No Middle Ground: Faith After Loss

There is so much work to do in grief.  

I had to sort through feelings, sort through my son’s belongings and sort through the scattered shards of my faith.  

I picked each piece up carefully, turned it over and over and was forced to determine whether I could still believe.

It took time-not because God was elusive or silent-but because circumstances demanded that I figure out how child loss, God’s sovereignty, His goodness and His love fit together.

And what I realized was that there is no middle ground.  Either it was all true (even though I still had unanswered questions) and everything was going to be alright or none of it was true and nothing would ever be alright again.

Either God is God or He’s not.  

I love this quote from Elisabeth Elliot: 

Now if I had had a faith that was determined God had to give me a particular kind of answer to my particular prayers, that faith would have disintegrated. But my faith had to be founded on the character of God Himself. And so, what looked like a contradiction in terms: God loves me; God lets this awful thing happen to me … I had to leave in God’s hands and say okay, Lord, I don’t understand it. I don’t like it. But I only had two choices. He is either God or He’s not. I am either held in the Everlasting Arms or I’m at the mercy of chance and I have to trust Him or deny Him. Is there any middle ground? I don’t think so.

~Elisabeth Elliot, Suffering is Never for Nothing

Jesus told His disciples to expect life to be full of trouble.  

I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.]

~Jesus  (John 16:33 AMP)

But He also promised they wouldn’t be alone.

And I will be with you, day after day, to the end of the age.

~Jesus (Matthew 28:20 VOICE)

same God life is hard he is near

 

 

When I Feel Like God’s Not Listening

I think nearly every bereaved parent has a crisis of faith that takes one form or another.  

When I read scripture I see that most of the “giants” of faith had moments of doubt as well.

I have certainly felt sometimes like God wasn’t listening or if He was listening, He didn’t care.  He’s disappointed me because my prayers were not answered the way I expected them to be or they weren’t answered at all (from my perspective).

Those feelings are normal but feelings don’t always reflect truth.

If I’m to battle the lies my heart is tempted to believe, I must feed it truth until it’s able to take hold of it.

So I go to the Psalms of lament and follow the pattern laid out there:

  • Express my frustration, fear and disappointment (exhale my doubts);
  • bring my broken heart to God (position myself to receive);
  • and recite the truth that God does not lie and that every promise is “ yes” and “amen” in Christ ( inhale strength, faith, comfort and hope).

It’s not a once and done thing- sometimes I do this dozens of times a day. But I always come away stronger and better able to face my fears and doubts.  

If you currently feel like God’s not listening I pray you will take that pain straight to the Throne of grace.

Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep?
    Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.
  Why do you hide your face
    and forget our misery and oppression?

  We are brought down to the dust;
    our bodies cling to the ground.
   Rise up and help us;
    rescue us because of your unfailing love.

Psalm 44: 23-26 NIV

 

May you choose to trust truth even when your heart doesn’t want to.

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 NIV

And may you hear the Lord sing grace and mercy over your soul.

The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.

Zephaniah 3: 17

Quiet Desperation

I’d say my relationship with God right now is one of quiet desperation.  

I know, know, know that He is in control.  

I absolutely believe that Dominic is safe with Him and that He will hold onto me even when I can’t hold onto Him.  

I give them a life that is unceasing, and death will not have the last word. Nothing or no one can steal them from My hand.

John 10:28 VOICE

But I am also often like a petulant child who comes to the dinner table knowing full well I won’t be refused yet angry I have to come at all.  I want to provide for myself (yet can’t!) since things haven’t gone my way.

I eat because I need the sustenance but it doesn’t always taste good going down.  Afterwards I go away full and satisfied yet there’s still some leftover discord.

I’m thankful and question in the same breath.  

It’s uncomfortable.  

But there is nowhere else to go and no one else to turn to-the Lord is my Light and my Salvation.  

Lord, if we were to go, whom would we follow? You speak the words that give everlasting life. We believe and recognize that You are the Holy One sent by God.

John 6:68-69 VOICE

 

God’s Provision is Adequate For My Pilgrimage

This is a hard, hard thing to grasp.

A painful lesson to learn.

But it is truth:

The provision of God is adequate for my pilgrimage. God does not fail to see, know, understand, care, love, and ultimately to work all things ‘in conformity with the purpose of his will’ (Ephesians 1:11). His love is constant, though sometimes unfelt. His presence is assured, though sometimes He seems far away. His plan is good, though sometimes I hurt. For this present time I see dimly, mere faint outlines of all God’s purposes and plans. Yet I believe that His ways are better and His thoughts are higher than my own. In my time of trouble, my understanding is not crucial. It is my confidence in the person, the goodness, and the sovereignty of God that is the great, indispensable necessity.
~James Means, A Tearful Celebration

When my children were young, we made a habit of listening to classic books on tape as we made the miles between our rural home and all the places we had to go.  It was glorious to learn together, explore together and build up a reservoir of common literary references.  

pilgrims progress cover

One of the books we listened to was Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan.

In it, Christian, the main character, is making his way toward the Celestial City.  Along the way he meets all sorts of characters representing various temptations and snares common to all of us as we journey through this life.

I learned much from that book, the most important of which was this:

“To go back is nothing but death; to go forward is fear of death, and life everlasting beyond it. I will yet go forward.”

The road is hard.  The journey long.  The way perilous and uncomfortable.  

But I will go forward, trusting that the Lord has made every provision for my pilgrimage. 

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who’ve set their hearts in pilgrimage as they pass through the valley of Baca they make it a place of springs. The autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength until each appears before God in Zion.” 

~Psalm 84:5-7

blessed are those whose strength is in you

 

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

This time of year when broken hearts are surrounded by happy hearts it can hit hard.  

“Why, oh why is MY child not here?”  

“Where were You, God?” 

Believe me, more than four years later and I fall right back into the same questions I thought I had asked and answered (or become satisfied NOT to answer).

So I have to return to the basics of walking my heart through the steps of leaning into trust.

I wrote this awhile ago-combining in one post all the posts in this series.  I pray that if you, like me, need a refresher course in trusting God after loss, it helps your heart. 

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.

Read the rest here:  Trusting God After Loss: Why It’s Hard, Why It’s Necessary

A Sacred Privilege

When someone invites you in and serves up her deepest pain along with the coffee it might feel like a trap or a burden or a bother.

But it’s actually an act of great respect and trust.

Not everyone gets the privilege of hearing a heart laid bare and broken, vulnerable and uncovered.

If you are entrusted with such a treasure, consider it a sacred privilege.

Treat it with care.

Carry it carefully.

Wrap it in love.

be with me please

Between Sleep and Wake: Speaking Peace To My Heart

When I was a little girl, I struggled mightily being afraid of the dark.

Sometimes I could barely close my eyes because I was scared something terrible would happen between going to sleep and waking up.

I outgrew that as I grew into my faith.

go to sleep in peace

But after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, I found myself again afraid to go to sleep.  

Not because of “monsters” hiding beneath the bed but because it was between sleep and wake that he left.

I fell asleep with four living children and woke up with three.

I’m still not so good at falling asleep or staying asleep-just another change child loss has wrought in my life.  Most nights I have to talk myself into it.  

I recite truth to my spirit, sing songs to my soul.  

trust god in the light

I remind my heart that God was with me and was with Dominic the night he was killed. 

He was with me the morning I got the news and Dominic is with Him forever in Heaven.

I’ve learned that leaning into Him, I can find rest and wake to a new day, confident that whatever the sunrise brings, I am not alone.  

and when I wake up you are still with me