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Editor’s Picks: Best of “Why Do I Worship?”

We focused the last quarter on loving God with all of our soul. We asked our contributors. . .why do you worship?

Editor’s Picks: Best of “Why Do I Feel?”

As we started the new year, we embraced Luke 10:27 as our anchoring verse, and spent the first three months digging into what it looks like to love God with all of our hearts. We were blown away by the generous contributions from our global volunteer contributors, and wanted to share with you a few of our best articles—ones that have already encouraged thousands, that we hope can encourage you too!

Learning to Love God in the Midst of Grief

Written By Deborah Fox, Australia

The church was full: full of faces, food, color and noise. And yet, it somehow felt empty. To an outsider, it may have looked like a party . . . but the one person we were there to honor wasn’t able to celebrate with us.

As I stood to sing a worship song, I immediately broke down in tears. Seeing the casket in the center of the room, it instantly dawned on me: I would never see my friend’s beautiful smile again.

Suz passed away last week after suffering from a sudden and very unexpected stroke. When I heard the news, the only words I could muster were, “Why, God?” Here was a young woman in the prime of her lifea 29-year-old with an amazing intellect and dreams to transform the world. She had so much left to live for. Why did she have to die so young?

I never imagined I would be losing any of my friends or peers at this age. But this was my third friend under the age of 40 who has died in the past three years. I had just been dealing with the sudden death of my good friend Amy and didn’t expect that yet another friend would leave the world so soon.

I’ve grieved the loss of all four of my grandparents. I’ve had to bid farewell to church leaders, family friends, and teachers. Yet, when a young person dies, there’s a different kind of grief that opens up a Pandora’s Box of questions. Why would a good God allow this kind of suffering? How can a healthy young person be taken from us so soon? What about all the life events they never got to experience? If I’m being honest, it also brings me face-to-face with my own mortality. What would I be missing if God chose to call me home too?

It’s almost easier to justify when someone we love is involved in an accident or conflict. As tragic and heartbreaking as those situations may be, there is often a person or circumstance to direct our anger, fear, and frustration towards. But a healthy, young person dying out of the blue? The only one left to shake our fists at is the One who gave them life and then decided to take it away so soon.

Perhaps it’s not the issue of God’s goodness but our fear of suffering which so often drives us to think this way. We struggle to deal with death and suffering because we’re conditioned to focus on being happy . . . all the time. We live in an age where death, illness and suffering are taboo concepts we like to sweep under the carpet. So how do we handle this kind of grief?

The one thing I’ve come to realize is that there’s no magical formula for dealing with this kind of loss. But there are opportunities to use the situation to help shape our faith and care for those who are struggling. Here are a few things I’ve discovered along the way:

 

1. We can grieve with those who grieve

Don’t avoid talking about the deceased—celebrate their memory. When someone we care about is upset, it might be tempting to ignore the problem and try to focus on something else. But all that does is minimize the pain and encourage the idea that death and suffering are taboo topics that can’t be talked about.

It might be uncomfortable but don’t tiptoe around the pain. Step into that cavern of sadness and grieve with them. Romans 12:15 says to rejoice with those who rejoice and to mourn with those who mourn. We’ve been created to be a community for a reason.

 

2. Don’t live in fear—anticipate the hope of resurrection

Suz’s father read an excerpt from her diary at her celebration service. In it, she had shared about her earthly struggles and how eagerly she awaited reunion with Christ. She poured her heart into praying for a revival so that many more people across the nation would come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior as she did. In the words of the minister, she “believed, lived and shared the hope of the resurrection”, knowing that death is not just a departure from a transient world but an arrival to life everlasting.

We can be consumed by the fear of the unknown. We can worry about what others think. We can go about our days in constant pursuit of earthly success. Or we can live out the hope we have in Christ now, knowing that one day we will be reunited with our loved ones (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

 

3. Turn your narrow gaze from the worries of this world to the big picture of eternity

Every time one of my friends has died or taken their own life, it’s been a wake-up call for me to take stock of my own heart and ask whether I am actively living out my faith or getting caught up in the daily grind. When heaven and earth unite, will it really matter whether I managed to find a husband? Will it matter that I don’t own my own house? Does it matter that I’m not financially secure? Will I regret not buying that cute skirt or getting a good grade on an exam?

The only regret I think I would have when looking into the eyes of Jesus is not sharing the message of His love with others. As we’re encouraged in 2 Corinthians 4:18, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

 

I don’t know why God chose to call my friends home to Him at such a so young age. I don’t have any answers to give their families about the purpose of it all. I may never understand the bigger picture. But I’m learning to walk closer with God through all of my questions.

In working through my heartache and grief, I’ve come to experience the love of my heavenly Father on a far deeper level. There is so much sin, suffering, and brokenness in the world. But we live with the glorious hope that death will one day be swallowed up in victory:

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”  (1 Corinthians 15:54-55)

 

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series on learning to love God in the midst of life’s challenges. Click here to read about how another contributor learned to love God through a series of crises in her life.

My Child, A Gift from God, Stillborn Without A Skull

By Grace Loh, as told to Sophia Ng

My husband, Bryan, and I had been waiting for God to bless us with a second child. When we finally tested positive on a pregnancy kit, we were ecstatic.

Through the first 12 weeks, everything appeared healthy. But when I went in for a scan the 13th week, the sonographer found something amiss. She picked up the phone and immediately called her senior. I knew then that something was wrong. But I tried to control my emotions and keep myself level-headed, not wanting to make an outburst in public.

They sent me for scan after scan. Nearly four hours later, I was seated down by a consultant who broke the bad news to me and advised me to terminate the pregnancy. He set a date for me, and that was that.

My husband and I called our pastor and told him the news. He helped me realize that termination was abortion and said, “You need to reconsider this in the light of God’s Word.”

Inside, I was struggling. I wanted to terminate the pregnancy, but there was no peace. In my heart was a battle between my will and God’s will. I did not want to have to live through the first trimester of nausea and vomiting, and a tough delivery, knowing that I was not going to bring a child home. In that moment of confusion, I told God, “I want my way”, but I sensed Him saying, “That is not my way, child”.

The next day, I was in the car going down the expressway when these thoughts were racing through my mind, and I finally surrendered. I told God: “Regardless of what it is, I’m going to choose Your way.”

At that moment, the peace of God that surpasses all understanding just flooded me. This perfect peace guarded our hearts and minds for the months to come.

 

A Long Nine Months

But that did not mean we weren’t grieving.

I had never felt more depressed in my life. Our child, whom we knew was God-sent, was not going to live. I finally understood what it meant to be depressed—you are in a black hole that you just can’t get out of. You lose your zest for life and want to lie in bed and not do anything else. You can’t even pray because you just want to die. I remember feeling like this for days.

Depression also set in for Bryan once his logic wore off. But because of what we were going through, we saw our firstborn, Charity, who was then one-and-a-half, showing empathy for the first time. She went over, wiped his tears and said, “Papa, don’t cry.”

Friends and family responded differently to the news. Well-meaning people would say all sorts of hurtful things. Many told us, “Grace, you need to have faith that God will heal him”, “you didn’t pray enough” or “you didn’t believe enough.” I had to keep reminding myself that these people loved me and did not mean to hurt me.

Deep down, I knew that God was not going to heal my baby, and I was meant to go through this grief. I think it takes more faith to believe and continue to trust God amid negative, rather than positive circumstances.

Going through the purifying fire taught me to hope in God, instead of hoping for a circumstance. The Word of God doesn’t say He will definitely give us healing, or a good job, or a positive outcome. God never promised us these things. He says he will give us abundant life (John 10:10), but we learned that this abundant life is not found in the absence of trials or troubles, but in the presence of hope, joy, peace, and love even amidst the toughest moments.

Yes, I would have liked for God to heal our baby, but what if God, in His sovereignty, knew that it was not best for me, or the world?

Mature Christians who counseled us through all of this advised that we name the child. We had always wanted to name our first son Matthias, which means “gift of God.” Even though we knew the “gift” was going to die, we nevertheless named him Matthias in faith—knowing he was a gift, no matter what.

 

 

The Birth

Around my 38th week of pregnancy, I checked into the hospital as I was in a lot of pain. The doctors put me on oxytocin drip, which would help induce labour. At one point I felt Matthias writhing and thrashing inside me, but eventually he went quiet, and I fell asleep.

When the doctors came to examine me a few hours later, they found that my uterus had torn, and I was bleeding. They said I needed to undergo an emergency C-section. The doctors made me sign a whirlwind of papers I could barely understand, authorizing them to perform any procedures deemed needful. Then I was pushed into the operating room.

By the time I woke up from surgery and got to hold my baby, Matthias was already cold, stiff and blue. His skin was waxy and sticky.

The first question I asked Bryan was, “Is my uterus still there?” My uterus had ruptured and just missed a major artery. If it had torn anymore, I would’ve lost my uterus. That was my saving grace.

 

Experiencing Perfect Peace

We didn’t know what our state of mind would be after the birth, so we had made preparations for our various responsibilities. What we didn’t expect was the depth of peace we experienced. It was like God had put us in a bubble of perfect peace.

I had been afraid of the pain, the grief, and the cost of going through with our decision, but what I learned was that the grace of God will always be sufficient. No matter how hard the choice might seem, once you say “yes” to God, He is with you every step of the way. The peace of God protects you and the grace of God empowers you.

Through this trial, the Word of God came alive and this experience deposited a lot of gems in me, such as patience, forgiveness, understanding of the peace and grace of God, and learning to walk in faith and not by sight. Proverbs 3:5-6 taught me to trust the Lord even when I don’t understand what and why He’s doing something, simply because His thoughts and ways are higher than mine (Isaiah 55:8-9). These verses helped me to surrender my situation to God and respond as Mary did in saying, “Be it unto me” (Luke 1:38).

As Hillsong United so aptly wrote in Desert Song, “There is a faith proved of more worth than gold, so refine me, Lord, through the flame.” Throughout the trials, Charity was our rainbow, our sparkle and brought us out of the pit of depression with her joy and laughter. I treasure her so much. She also now understands life and death. She says, “I can’t wait to see didi (younger brother). When I go to Jesus, I will be so happy.”

 

 

Many children who understand death fear it, but she knows there is life after death. That is something we could have never taught her.

 

Through the Fire, Once Again

The grief still hits occasionally out of the blue. Nearly a year after Matthias’s passing, I received news that a close friend of mine was pregnant. It hit me hard and I felt a pang of jealousy. Why should she get a healthy pregnancy?

Shortly after, I noticed my tastes started to change and I was feeling a tad fatigued. A home pregnancy test confirmed that I was expecting for the third time.

Not everything is rosy with my rainbow baby. I started bleeding early on, and my gynaecologist discovered a blood clot inside. There’s still a threat of miscarriage. What’s more, the doctor has given a 20-30 per cent chance of my uterus rupturing again. If it happens outside of hospital, I could even lose my life.

In the past, if I were faced with the same circumstances, I would be freaking out from one scan to the next. Now, I think to myself that if baby lives, then so be it.

My hope is in God’s character, that regardless of the outcome, God’s will is best for me and there is a greater purpose. He is the anchor of our soul.

The grief doesn’t go away; the hole will always be there. But we do not grieve without hope, knowing there is peace in the grief and one day, we will be reunited in heaven.