I got horrible news on Friday from friends afar. They had lost their baby girl, who had been struggling for her life for a month in ICU. This was a couple that had been trying for years to get pregnant, and after several rounds of medical intervention, they became pregnant. The joy of the pregnancy came to a crashing halt mid summer when they learned that complications had arisen in utero and they would be forced to deliver their daughter months before the due date. The delivery went great in mid September but the challenges for their daughter’s precious body proved too difficult for her heart to overcome. She passed away on Friday. For the sake of privacy, I will only call her B.
It reminded me of the heartbreaking reality of the world we live in. Great joy seems like it always leads to great pain; great hope turns to great sorrow. For this couple, after the years of hoping, the pregnancy marked the arrival of great promise. And then as their daughter’s health faced challenges, the promise turned to peril. And now, loss.
I spoke with my friend and shared tears with him. There is a small fraternity of men who have held their breathless child- it is a club that I wouldn’t wish entrance upon my worst enemy. And yet, it is a pain I share with my friend. This December will mark the 2 year anniversary of our loss of our son Fisher. Here is a video tribute we showed at his memorial on Dec. 21, 2008 at Bethany. I still think of my son often and wish he was here with us. It tears at me, this loss, and the pain is real.
But friends, there is a place we can go with this pain and this loss. We can experience hope and transformation in a relationship with a Father God who also lost his son Jesus . Paul’s letter to the Romans describes it here– but the gist of it is this: God loved us so much He sent his son Jesus to pay the price of sin with His life. Our Father in heaven knows loss. For some that might seem trite, but for me as a grief survivor, I can tell you it brought great hope in my time of great need.
What else mattered to me when we lost our son? The church. Again, I know I’m treading on awful sensitive ground here so hear me out. It sounds a bit suspect when a pastor tells you the church made a difference in their life, but honestly, in our darkest hour, it was the church that showed us great hope. In the midst of loss that is so numbing and painful it seems hard to take a deep breath on some days, it is the strength and faith of others that can sustain you when you don’t have enough of your own to survive. In the weeks that followed Fisher’s death, the church served us and cared for us in very profound ways. The night we delivered Fisher’s breathless body, Pastor Phil and Donna Dahlstrom were at our bedside praying for us and supporting us. The church hosted an amazing memorial service on the 21st of December…hours before the biggest snowstorm to hit Seattle in years. Meals were brought, cards were sent, hugs were given. The strength and faith of the community sustained us when we didn’t have enough of our own.
I will be honest, praising God in the midst of grief and loss is a very challenging thing to do. We would go to church and sit in the far back and find ourselves crying through worship. It seems counter-intuitive to praise God when your heart is so heavy. And yet, we know that God loves us and does not wish pain upon us. For our family, we choose to invite God into our pain and lean on Him to hold us together instead of blaming Him for our loss.
Where do you go when you hurt? Where do you turn? As we know in this life, it’s not a matter of “if” we hurt, it’s a matter of “when”. As Jesus says here, build your life upon the rock so that when the storms come, you have a source of strength bigger than yourself. Trust me, you’ll need it. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this as well. What did you do to survive grief in your life?