“Everything’s gray since she died,” Mother explained quietly. Death’s stiff brushstrokes slapped thick, opaque gray on her inner canvas already stretched thin from her own fight with cancer. Granddaughter Clara, now motherless and not yet two, brings splashes of life-color, but fleeting. More often, Mother’s gray sky days cloud full and eyes pour rain sheets. Her daughter is gone. Gone. Like a balloon adrift, rising to the heavens, watched until eyes ache to spot and then, disappearing from view. Gone.
Daughters aren’t supposed to receive news of life in womb and cancer in breast within a month’s time. Daughters aren’t supposed to die before mothers. Mothers aren’t supposed to die, abandoning baby daughters. And my friend, diagnosed with cancer a year before Daughter, still lives. One taken. One healed. And we cry, “Why?!”
Questions abound. God is good? And God works all for good? In times like these, we ponder, we wonder. Where is God in the gray days, the dark days, the bleak and seemingly endless walking-dead days our loved ones leave for the living? Where is God when we’re raining on the inside, scared we’ll never see the sun again in our souls or experience its warmth once more in our hearts? Where is Love in the stark, cold loneliness of loss? Loss is sharp and steely, cutting deep, leaving us raw, exposed, vacillating between numb and excruciating at frightening speed.
Our circle of real sat holding Mother in silence. Eyes riveted upon her, her own eyes downcast on gnarled-knuckled hands. And she cried calmly. Two tear streams wound their way down wrinkled cheeks, over creased and quivering lips. Still we sat silent. What does one say in such moments? I pounded Heaven’s gates, begging God on behalf of the hurting.
“Help us, Father God, to hold a broken heart in holy silence void of pat words.”
“Help us, Comforter God, by giving us eyes that speak what words cannot.”
“Help us, Sovereign God, to know you are in control and that such pain will vanish one day.”
And we sat with her while she cried. Such raw grief, such palpable vulnerability told us, “Hush. Hold delicately.” We waited in that holy silence until tears stopped, eyes lifted, and sweet-smiling mouth expressed thanks for the gift of a safe haven to unburden. But it wasn’t just Mother who was gifted that morning.
God gifted us with our friend’s grief expressed. She gifted our circle of real with vulnerability, transparency, and honesty. God helped us to gift her with patience, holy silence, and Holy Spirit led prayers. All these gifts—such wondrous gifts—were ushered in by grief. Who would have ever thought that such pain, such loss, such grief could give such gifts? God.
If God were to offer me the gift of grief, would I see it as a gift? Or would I curse it as a curse? I’ve spent many years pondering such a question because I am well-acquainted with grief. I have concluded, after many years, that grief is often a precursor to unexpected, unimaginable comfort. Why?
God is so close to the brokenhearted. So close. He knows our suffering. Intimately. He knows.
And God understands. Oh yes, He understands.
Jesus was “a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.” (Isaiah 53:3). Familiar, according to Webster: “closely acquainted through personal knowledge.” Jesus and suffering were very well-acquainted.
Abandoned. Slandered. Rejected. Seeing close friends die. Witnessing heavy grief of loved ones left behind by death’s heartless robbery. Falsely accused. Scourged. Mocked. Nailed. Stabbed. Forsaken by His Father. Jesus suffered. And Jesus wept. Real tears. Real human, burning tears. He wept. The shortest, most meaningful verse of Scripture that led me to His feet, John 11:35, caused me to want to follow this man who said He was one with the Father God. Jesus. Totally human. Totally God.
Jesus wept. He knows our pain. He feels our pain. He cares. He heals. I want to know and follow this Jesus, wherever He leads—even through the valleys of death, because I now know who walks with me through the valleys of excruciating pain. Jesus.
Jesus wept over the death of his friend Lazarus. He wept when He witnessed the intense sorrow of Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha. He empathized with their pain, with their loss. Did He weep because of the sin-curse that caused such suffering? Yes, I would venture to guess. I do. I weep when I consider the fallen state of God’s once-perfect world where death and grief were not possible. But then it entered our experience—spiritually, physically, emotionally—by our own doing.
Death stings. Death robs. Death hurts like nothing else.
But I believe, enough to die, that God is sovereign over death. He alone gives life. And this life is not the end. Jesus conquered the life-robber, once and for all, and reclaimed forever the most valuable possession we have—life. True life. Eternal life. He purchased our eternal lives from the eternal life-robber by willingly giving His own temporal life as a ransom. He died for us. But that was not the end.
He rose from the dead never to die again. Think about that! He lives! We can’t see Him now with our temporal eyes, but He lives! He died and was placed in a tomb to rot. But He didn’t rot. HE ROSE FROM THE DEAD! Hundreds of people saw Him! People touched His risen, nail-pierced body. He conquered the grave because of His willingness to suffer the cross. And that’s not the only good news! He causes ALL who place their trust in Him to conquer the grave! All who trust Him for deliverance from the death-curse will be resurrected one day with new bodies that will never die and never feel pain! Oh, what a hope! The grave is not the end! Oh no! It’s the beginning of something far greater than anything imaginable here on earth for those who trust that Jesus, and Jesus alone, saves.
Jesus resurrects us spiritually, when we’re dead due to our rebellion against Him and His ways. Jesus resurrects us emotionally, when we think our dead days will be forever gray because we can’t see the future as He can. Jesus promised to resurrect us physically, with new bodies in the eternal realm that will never know pain, sickness, or death.
I believe His promises. Do you? If so, tell Him. Take your first step into your eternal promise today. Ask Him to help you wherever you need help. He is faithful. He will help you. Always. I know. I’m only one of millions who know He is true to His word. Always.
Jesus alone has the power to turn weeping into rejoicing—to resurrect the dead, both in body and soul, to live forever in peace. He will do so over and over again because He has done so over and over before. He is true to His word. Always. No exceptions. Know anyone, any other god, with that kind of track record? I don’t.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.