Revisiting Grief

Last year I wrote this post to try and wrap my mind and heart around very real grief that friends of mine were facing. Just this year, a mentor of mine lost her husband to cancer, my mom was told her only hope of living longer than two years is to have a double lung transplant, and my Gran, my strong, sturdy, wonderful Gran died without warning.

I could feel defeated and hopeless. But I keep thinking on what a mighty, wonderful God we serve. And I keep thinking of this post. Just wanted to re-share today.

There are times in the life of the believer when it’s easy to believe in the goodness of the Lord. Your marriage is full of happiness, your kids are healthy, your finances are trucking along nicely.
You’re having a good hair day. Amen, ladies?
But, then. Oh, but then.
This weekend I went to a marriage conference with my husband and on Sunday morning I shared this on Instagram:
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In February 2014, our life together changed radically.
I thought that by now I would be a single mom, he a single dad; that we would be kind to each other as we raised our kids–parenting partners, but not together–civil, but separate.
But God.
Oh, but God.
By His grace we worked hard this year. We dug in and clung to Him, and as a result, to each other. We are in our final day of a marriage conference this weekend. One we’ve been to before, but never grew from. I’ve laughed with him, squeezed his arm as we heard hard, but life giving advice. We had a wonderful night out with no kids, we shared cheesecake in our hotel room and watched tv like an old married couple. Perfection.
This morning, he went for coffee. I smiled when I received mine with a kiss, then I wanted to cry when I saw our matching lids:
“Love abounds.” Indeed.
Love, true love, is a gift from God, equipped by Him to love as He does. In His perfect will, love does indeed abound. I am so grateful.

It was a moment I needed to capture because last year I had no concept of how very okay we would be today. Last year, my heart was broken, my pain was real and horrible, and I didn’t know what life would look like today. I knew that God was good, but my life certainly wasn’t.
However, our life changed dramatically. My husband surrendered to the Lord and everything changed for us. But that beautiful weekend, as we stood on solid God-is-so-good-to-us ground, it seemed the majority of my friends were sinking. One is miles away from home, a test patient for what could hopefully be a cure for her terminal cancer. For weeks I have prayed boldly for God to give her life–abundant, long, full, here-with-us-until-she-is-an-old-woman life.
After I posted that picture, a friend from high school let me know that she and her husband are divorcing and she is devastated. What can someone say to that?
Even more heart-wrenching were the Facebook updates from a long time friend of mine. Her husband was in ICU. An MRI had shown what turned out to be a tumor on his brain. The news came in waves of good and bad.
After his first surgery to take a biopsy of the tumor, he wasn’t doing very well.
He was talking a little, moving his toes. Good news!
The tumor was cancer, he was taken into surgery.
The neurosurgeon was able to remove it all, there was hope of recovery. The cancer was terminal. He wasn’t waking up.
The final update was that this young, strong, loving husband and father was home with the Lord.
Just like that.
One week he’s fine, the next he’s in ICU slipping away from this world before anyone can even wrap their mind around what’s happening.
I know my friend. She is private. And she loved her husband with her entire being. A gal that would rather be with her husband and children then out to coffee. I have long admired her devotion to her family, her loving respect and admiration for her husband, her gentle devotion and love for her children. I long to be quiet and graceful as she is. I’ve been tormented for her this week. I saw her for the first time in months at her husband’s funeral and her face was the epitome of grief-stricken. She would rather be anywhere but in the midst of hundreds of well-meaning people crowding around her.
Here is where the believer sees the goodness of the Lord in all of its colors.
Here is where you don’t force a smile or pretend gladness, because there is no gladness in death. And there shouldn’t be. Yes, we rejoice that this man, this man that lived the two greatest commandments–you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength; and you should love your neighbor as yourself–to the fullest is indeed with the Lord. Of him we can say, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57) In this, God is so good.
But while there is no sting in death for the believer, the bite is cruel for the family left here to wait. But even here, God is good. He is strong and mighty with those who grieve. He is near to the brokenhearted.
Last night, as I thought of my friend’s face, of her grief, of the horrible yawning ache she must be feeling now, I wondered: Is this how the Lord felt when Adam and Eve sinned and sent this world spinning into sin? He had walked with them, talked with them. They were free in the garden. And then it all changed. Because He is holy, He could no longer allow these people that He created out of love to abide with Him. He had to send them away. Death was never part of God’s plan before the Fall. We would do well to remember that. It hurts and aches and feels so wrong because it is. This pain is something we weren’t meant to feel or experience. But even in death there is grace. God doesn’t leave us in this beaten down, disintegrating world forever. He made a way back to Him.
With absolute certainty, God is good. He sacrificed His own Son to recover what was lost. To make right what went terribly wrong. For the believer, for the child of God, this world is not home. We are not to be comfortable here. There is a broader picture beyond this awful, awful week of pain and grief. Our life here is but a whisper. As the Pastor said at the funeral yesterday: every moment from the time we are born is a subtraction from our allotted time here. But in Heaven? Every glorious, wonderful, pain-free moment is an addition to our time in eternity.
So, yes, we can still praise God. We can say, in this time of great and terrible sorrow, that He. Is. Good.

“By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation (payment in full) for our sins.” 1 John 4:9,10 (parenthesis mine)

B.D. Riehl is the award-winning author of The Earth is Full and The Heavens are Telling. Both available here.
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