Posts

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.

 

Editor’s Picks: The Best of 2018

2018 has been a fulfilling year for us at YMI. We launched our very first online devotional, published over 560 articles, produced 39 artspace projects and 7 videos to help you ask the whys and walk out your purpose.

The Surprising Way God Spoke To Me In My Grief

Written By Tafadzwa Mutogo, Australia

I felt betrayed. Maybe God had forgotten about me? How could He let grief wreak such havoc on my family? It just didn’t make sense. I, like everyone else in the family, had believed for so many months that my mother would get better. That she would have a miraculous recovery, and everything would return to normal. But as the days stretched longer, with no sign of any change, I knew my twenty-first year wasn’t going to turn out the way I had imagined.

I sat snug against the corner of the campus shuttle, staring blankly out toward the mountains. The brokenness I suffered burrowed deep into the cracks of my soul. Questions popped into my head that I couldn’t answer. “Why was this happening?”, “Had I not prayed enough?”, “Where was God?”

No answer could calm the storm raging within me. I had suffered a terrible loss. Though I hadn’t forgotten that God loved me, it was hard to see that in this terrible season. The emotional storm I was in clouded any hint of God’s light.

When we encounter abrupt pain and loss, we inevitably question, why? Throughout my life, I have experienced many instances of hurt. Each time I think my broken heart is finally healing, something else happens to break it again. This time it was my mother’s death.

How could God allow this to happen? How could His good love bring such aching hurt? How can I find peace again?

 

Looking for answers

Like any other person seeking answers, I took to the Internet, rummaging through any information I could lay my hands on. But nothing seemed able to bring peace to my confused mind.

“Fifty best romantic movies” and “How to find the perfect guy” were some of the results on my screen. But they were meaningless to me. My heart wanted something deeper. I needed more than mere human love, but I was looking for divine answers in all the wrong places.

The lack of answers only increased my angst and confusion. I tried to ignore the questions. I distanced myself from loved ones, afraid of being hurt again. I fell deeper and deeper into anguish and pain, unable to see the goodness of God.

Utterly helpless, I finally cried out to Him, hoping for some kind of message written in the clouds, or an angel to carry me out of my misery, or anything, really, any sign to see me through the pain.

And He answered.

But not in the manner I had imagined. Not the spectacular declaration of love I was hoping for.

He was more subtle. He gently placed the book of Ruth upon my heart.

“No, that can’t be it!” I thought to myself as I skimmed over the pages of the well-known book. A book I had read countless times. I knew how the story went, the romance of Ruth and Boaz. The “relationship goals” for every Christian.

I wanted to know if God still loved me in this tough season. I didn’t want relationship advice.

Eventually, I gave in to His whispers. Reluctantly opening the book, I started reading.

 

God’s persistent love

What I found was my life story spread across the pages. I was like Naomi. She too was familiar with grief. Naomi and her family had to leave their lives behind when their homeland was struck by a famine. While living in a foreign land, her husband and sons all passed away, leaving her with two daughters-in-law. She became bitter against the Lord for the calamity that had befallen her. On hearing that the famine had ended, Naomi decided to return to her homeland alone, and urged her daughters-in-law to leave her and find their own families.

I could relate to that. Loving someone meant being open to grief and brokenness, and I had had enough of that. No wonder Naomi pushed her daughters-in-law away. The prospect of watching her two daughters-in-law waste their lives away caring for an old widow with neither hope nor future was too painful to bear. She would rather close her heart and be alone.

“But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.’ When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her” (Ruth 1:16–18).

Ruth was persistent and faithful to Naomi. And immediately, I was reminded of the nature of God’s love. I knew, beyond a doubt, that God was determined to walk with me through whatever seasons of life I had to endure. Ruth’s loyalty toward Naomi, and her selfless commitment to love someone at her angriest, saddest, most desperate and loneliest point was for me the face of God’s goodness and mercy. It didn’t matter that I was bitter toward Him. God was determined to love me.

After my mother’s death, I had become apathetic toward my relationship with God, even though I still confessed Him as Creator. But in reading that first chapter of Ruth, I re-discovered the relentlessness of God’s love, something I had somehow overlooked in my season of hurting.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of [your enemies], for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

God’s love is relentless.

In the depths of my despair, I had felt utterly alone. I had forgotten that God never leaves. I had spent countless hours questioning His love, forgetting that His love doesn’t change.

“To the One who remembered us in our low estate, His love endures forever” (Psalm 136:23).

But even when my whole world had shifted, His love remained. His love was constant, persistent in the face of my anger.

Ruth taught me a valuable lesson, a lesson I go back to whenever I start feeling alone. I hold on to its reminder whenever doubts begin to rise up.

I rest in knowing God’s love is undaunted by our brokenness.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38–39)

Being reminded of God’s persistent love brought me peace when I was struggling in life’s deep waters. I don’t have the strength to walk the journey alone, but I know God is with me.