Trusting God After Loss: Why It’s Hard, Why It’s Necessary

One of the greatest challenges I faced this side of child loss was finding a space where I could speak honestly and openly about my feelings toward God and about my faith.

So many times I was shut down at the point of transparency by someone shooting off a Bible verse or hymn chorus or just a chipper, “God’s in control!”

They had NO IDEA how believing that (and I do!) God is in control was both comforting and utterly devastating at the very same time.

It took me awhile to revisit the basic tenets of my faith and tease out what was truly scriptural and what was simply churchy folklore. 

It was worth it.

Because while my faith looks different today than it did the day before the deputy knocked on my door, it is still faith.  And it is rock-solid, founded squarely on the truth of the Bible, the words of Jesus and the unalterable promises of God Almighty.  

I spoke on this topic last October and developed a series of posts to make what I shared available here.

So as a follow-up to yesterday’s post (if I didn’t scare you off!),  I’m putting the links to all the posts in my series “Trust After Loss” in one place.

Here they are, with a brief description of each:  

God is sovereign-He rules.

God is good-He loves.

How do those two truths live together in a universe that includes child loss? How can I trust the rest of my life and my eternal future to a God who lets this happen?

Read the rest here:  Trust After Loss: Admit the Pain

“Faith does not eliminate questions but faith knows where to take them”

~Elisabeth Elliot

Read the rest here:  Trust After Loss: Acknowledge Doubt and Ask Questions

The same God Who keeps the earth in orbit around the sun has ordained that death will not have the last word.

Light will triumph.

Darkness will have to flee.

Read the rest here:  Trust After Loss: Access the Truth

This is what it means to appropriate God’s strength:  

I have to exhale my doubts, inhale His truth and then allow His Spirit to weave that truth into armor so that I am strong for battle.

Read the rest here: Trust After Loss: Appropriate God’s Strength

God is no respecter of persons. 

What He did for me, He will do for you.  

Ask Him to guide your heart and He will do it

 

Why You Might Have to “Forgive” God

I love this quote.  

It’s honest and exactly how I felt after Dominic was killed.

Like any healthy human relationship, forgiveness is a key component in allowing us to grow closer to those we care about.  Intellectually, I believed that God is perfect, and could do no wrong.  I could agree with all the scriptures I had read since I was a child that told me God cares for us with an everlasting love.  But what my heart felt was that God had done Cathy and my whole family an injustice.  As long as I held onto those feelings, I knew I could never move forward.

So one evening alone at home, I simply said these words out loud:  ‘God, I forgive you.’

When I was finally able to let go of my ‘justifications’ for feeling angry at God, something inside of me shifted.  There were no heavenly rays of light breaking through the clouds, but I could tell that much of the mental turmoil I had been struggling with was being replaced with a quiet peace.

The thing is, I knew deep down that God did not need to be forgiven.  The forgiveness was meant for my sake.  It opened my heart to begin to listen and allowed me to receive more of what God wanted to teach me about who He really is.

~Warren Ludwig, Jewels in the Junkyard

It may be an affront to our religious sensibilities to even suggest that we “forgive” God.

But it is a bold rendering of the betrayal my heart felt.  Why MY son?  Why ME?

It’s true-as long as I held onto the reasons God had “done me wrong”, I was unable to lean in and trust Him again.

Like Job, I thought I had Him figured out and could hold my own in a debate with the Almighty One.

But also like Job, when confronted with His holiness, perfection and majesty, found all I could do was cover my mouth.

And when I shut up long enough to hear Him, His voice brought comfort.

He [Christ] said not, ‘Thou shalt not be tempested, thou shalt not be trevailed, thou shalt not be dis-eased,’ but He said, ‘Thou shalt not be overcome.’

~Julian of Norwich

I no longer feel betrayed.  

I still don’t like this life.

I would never have chosen this life.  

But I will trust the One Who made me to carry me through it. 

i made you and i will carry you

 

 

 

You are a Treasure

Grief has challenged every single thing I believed about God and about myself.

It made me doubt whether He is a loving Father, whether He keeps His promises, whether He even cares one whit about all us little humans running around on planet Earth.

And it made me wonder what in the world is wrong with me that MY child was killed?  What had I done to deserve this?

Grief tells lies.  

And one of the biggest lies grief whispers is, “You are worthless.”

That is simply not true.

Even if you weren’t treasured by your earthly parents, the God of the universe treasures you, and His thoughts about you are always good. He chose you when He planned creation (Ephesians 1:11-12), and you are not a mistake (Psalm 71:6), and His thoughts toward you are countless – like the grains of sand on the shore (Psalm 139:17-18). You are really, truly, deeply loved by God.

~Esther Fleece, No More Faking Fine

I don’t know your story but I can promise you this: God isn’t finished with you yet.

IMG_5324

I believe that each one of us is celebrated as a unique creation of our Father.

That goes for our children, but also for us.

I have no idea why God’s plan includes me outliving my child but He has a purpose that is yet unfulfilled for my life.

What happens TO us doesn’t determine our worth-not even the awful and heart shattering experience of child loss.

You are loved by a Heavenly Father Who has a plan for your life.

He can bring beauty from ashes, even the ashes of child loss.

You are not alone-you have a community of bereaved parents who will listen, love and lift you.

Lean in and hold onto hope. Don’t let go.

I’m praying for you.

beauty from ashes clothespin

 

 

Repost: Not Ashamed to Wait

“Those who wait for Me with hope will not be put to shame.”

Isaiah 49:23c NLV

We love stories of overcomers.  We invite testimonies that end in victory.

We applaud members of the Body who have a “before” and “after” tale of how Jesus plus willpower took them from the dust of defeat to the pinnacle of spiritual success.

But we hide the strugglers and stragglers in the back pews.

Read the rest here:  Not Ashamed to Wait

Though the Mountains Fall

I spent my teen years living in a suburb of Denver where the mountains marked west and you didn’t need a compass or GPS to get around.

Man and woman mountain biking, Dolomites, Italy

It never occurred to me that the mountains might crumble or that I might wake one morning to find them somewhere else.  

They were steady, sure and absolutely dependable.  

When I moved to Pittsburgh and was forced to navigate without mountains to guide me, I found it easy to get lost (and I got lost a LOT in the first few months!).

The landmarks I had depended on were gone.  

That’s what it felt like when I received the awful news. 

In the first shock of death everything that has seemed most dependable had given way. Mountains were falling, the earth was reeling. In such a time it is a profound comfort to know that although all things seem to be shaken, one thing is not: God is not shaken … the thing that is most important is to do what the psalmist does later, to be ‘still’ and know that God is God. God is God whether we recognize it or not. But it comforts us and infuses strength into our faltering spirits to rest on that truth.

~Elisabeth Elliot

The earth beneath me gave way.  I was falling. 

But God…

When my heart was shattered, my hope hanging on by a thread, the Spirit of God brought truth to mind and gave me the strength to hold on.

though the mountains

I trust God’s Word and His character, even when I don’t understand what He is doing.  

His faithful love endures forever. 

I can depend on that.  

No matter what.  

Sterkte: The Empowering Strength of God in Me

Yesterday was four years since the day we buried Dominic.  I can barely comprehend it. It’s a terrible thing for a mama’s heart to watch the seasons change and think, “I need to change the flowers on Dominic’s grave.”

But I do it.

It’s one of the last things I can do for this child of my heart.

Sterkte. 

I didn’t even know this word when we buried Dominic.  

But I wish I had.  

Because “sterkte” expresses precisely the supernatural strength and courage that filled my heart, mind and body as I stood for the hours of visitation, sang the worship songs, listened to friends, family and our shepherd/pastor give a message and invitation to a packed sanctuary, then filed out ahead of my son’s casket.

Sterkte literally translates “strength” or “power” but culturally means much more.

It means bravery, strength, fortitude and endurance in the face of fear and insurmountable odds through the empowering strength of God in me.

The morning of Dominic’s funeral-nine long days after his accident-I posted this on Facebook:

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” 
~Habakkuk 3: 17-18

dom on mountaintop

Years before, in another dry but hardly tragic season, God had imprinted those verses on my heart.  Even if-even if- there was no way through but through, I was determined to trust God and to lean in and hold onto hope.  

I had no idea how that choice would be tested in the coming days, weeks, months. 

I had no idea that even now, four years later, I would have to hold on just as hard, wake each morning and make that choice once again, refuse the whispers of the enemy of my soul that spread seeds of doubt and confusion.

But in my own strength, all the determination in the world would be for nothing. 

I am not strong enough or brave enough to stand.  

It’s sterkte that held me up that day four years ago when my son’s body was lowered into the ground and dirt shoveled on top.  It’s sterkte that keeps me upright today when tsunami waves of grief still wash over me and sobs escape.  It’s sterkte that gives me strength to hold onto hope and lean into truth and keep marching bravely into a future that may yet hold more heartache.

Habakkuk committed to praise God no matter what happened.  

He understood sterkte.  It was his lifeline. 

After his declaration of purpose, he gives the reason why: 

The Lord God is my Strength, my personal bravery, and my invincible army; He makes my feet like hinds’ feet and will make me to walk [not to stand still in terror, but to walk] and make [spiritual] progress upon my high places [of trouble, suffering, or responsibility]!

~Habakkuk 3:19

The Lord God is my Strength.

The Lord God is my personal bravery.

The Lord God is my invincible army. 

He is the reason I’m still standing.

melanie feet crocs and driveway step

Saturday

For decades I looked forward to Saturdays.

When I was a child it meant a day off school and an opportunity for freedom.  Many Saturdays were spent playing outside or riding along with my dad to the hardware store to pick up needed items for a home project.

snoopy saturday

A little older and I used up my Saturday at the horse barn.  Mucking stalls, riding a little and hanging out with sawdust and hay and sweaty animals and people.

Older still and Saturdays meant date nights.  Squeezing in fun between long days in a college classroom and part time work were what Saturdays were made for.  Catching a movie, going dancing or taking a ride in the country were favorite past times.

Then came children and for awhile Saturdays represented the only time I was not solely responsible for four little lives.  The only day I might get a chance to take a bath without small heads peeking around the doorway with some “emergency”.

Later, as they grew, Saturdays were spent at basketball games where three boys played on three different teams and it took all morning and into early afternoon for everyone to finish up.  Sack lunches were the order of the day as we cheered and waited, waited and cheered.  We went home exhausted and managed a little yard work before hitting the bed.

saturday you are my favorite

Children grow into adulthood and Saturdays continued to reflect changing needs, priorities and schedules but almost always meant some family time despite the many responsibilities of each of us.  We managed to squeeze in family work days, family fun days, family trips, family movie nights.  It was beautiful.

And then came one Saturday.

A Saturday I’d like to forget if it didn’t mean forgetting Dominic.

Now Saturday is a reminder of the doorbell,

of the news,

of the horror,

of the disbelief.  

In some ways it is fitting that my heart is brought back around to this pain every Saturday because as a believer in Jesus, every Sunday is meant to recall the resurrection of Christ.  

So EVERY weekend, not only THIS one during Holy Week, my heart replays the sequence of sadness turned to joy.

The difference is that I still wait for the fullness of my promised joy.  But I’m holding on with both hands to that hope.  I’m digging in my heels and refusing to be dragged away from the hem of His garment.

He is faithful Who promised.  

 

He will redeem.  

He will restore.  

His resurrection proves it.  

wait patiently for gods promises