When Kai died, the trauma of loss and grief overwhelmed me in torrents of pain and sadness. At times the pain grew so intense, it left me gasping for breath. I was drowning in sorrow. How could a God who says He loves me, let me go through this? Isn’t He all powerful? Isn’t He good? There’s no darkness in Him, right? My pain exposed my broken places. My conclusion was that God didn’t love me. I wasn’t one of the “chosen” because surely His “chosen” would be protected from such evil.
A friend was trying to encourage me. She said to pick something to remind me that God loves me. I did. I appropriated God’s rainbow of promise that He would never flood the world again to show His love for me. Now, I see my arrogance. The animists believe that they can manipulate their circumstances with the physical world. My world became more about a rainbow than faith in Jesus. Faith is believing without seeing. I’ve blogged about my devastation over my husband getting to see a rainbow, while I was in a meeting that emotionally I could barely sit through. The problem with “pick your thing” is the LORD created the rainbow for His purposes. The pink skies belong to Him and declare His glory, not His love for me. “Pick your thing” is man-centric. What happens to me when I desperately need reassurance of God’s love, and it’s storming? There’s no pink sky, no rainbows, and no prancing deer. Nature is what nature is.
Another friend encouraged me to “push through.” She kept saying, “Let go, let God.” “God’s got this!” I looked at her and said, “This is what you say to someone who can’t breathe?” She simply said yes and kept talking, saying how everyone needed me to push through because they needed me to be O.K. Even she needed me to be O.K. Although, she was trying to help, what she did was deny my pain. Frustrated and overwhelmed, I finally asked her to stop talking because she was hurting me. The next morning her husband told me to apologize to her for being harsh with her. Again, denying my pain in my time of need. Later, this couple condemned me for not grieving with them. Desperately, I tried to point out the duplicity of expecting me to start acting like the “old Matthea”, while exposing them to my grief. They just sat there saying “No. No. No.” Unfortunately, we were unable to resolve the break in relationship.
I cried out to the Lord in my anguish, believing in His power to heal, even if He didn’t love me. What I now know is that my grief journey followed a similar path of most. In the beginning, I was almost numb. I went through the motions of the funeral and trying to get back to my old life, but I couldn’t sleep. My lack of sleep alone could account for some of my anguish. Grieving is exhausting!
About a year before Kai died my spiritual mom passed away from cancer leaving dad and a bunch of new sisters to grieve together. Dad encouraged me to read Finding God by Dr. Larry Crabb. My dad met me in my devastation, my overwhelming loss. The closest I can come to describing the pain of losing my child is to picture the removal of every bone in your body. Now be your old self walking. You can’t!
Dr. Crabb met me too. Throughout the pages of his book he described my pain. He understood my fear that God didn’t love me. He identified with me in my anger and anguish. He asked me to grapple with whether or not God is good? He even helped me to understand my two friends. He writes in his book,
“Modern Christians are presented with two options for dealing with our lives: Either we can understand how our souls have been wounded and how to receive God’s healing nourishment, or we can obey God as a stern uninvolved father, and never tell him how bad we hurt. Either our hurt is the point, or it is no point at all. Either our needs matter more than anything else, or it is wrong even to mention them.
We need a third way of handling our lives- a way that combines a passionate sensitivity to our deepest struggles with a tender insistence that something matters more than how we feel. It is healthy to face the pain in our souls, to feel bad when others violate our dignity, to admit to ourselves how desperately we long to feel loved and valued and accepted as we are. But, in the middle of all this, we need to remember that the point of Christianity is not us, but God who cares for us.”
SO, I can’t quote the whole book, but I hope it intrigues you enough to read it.
God met me in my grief. As I trusted Him with my grief, He showed me that the reason why my friends hurt me so deeply was my expectations. I expected my friends to love me more than they loved themselves. We can’t expect that out of others; we are all broken people. They loved me the way they made sense of their hurts, and that didn’t work for me. I needed God. In my world there wasn’t a rainbow, and I couldn’t just push through the pain. Ignoring the pain felt like I was dishonoring Kai’s memory. He was a real person, who needed to be grieved, not forgotten.
God truly cares about our hurts, but the physical world that is broken by sin does not display His love for us. God knew that nothing in all of creation would be good enough to show His love. God sent himself to bring us back to himself. As I cried out to God to rescue me, He gently said, “I have. I gave you myself. I paid the price, so that you can enjoy my presence.” I realized I wanted God to protect me from everything that everyone else must endure because we still live in a world broken by sin. Our bodies fail. Our minds fail. Our emotions lie to us. Our friends fail. Parents fail. Children die. People hurt us. This world is broken that’s why Jesus reminds us that His kingdom is not of this world. I wanted His kingdom NOW. I’ve learned that there are some problems that will not be solved until heaven. When my friend looked at me and quoted the verse, “He gives beauty for ashes.” I no longer tried to be heard. I silently said in my heart, “Yes, He will, but right now, I literally have the ashes of my son in an urn. He hasn’t taken my ashes.” One day, I will stand with my son and worship the Risen Savior.
I have learned that I do not have to submit myself to the “fundamentalist who crushes the soul under proud obedience, and I don’t have to give into the illusion of life that honors the deadly virus of selfishness by calling it a different name. The first approach seems to imply that we pick ourselves up from where we have fallen by a mere act of will. The second defines our helpless condition as morally excusable and therefore values God’s help above his mercy.”
Paul reminds us that nothing can separate us from the love of God. What I missed is that I may have to face death. I may be in trouble. I will face hardship and persecution and famine and nakedness and danger and sword. I may be delivered up as sheep to be slaughtered. Not because doesn’t love me, but because this world is broken. My Jesus has demonstrated his love for me that while I was still a sinner He died for me. I am an heir, co-heir with Christ, but I will indeed share in his sufferings in order that I may also share in his glory. Romans 8:17