I can’t forget that day. We’d just walked in the door coming home from church. We’d had lunch out to celebrate Mother’s Day and my first positive pregnancy test. I’d had fish and chips. My heart was singing. It was 2005. My husband sat me down, I was itching to call my best friend to tell her I was pregnant. She and I had been praying together about this for several months. She had just had her first baby, a little girl, in the preceding weeks. “There was an accident,” he said. “Stephanie and Tony were killed immediately. The baby died too.” It took a minute for the words to reach my brain, and then they hit my heart like a brick wall. “No! No! No!” I screamed. I fell into my husband’s arms for only a moment before the nausea overcame me. I ran into the bathroom, retching and choking through my sobs, gasping for air.
I remember too well the eyes that run dry from crying so much, the deep, oppressive headaches, my stinging and swollen face. I remember feeling angry, and lonely and numb all over. I remember waking up in the middle of the night from a dream she’d danced through and then crying some more. Driving past the place where it happened, pictures from the scene of the accident flashing into my mind again. Pictures would pop up at random places and my heart would suffocate all over again. I found her letter in between the pages of one of my books, whimsical swirly letters formed into words of joy and mischief. I can still hear her laughter. I still remember the very last thing I said to her, and I remember I had to hang up before we were done talking because I was making fried rice for dinner.
Death is un-natural. It isn’t what is supposed to happen. We are made in the image of an eternal God. For years I wrestled with God in frustration, in agony, in despair and hopelessness. God didn’t ignore me. He heard my cries and answered my questions. He opened my eyes to His vast goodness, to His incomprehensible wisdom. I’m not afraid of death anymore, but death still hurts, and it should. We ache and groan, as a woman in labor, painfully waiting for the completion of the coming Glory. We long to hold our loved ones lost in our arms again. To feel the warmth of their bodies, to see the expressions on their faces. I long to meet Stephanie and Tony’s baby girl, Zoe. My husband and I came up with her name, after all.
Some friends lost their daughter in a car accident yesterday. While I had only met her in passing and merely chatted casually with her mother, my heart aches for them. My heart aches for their friends. I remember what loss feels like.
I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness,
the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed.
I remember it all—oh, how well I remember—
the feeling of hitting the bottom.
But there’s one other thing I remember,
and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:
God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
He’s all I’ve got left.
It is in these moments of darkness, when joy and hope seem so far away that we cry out to our God (we can’t afford not to) and He answers. He can heal our hearts and comfort our spirits, He listens to our prayers.
So I pray, clinging to the truth that God is good. Holding fast to the testament of His master craftmanship, the work He does with broken hearts is breathtaking, have you seen it, have you experienced it?
A hostile world! I call to God,
I cry to God to help me.
From his palace he hears my call;
my cry brings me right into his presence—
a private audience!
He heals the heartbroken
and bandages their wounds.
He counts the stars
and assigns each a name.
Our Lord is great, with limitless strength;
we’ll never comprehend what he knows and does.
If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there;
if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath.
God’s hand was on the accident. His hand was on my friend’s accident. He holds the whole world in the palm of His hand. He whispers the breeze into being, He orchestrated the falling snow and the icy roads. He orchestrated the perfect timing that a drunk’s truck ploughed into my dear friend’s car. I don’t understand why God does these things, but I trust Him. It is good to weep. To feel the loss. We are Christians – we know what darkness and suffering feel like and we know we can’t get through it alone. But we do not weep as the lost do. We may not know how, but we know it is going to be ok, we are going to see this awful hurt through and come out victorious on the other side, strong and hopeful in Him. We know all will be made right in the end. We thank God for hearing our prayers, we praise Him through our tears, knowing He is here, He has not abandoned us. He loves us so very much. We ask Him to be quick to comfort the spirits of His people. We ask Him to surround our hearts in the peace that only comes from Him. We will take heart, we will have courage as we continue to look for the resurrection of our dead, and the life of the world to come.
God, my shepherd!
I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.
Even when the way goes through
Death Valley, I’m not afraid,
when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
makes me feel secure.
You serve me a six-course dinner
right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
my cup brims with blessing.
Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God for the rest of my life.
(all scripture quotes from The Message)