Remember Elizabeth Smart? I did. Some crazed Mormon fundamentalist climbed through a second story window and kidnapped her at knifepoint. It was nine months before her parents got her back safe but not sound.
No one was going to take my boys from me. Losing a daughter was enough, right? So I sat guard into the wee hours of the morning.
This is what life is like after the abrupt death of a child…
Its me double checking the locks on all the doors and windows every night.
Its me freaking out when my wife doesn’t answer her phone on the first call.
Its recurring nightmares of me accidentally running over my son with a minivan.
I’ve become hypersensitive to the fragility of life. Bad things happen in a fallen world. Everything can change at the drop of a dime. And being a Christian doesn’t come with a “get-out-troubles card.” CMV, cancer, and car accidents “fall” on the righteous and unrighteous alike.
“Life after death” is an unending battle between faith and fear. This battle is more intense than I ever expected. To put it bluntly, I’m bruised, bloody, and barely standing…
So, why share this? I know this is much bleaker and tonally different from my previous entries. Why? What’s up?
Its because I’ve gotten literally hundreds of letters, e-mails, and phone calls. They all have been so edifying and encouraging. But the majority of them have contained a particular line that concerns me. It goes something like this…
“I could never deal with the death of a child as well as you guys have.”
There is a sweet sentiment in that statement. For some people, it is simply a way to say that we are doing a good job and to keep it up. That doesn’t bother me one bit. Thanks, actually. We needed that.
No, what bothers me is the idea that folks might think we have “super faith” or are some unattainable ideal. Au contraire, mon frère! Our reaction to the trial God placed us in has been a mixed bag. Faith and sin have mingled.
Both my wife and I have struggled with anger, depression, fear, doubt, and all that other yucky stuff. Much of our life has been held together by tattered duct tape. We aren’t super Christians. We are utterly normal believers. Normal believers struggle with tragedy and trials. Remember our Lord in the garden?
You are going to struggle too. You going to cry, cuss, and crumble to pieces some nights. You are going want to be reclusive and pull back into your own safe world. You’ll want to numb all these intense feelings by self-medicating. Your work, play, and school will all suffer. You’ll be needy. And, if you’re like me, you’ll despise all of it.
And that is entirely normal. That is life after death. Its painful and downright messy…even for the faithful Christian.
What isn’t normal is serene peace and perfect triumph in the midst of trial. God forbid that I have led anyone to believe that is the nature of biblical grief! That wasn’t my intention. And it hasn’t been our experience. Its been hell.
I’m telling you this because someday you are going to find yourself in a similar situation. It might not be the death of a child. It could be the death of a husband or mother. It could be something even worse, like a spouse or child renouncing their faith in Christ. Regardless, when you taste true pain you will struggle…
And if you want to survive you will quickly confess that you are too weak to stand on your own and then you must run… Run to God, Scripture, and the local church! If you don’t you will be swallowed whole by grief and self-indulgence. Just visit any online grief forum and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
Healthy grief is neither denial nor obsession. It requires that you lean into the pain to deal with it. Churchill said, “When your going through hell, keep going.” That’s good advice. But you can’t do that alone and you won’t do it if act like everything is just peachy.
God is pulling us through our grief. We struggle but He is good. He has gifted us with a good local church and that more than half the battle. The dark clouds are lifting. I actually forgot to check the lock on the back door last week.*
P.S. See that little white dot. Scroll back to the top and look at the pic. That little dot is life after death. Due the end of June ’13. God closes and opens the womb. Praise Him!
*Most of this post was written a several weeks back. Things keep getting better.