My heart lies in tatters once again as I hear of the loss of another son, another grandson. It’s personal this time. People I know and love . . . the second such family in two months time . . . it makes me nauseous.
Oh, how helpless I feel!
I don’t want to be there to help. . .
No, no, no!
I want to rewind the clock so this is not their present stunned and horrified reality!
I want to save them from this anguish like none other.
And since I can’t. . .
I want to draw them close and catch their tears.
I want to receive and heal their broken and distraught hearts.
I want to listen to every painful word and let them know they are loved.
That God still loves them—will still be faithful to them—that there are mercies.
“It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed because his mercies never diminish. They are new every morning; great is thy faith[fulness].” ~ Lamentations 3:22-23 (Jubilee Bible 2000)
There is no silver lining! Nothing will ever make this loss acceptable or justify it for the family even when a good work of the Lord is later revealed. Silver linings imply that this horrible loss can be wrapped up in some future good, tied with a pretty bow and completely nullify the bad. The bad is made good. Mercies, on the other hand, are blessings within and after and in spite of any tragedy.
There are mercies!
He can take the shattered pieces of our lives and in time make something good and beautiful but still cracked and scarred for all to see. He can make us beautifully broken but never unblemished by the ravages of sin in this world.
And everyday from the moment of loss until my friends step into eternity there will be mercies.
Small mercies in the midst of overwhelming sorrow and despair.
God doesn’t promise to fix this in the here and now. He promises to draw close, to catch our tears. He promises to be faithful to us. He promises new mercies every day.
Here I sit several states away and I can’t ignore the parallel that lies before me. I am afar off but the wonders of technology allow me to be close via phones, social media, Skype, cars and planes.
In many ways I can immediately respond if my friends reach out.
But they know I can’t wiggle my nose and be in actual hugging distance instantly.
They know that God sees them, and responds immediately to their call for help . . . but at the same time they are separated from His physical touch.
Consequently, the bereaved often feel alone, abandoned and betrayed. Please don’t correct these feelings. Imagine yourself in their shoes. Wouldn’t you feel the same? Validate those feelings! It’s not sinful to feel any of those things. Hear the words of the prophet Jeremiah:
“My soul has been cast far away from peace; I have forgotten happiness.
So I say, “My strength has perished And so has my hope and expectation from the Lord.”~ Lamentations 3:17-18 (Amplified Bible)
In many ways grieving families are simply inconsolable.
They don’t want to be consoled . . .
They want to go back!
Back to the moments before their lives were so tragically changed.
Three years later I can testify to this truth: while life moves relentlessly forward there are parts of a parent’s heart that stand still in shocked horror indefinitely.
How can this be?
Surely, this is not real?
I’ll wake up from this nightmare!
God, please let me awake from this nightmare!
Let it all be a terrible dream . . . a horrible mistake.
Please God, take this cup from me!
Yet the die has been cast and lives have unraveled in unimaginable ways.
Every sight thereafter will be seen through a lens of grief. Every written and spoken word filtered through grief. Every joyous event that follows will not be felt with pure, unblemished joy as in the past but will be bittersweet—tainted by the fact that you are no longer whole and you long for the presence of the one out of reach.
Faith will be shaken.
Minds fogged by confusion and fear, anger and frustration, and a sorrow so deep they will never find its limits.
They are shattered.
Not merely broken.
Thus saith the Lord: A voice was heard on high of lamentation, of mourning, and weeping, of Rachel weeping for her children, and refusing to be comforted for them, because they are not. ~ Jeremiah 31:15 (Douay-Rheims Bible)
Mourn with those who mourn!
Weep with those who weep!
God’s mercies will be new every single morning.
He has His job; we have ours.
Today, once again, I mourn for and with others. Won’t you join with me and carry those who grieve before the throne of grace?
Anguished prayers for parents, siblings and family as a whole rise in begging supplication for God’s mercies to rain down—for His presence and love to wash over every shattered heart—for this to be nothing more than a terrible dream!
The desperate prayer of my heart to see faith made sight is far more urgent today.
“Hear my prayer, O LORD! Listen to my cry for help! Do not ignore my sobbing! For I am dependent on you, like one residing outside his native land; I am at your mercy, just as all my ancestors were.” ~ Psalm 39:12 (NET Bible)
If you know of a bereaved family, please pray them through the holidays. If you don’t, please pray for the VanGulick, Vickers and Williams families who will each be missing their son, sibling or grandson while others gather with intact families and celebrate together. These families are secure in their confidence that Harry and O’rane will celebrate Christ’s birth in His presence; but their hearts will ache with the absence of their presence (as my friend Melanie is known to say). Please cry out to Jesus on their behalf!
*Follow the link below to read more about the beautiful sculpture pictured above. It’s only a few brief paragraphs.
Rachel Weeping for her Children Sculpture
December 22, 2016 at 6:32 am
Oh, Janet, the agony, the pain. I m crying, sobbing, with you and these families. Christmas is so difficult without having the anniversary of the loss at this time.I am so sorry. Four year later and I still hope that is is all a nightmare, that my son will walk through the door, will call. I am crying for you and your family knowing the 26th is your nightmare day as well as these “new” families. Yes, there is no comfort until it is our turn to go Home. Prayers and hugs for all.
December 22, 2016 at 2:21 pm
Thank you for grieving with and for us and these newly bereaved families. I know you know exactly what shared grief and prayers mean to the broken-hearted. I pray that your holidays are more sweet than bitter and that you find that to be true each consecutive year. I try to remind myself that reunion day is coming. It’s closer for all of us than it was when our children went before us to the land of the living. (Other than that, I try to think about the next thing and not look beyond it – which helps me not to grow increasingly blue or anxious as Bethany and Katie’s Heaven Date approaches). Thank you so much for reaching out in friendship and prayer!
December 24, 2016 at 6:36 am
Oh Janet, I am really feeling for you as your children’s Heavenly Birthday approaches. I am so sorry. I pray that you may find a little lasting peace. It is so difficult. Even though we know our children are safe with the Lord and we will join them, it is so hard to not want to join them now. Thank you for sharing and uplifting others with your faith. Praying for you.
January 13, 2017 at 5:51 pm
Thank you! We made it!
December 22, 2016 at 8:18 am
You have been on my heart Janet as you pass through these days once again. Thank you for your compassion for others who grieve with loss as you do. Love to you and David and Gracen.
December 22, 2016 at 2:27 pm
Thank you Lisa, just for remembering that this month is a difficult one for us. I know how very busy you are and how many people depend upon you. I’m sure you often feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of need in just one church family. We are humbled by your consistent care for us. I hope your holidays will be filled with love, laughter and joy and overshadowed by the hope of redemption through our Savior, Jesus Christ!
December 22, 2016 at 11:06 am
December 22, 2016 at 3:02 pm
I hope you have a Christmas filled with sweet memories of your Brooke that surprise you with joy! If I lived close by I’d buy you one of these mugs and come drink coffee, tea, or cocoa with you and visit about our beautiful daughters. Praying you feel the presence of the Savior who bears all our sorrows this holiday season!