Grief redeemed.

sunset 3-15

“Right. So let me get this straight. There are actual people called Bubba. And that’s their name.”

“Yep.”

“And I can meet one?”

“Shouldn’t be a problem. They’re everywhere. Even my grandmother’s name was Bubba.”

The conversation was loud as it rolled around in my head the Saturday of Easter weekend, bumping up against conversations about rodeos. Corn dogs. Alabama’s beaches.

And thoughts about a plane from London Heathrow that landed in Birmingham that night without Clare on it.

Those were extra loud.

Two months after Clare’s death, the clouds are lifting a little. But the hurt is still newer than the bottle of shampoo I’ve got in my shower, still stiffer than the pair of hiking boots I bought the week she died. I’m still breaking this in, still figuring out how to walk in it.

Many moments seem normal. Heartbreaking details sound commonplace as they tumble out of my mouth like I’m relating the news.

“You heard about my friend? Yes, it’s really sad. No, we still don’t know what caused it.”

Other times it sears my heart and singes my tear ducts even when I say nothing.

“Sure, I’m free this weekend.”

But my insides scream that everything’s wrong, that Clare was supposed to be here, that we were supposed to be in Mississippi riding four wheelers right now.

When you love people and they’re ripped away, it hurts.

No way around it.

But as much as I don’t want to make it last one minute longer than it has to, I also don’t want to shove gauze of all kinds in the gaping wound just to make it all seem better.

Pain is God’s megaphone, and He uses it to speak into our lives, as C.S. Lewis said.

So if I can’t avoid it … why waste it?

I want it to hurt when it hurts. To feel numb when it feels numb. To feel happy when I feel happy. And I want all of those honest emotions to drive me back into God as deep as I can go, so He can heal the gaping wound Himself and show me how to walk through the fragments of my broken heart strewn all over the place.

The emotions change. He doesn’t. I want to dig as deep into that as I can. I want to learn about Him in the ways you can only when He’s carrying you, crushed and broken.

If the pain is there, why not press into it and find Him in it, and come out whole on the other side? After all, that’s what He did when He went to the cross on our behalf on Good Friday. He took the horrifically painful cup that was handed to Him by the Father and drank it to the dregs, knowing that life was waiting for Him at the bottom.

Even if that meant that Friday was excruciating, and Saturday the world was still shrouded in death.

Sunday was on the other side, and when He arrived, all was made whole. And it was worth it.

Right now, we’re living in Saturday … the day that birthdays aren’t celebrated, planes arrive with empty seats and tombs are still full. Bombs explode at the Boston Marathon and kill a guy’s 8-year-old son just after he completes a life dream. About 27 million people woke up in slavery this morning and will go to bed tonight after another day of horrors, only to wake up and do it again.

In all this pain, all this injustice, God is calling out to us. To me. To you.

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

So we come. And He makes good on His promises. We find He’s solid. Today, He catches my tears. One day soon, He’ll wipe them away.

Every last one.

As much as I long for that day when everything is set right, it’s not here yet. It’s still on the far side of death, where Clare is now, and the only way to get there is by following the beckoning of a Savior who faced death for us and loves us more than we can understand.

Following Him one more day. And then another.

We make the choice the moment our eyes pop open in the morning. We trust He’ll get us through the day before our feet ever hit the floor.

As Rick Warren said after his son’s suicide last week, “The more you trust God, the more you realize how trustworthy he is.”

And the more we realize how much He wants us to know Him. To let Him carry us. To come out on the other side with a heart more in tune with His.

Mary Langford, whose son also committed suicide, said even though the pain was loud when she learned of her son’s death, just as loud was the unmistakable impression:

Don’t waste anything.

“I had recently read a book on the theme of God’s use of the fragments and broken things in life,” she wrote. “The idea had come from John 6, the story of the feeding of the 5,000, after which Jesus directed His disciples to gather up the food fragments, that nothing be wasted. In those first moments of incredible pain, confusion, and helplessness, the Lord brought that phrase to my mind. It became the guide for my own grief work and for every decision which had to be made as an aftermath of our son’s death: Let nothing be wasted.”

May I waste nothing.

And may we get there soon.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

*****

“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” – C.S. Lewis

28 Comments on “Grief redeemed.

  1. I lost my husband of 32 years this year…Feb. 13, so very recent. I’m having a very hard time coming to grips with this. I don’t know how I came across your blog but so very thankful that I did. I needed to hear your words. Thank you for posting this very beautiful piece.

  2. “I want it to hurt when it hurts. To feel numb when it feels numb. To feel happy when I feel happy. And I want all of those honest emotions to drive me back into God as deep as I can go, so He can heal the gaping wound Himself and show me how to walk through the fragments of my broken heart strewn all over the place.”

    Those are the words of my heart right now, My dad died in June and I am dealing with all these thoughts and feelings and sometimes I can’t adequately express that, but these words I needed to hear tonight. Thank you.

    Blessings, Sam

  3. Wow. I’m really blown away right now. I needed to read the words the Lord had given you more than my heart could ever fathom. I’ve felt kinda distant from the Lord lately, and figured it had to do with the potential for legalism in my life as a ministry major. Having 3/4 classes require scripture memorization, the difference between homework and delighting in the Lord has become blurred.

    This past year there has been a lot of loss in my life. A LOT. and the Lord has been so so good to me in it, but I needed to be reminded, and that’s exactly what your words did tonight. They reminded me of how good He is in grief, they refreshed me, created in me a new spirit. THANK YOU for being obedient to writing and sharing. YOU are a blessing.

    Seriously. Know that. You are cherished and blessing others.

    Joyfully His,
    Addison

  4. Hello, Grace. Stumbled on your blog while sitting on the phone on hold this morning. God’s timing is perfect. I shared on my FB page the part about not wasting a fragment of pain. Our oldest son was killed in an accident 12 years ago. Two of our other six children left their father’s house, both spiritually and physically soon after. Twelve years later, one continues to this day falling father and farther in to sin and drugs and lostness. God graciously has upheld us through it all but lately, it seems my “emotions” (which aren’t my heart) have fallen apart. I was so blessed by this blog about grief when it feels (falsely) like all my life now is a grief. Our blessings are so numerous! I pray God’s blessing and comfort on His people around the world dealing with difficult situations. Thank you for sharing with us your walk with Him.

  5. I just lost a friend about a month ago. He went to bed one night and never woke up. 20 years old. This hits the feeling spot on, although my hurt may be a little different because my friend never knew Christ. But in all things may God be glorified; may nothing be wasted. Thank you for your words.

    • Bethany, I’m so sorry. I know you miss him. Can’t imagine the pain you’re facing. Praying for you now … for comfort and that God will get glory from what’s been broken.

  6. Thank you for putting into words, what is so hard to explain…

  7. Dear Grace,
    This is beautiful. I encourage you to continue in this, finding His grace in every hard moment in the time to come. As a sister in Christ, I will pray for you and lift you up. God heals us so tenderly, even when the joint is still out of place.

    I wanted to share something with you, and I apologize I didn’t have a less public way to do so. Reading your post about Clare’s life and death has completely changed my life. I don’t know what God’s plan hold for my life. I don’t pretend to have a clear idea of what awaits me in any given moment. But I have had for a couple years now the deep, recurring, spiritual weight that my days, too, may be numbered. Frequently, in the deepest spiritual places, it seems as if God comes and asks me softly, “Would you be ready to go now?…How about now?” I have the impression, if not the knowledge, that perhaps it will not be long now.

    I had been living in a place of relative apathy and selfishness when I first encountered your blog telling of Clare’s story. I was waking up and greeting the day more for my own small plans than the deep, rich, Kingdom plans of God. I was, in a word, distracted. In a long-term sense. I had been that way for what was stretching into nearly a year, and wasn’t on a path to clear and quick change based on the idols I still held close to my heart. Twenty-four with the whole world ahead of me. I had many things to capture my attention. But reading Clare’s story instantly grounded me. An arrow pierced my heart. I was sitting in a coffee shop, having gone from laughing and joking with friends to choking back tears, not of sadness but of conviction. God’s voice could have been no more lucid than it was, “Do you hear me? Sweetheart, are you ready?” It struck me that should God be true to the word I thought He had spoken to me of my short bursting life…I did not want to come Home limping with the weight of sin, but frolicking with the freedom of redemption. For the first time, I responded to that quiet press with, “Yes! Lord take me!” It was a moment, but it changed my life. It is impossible to convey how significantly embracing my death has brought me to life, ironic as it may sound.

    In holding my life dearly but loosely, God has woken my spirit to truly follow Him, truly love, to be truly fearless and obedient. I think of God’s words about the seed having to fall to the ground and die before a plant may spring up. I had to lose my life – to continually part with it – to find it. And with life, I have found a heart to speak God’s word to so many new people.

    I guess it’s hard to convey. I know this doesn’t change the raw reality of Clare’s absence, but hopefully it will encourage you to know that her story has completely revolutionized the life of a young stranger across the world. In turn, the change has brought me to many conversations of the Gospel. The Gospel, by nature, cannot be contained. Where it springs up, it naturally spreads its influence outward. Your dear friend has taken part in a new plant springing up, across the world in dry Tucson, Arizona. Who knows what ultimately will come of that? I can’t tell you what God will do, but from the depth of my heart I know He will be deeply glorified.

    Praying for you, Grace. Praying that you not waste this time. Mark Driscoll has said, “Our pain is too costly to waste.” Hang strong. You have people, brothers and sisters across the world, praying to our powerful God on your behalf.

    Love in Christ,
    Christy (a stranger in Tucson)

    • Praise God, Christy. That’s amazing! We’ve also been thinking a lot about the “seed that falls to the ground.” Your story is an encouragement to me today. Praying for you this morning. Hold fast to Him, and to that joy and freedom … He’s so very worth everything. Sounds like you’ve tasted Him and know that. :)

      Can’t wait to meet you one day!

      Grace

  8. Thank you for your heart and faithfulness to walk this walk in vulnerability, authenticity and truth. Your words speak healing and love.

  9. My sweet sister in Christ. I have never meet you in person, but I have experienced the Lord through your writings. Thank you for your vulnerability. I have been praying for you since your friend’s death. The pain of heartbreak is excruciating, but the healing presence and touch of our Savior is so so sweet. Praying as you go through all the emotions that pain brings. I pray you will taste and see the sweetest of loves! Keep writing, keep pressing in to HIM, it glorifies our SAVIOR!

  10. I am always so encouraged after reading your blog posts. Glory to the King!

  11. Thank you for posting your thoughts. My wife’s mother passed away the day before yesterday, so your words could not be more timely. Blessings!

  12. Wow! So blessed by this post. “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” 1 Peter 5:10 (one of my favorites). Praying you experience the Holy Spirit as your Comforter today!

  13. Knowing that God makes no mistakes…..one day you will know the “why” of losing a friend and of gaining the ability to help the zillions of grief stricken people who read your words….May God give you peace and light the path to take off with a new vision and new energy ! Love you !

  14. Very inspiring. I will remember this for the future, thank you for your insight! It can be applied to so much.

  15. I love you, and am so thankful for your way with words. God uses them to encourage, bless, and convict. Praying for you, wishing I could hug you, and so very thankful to know you.

  16. True. In the midst of the pain, when your heart has been ripped out of your body and you feel like an empty shell, when you have no wish to even breathe the next breath because the pain of loss is so great even breathing hurts, still. God is good. All the time. He is Always and Forever. He is our Reason and our Hope. He is our Why we somehow learn to take the next step. He is. Thank God.

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