by excerpts from blog entries?
This is NOT a vanity post, it’s a genuine question.
It’s easy to imagine when sitting in a safe place surrounded by other believers that if tragedy should visit my home, my faith would remain rock solid and unshakeable.
After all, I stuffed my head and heart with truth, kept a prayer journal, wrote out Scriptures and jotted notes and dates in the margin of my Bible.
I put on the full Armor of God and raised my children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Our family didn’t just attend church, we served the Body of Christ inside and outside the four walls of the building.
But when the knock came and the words from the deputy flew at me and pierced my heart, I unraveled.
Not at first, mind you.
Oh, I screamed and couldn’t catch my breath. I fell to my knees and barely made it to the sofa where I had to make phone calls. I was shaking and crying.
Still, a blessed numbness fell over me and my first Facebook posts and my first words to friends and family affirmed my belief that God was still in control and we would somehow make it through. It was reflex to lean in and take hold of the faith that had carried me that far.
I clung to the only life raft I could see in that awful storm.
It really wasn’t until a few weeks later, when my heart and mind began to fully comprehend the neverness of Dom’s return that the questions started.
I soon realized that if my faith was to endure, I had to examine everything I thought I knew about God and how He worked in the world in light of child loss.
Platitudes and hand-me-down interpretations of Scripture were not going to be enough.
So I brought the questions to God Himself in prayer and pleading, in whispers, shouts and writing. I sat silent waiting for His response and I searched the pages of my Bible looking for new insight into old, familiar passages.
I got some answers.
But not all of them.
And I had to decide what to do with that.
My heart isutterly, absolutelyconvinced that God is a good God, a faithful Father and the trustworthy Savior of my soul. He is all-knowing, all-powerful and ever-present. He knows the end from the beginning and I can trust Him to work all things (even child loss) for good.
So I’ve learned to still my spirit, to quiet my heart’s restless quest for answers and abide in the arms of my Shepherd.
I will live in the mysterious space between what I know and what I can’t comprehend.
I will wait patiently for the answers or until eternity when my pain is redeemed and what is lost restored and the answers won’t matter.
Because they who wait on the Lord will never be put to shame.
I spent long hours with Mama in the last years of her life.
That gave me plenty of time to mine her memory for details of stories I’d heard for years but never took time to really listen to closely.
I knew (although I had no idea how soon it might happen!) that I wouldn’t have her forever. I wanted to gather all the bits and pieces I could hold that would remind me who she was, who she loved and what made her unique so I could always, always remember.
When she left us last September I felt like I had a treasure chest of tales and precious mementos.
It wasn’t that way with Dominic.
I never imagined I’d need such a thing.
I never thought I would be the one left behind with questions about what motivated him to this or that, go here or there, what brought him particular delight or made him stay awake at night.
Time was on my side.
He was young and vibrant.
No need to dig for bits to tuck away in case he wasn’t here to ask.
I try to share this post a couple of times each year because it discusses a question many bereaved parents desperately want to answer: Did God take my child?
These are my thoughts-ones I believe are backed by Scripture and align with what I know personally about God’s character.
They are the result of many months of wrestling. I offer them in hopes they will help another heart.
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.
The opposite of faith isn’t doubt, it’s certainty.
Somewhere in the pursuit of truth and light, the Protestant reformation embraced at least one of the very practices it sought to discard.
I absolutely believe that by the time Martin Luther tacked his theses to the door the church needed reforming.
Men’s traditions and human “wisdom” had adulterated the pure truth and freedom of Christ’s Good News. No longer a source of liberation, it had been transformed by those in power into a form of bondage.
But humans are a stubborn and prideful lot and it wasn’t long before the liberators became slave drivers.
“Sola Scriptura” didn’t allow for any deviation from the accepted interpretation of those Scriptures. And the interpretation often went past the text and included making absolute assertions about how God works in the world.
Men began to once again place God in a box.
My intentions are not always yours,
and I do not go about things as you do.
9 My thoughts and My ways are above and beyond you,
just as heaven is far from your reach here on earth.
Isaiah 55:8-9 VOICE
So much of the “faith” handed down today through Sunday School lessons and sermons is one that simply doesn’t leave room for mystery or for doubt or, honestly, for many of the actual Bible stories if you read them straight from the Book and not get them second hand from a loose retelling .
Jesus Himself-the exact representation of the Father (Hebrews 1:3)-didn’t greet skeptics with absolute proof. He pointed to the work He was doing, the truth He was telling and the miracles He performed but He left it to the audience to decide if that qualified Him as the Christ.
Yet we treat those who bring questions to the table of grace at best as immature and at worst as apostates or faithless wannabes.
How far we have fallen from Paul’s declaration: “We walk by faith and not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)
Worse, we often condemn those who want desperately to come trembling to their church to seek other people and spaces outside the community of faith where their questions will be tolerated.
I love how Philip Yancey spoke of this in a recent blog titled, “A Time To Doubt”:
Jesus had the opportunity to subdue doubts for all time. He could have appeared with a choir of angels on Pilate’s porch the Monday after his resurrection and triumphantly declared, “I’m back!” Or, he could have staged a spectacular display before thousands in the Roman Forum. Instead, he limited his appearances to small groups of people who had already demonstrated some faith in him—which tells me something about the kind of uncoerced faith that God values.
In one of those small gatherings, the apostle who would earn the nickname “doubting Thomas” confronted Jesus. I love that scene, for two reasons. First, it shows the gentle way Jesus treated a doubter, when he had a perfect chance to scold him or pile on the guilt. Listen to Jesus’ approach: “What proof do you need, Thomas? Want to touch my wounds? Shall I eat something for you?”
Second, I note the poignant fact that the other disciples, who had already encountered the risen Jesus, included Thomas in their midst. To them, Thomas was a heretic: he defiantly refused to believe in the Resurrection, the cornerstone of Christian faith. Even so, they welcomed him to join them behind closed doors. Had they not, Thomas may never have met the resurrected Jesus.
Perhaps that gives a model for how the church should handle doubters now. Can we provide a safe, welcoming place for those who need more light?
Philip Yancey, “A Time to Doubt”
I know so, so many people who suffer greatly-often through no fault of their own and sometimes due to the fault and sin of others-who struggle to square their experience with all the declarations they’ve heard about “how God works”.
I know others who have crossed every “t” and dotted every “i” on the long list of “what good Christians do and God rewards” and are living a life of desperation and sadness because life hasn’t turned out anything like what they thought they were promised.
Is it any wonder they are trying to figure things out?
Doubt is not denial.
If someone is asking questions, they are still seeking.
John Drummond points out that Jesus consistently made a distinction between doubt and unbelief.“Doubt is can’t believe; unbelief is won’t believe. Doubt is honesty; unbelief is obstinacy. Doubt is looking for light; unbelief is content with darkness.” (quoted by Philip Yancey, A Time to Doubt)
Jesus invited honest questions.
He only chastised the religious leaders who thought they knew it all.
Perhaps we could do the same and make space for those who are walking through a desert place to refresh themselves, renew their hope and restore their faith.
**If anyone is honestly searching, they are welcome to use the “contact” option to send me an email and begin a dialogue. ❤**