Suicide was not the graduation present I prepared for. From birth to adulthood I encouraged my son towards long life, cradling and nurturing him in his dependency, kissing boo-boos as he grew, teaching him how he should be treated and how to love others. I prayed over him, cried with him, and hoped for good things. God saved me through motherhood. Surely, he would never allow such a precious, life changing gift to be harmed. But such a belief did not keep the sheriff from showing up on my doorstep two months after my son’s 18thbirthday. Suddenly I opened the door wide to the unwanted gift of grief.
Though shattered, I was still given a choice. Navigate grief my way, or God’s. Fear or hope. My way was to take revenge on those who harmed Jonathan; God’s way was to forgive. My way was to hold tight to what was; God’s way was to let go and embrace what is. My way was to shutter my heart; God’s way was to open the ache wide and love deeper. When I surveyed both options, I saw closed doors and isolation, but with God I saw life and resurrection beyond my son’s grave.
Something strange and beautiful was birthed when I chose to love the Lord God with all my heart, soul, and mind through grief. Amid the shock I saw comfort appear in miraculous ways. Notes in my mailbox. A tree planted in my front yard. Men and women became the framework of love and grace in the darkness of any lingering unbelief. Grieving well, motivated me to study scripture and learn more about God’s character. As I prayed God opened heaven to me—his word became my daily bread. I sought counsel in my weakness and sisters and brothers in Christ cried with me, held me accountable, and encouraged me. Witnessing, testifying to both the sorrow and joy I was feeling forced me to notice the goodness of God and act upon it.
God warned throughout scripture there is grief and suffering in a broken and fallen world, but he also promised comfort, aid, and transformation (Mark 12:29-31). Jesus echoes this when He says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
By no means have I fully accomplished grieving well, but I earnestly seek realized hope. Lives are saved and the tide is turning on despair. By loving God well through my circumstances, I experience the shortest route through grief and receive comfort. Grief will be but a speck! The gift of grief is learning to love the Lord my God with my whole heart and loving others more deeply. There is no greater gift than experiencing lives transformed by God when the enemy meant to destroy us.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT: At any point a loss can and will happen. The announcement of a sudden change in circumstance shocks your system—your way of thinking and living. Loss of a loved one comes through the jolting knock on the door; best friends or children move across the country, or you find yourself confronting job loss or the ending of a relationship. What spiritual, mental and physical tools do you already carry in your preparedness bag that help you to love well throughout trials? Develop a list of scriptures, friendships, wise advisors, hope, and truth to draw from when in crisis. Each are life-giving resources. Christ gave me hope through observing his promises and provision throughout nature. Friends of mine, one or two years out from loss, displayed that joy was still possible in suffering. What relationships do you have that challenge and lift you up as you walk through difficult circumstances? What bogs you down in despair? If you haven’t experienced loss yet, establish a crisis plan like you would for a fire escape route. I have included verses that have helped me to navigate and endure the fire of loss. As you read them, may you be encouraged by remembering Jesus always has you!
PRAYER: Lord, continue to teach me to love you well. Out of that love, I thank you for giving me your grace and peace to love fellow sufferers. Open up your word so that I know you better and give me the courage to walk through my sorrow open to compassion and love. Amen.