“Mommy, did God plan for your mom to die?”
The question from the backseat of my car sends me into a tailspin. She’s four. How do I explain to a tender heart just how broken our world is? How do I explain that people die, floods come, and the “boo-boos” that took my mom are the same “boo-boos” her Daddy battles right now? I am at a loss for words because, let’s be honest, at 32 I’m still battling this harsh reality myself.
How could my perfect and loving Father allow such pain to be a part of my story— of anyone’s story? My heart often gets stuck here and I am left sitting in doubt, fear, and anger. I believe our pain has a purpose in this life, but I am beginning to believe the same of doubt.
With a lump in my throat I answer, “Yes baby, my mom was too sick to stay on earth and she is with God now in heaven.”
Her wheels spin; I can see the processing on her face. “Were you sad when she died?” she continues, “Can she ever come back? What if the medicine doesn’t work on daddy? I want to be with Jesus in heaven too, mommy.”
The Trinity of Loss
And right there, with the 1-2-3 punch, God grants me an “aha moment.” I began to see. My daughter expressed the trinity of loss—longing, sadness, and joy. Longing for the way things should be, sadness over what it is, and the joy of a hope that is far bigger than our circumstances. These three ideas are not exclusive of one another, but rather they mingle together.
Often, I feel so much shame from my doubt and fear. Isn’t his perfect love supposed to cast out fear? How can I doubt his love for me? The lies consume my thoughts and take my focus from him. But no, my doubt is not too great for him. He is not offended or threatened by my questions—he is not even surprised by them. He uses my doubt as an opportunity to walk me gently back to the beginning, like a father walking his daughter hand in hand. He whispers truth from scripture to remind me of who he was, who he is, and who he will be. All I have to do is remember and recount the stories of days’ past.
I see myself in Psalms or Lamentations where doubt and pain lead to hopelessness until we begin to remember: “My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say ‘My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.’ Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind and therefore I have hope; The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end”(Lamentations 3:17-22).
Yes, doubt has purpose. My doubt calls me to remember God’s faithfulness, no matter how circumstances appear. My doubt leads me back to The Rock.
Assurance of God’s Faithfulness
Out of all my wrestling and tears these past six years, a deep assurance has been born. I see God’s never changing nature and character— though my circumstances are ever-changing. He is eager to show me his mercy and love even in my forgetfulness.
Last October we learned Brad’s cancer had spread to his liver. We knew what this gut punch meant. According to the doctors, his days were short in number. I began to pray earnestly for 120 healthy days. I asked for Brad to have 120 days full of life, not full of bedridden symptoms. Here we are almost one year later! This is a specific, answered prayer I cannot afford to forget. No matter what the future holds, a miracle of time has been given to us. God bestowed mercy, and I want my heart to return gratefulness in remembering.
This wasn’t the first time God answered specific prayer for me. My daughter’s backseat questions flooded memories of another young girl. At the age of eleven, I asked God for one more Christmas with my mom before she died from her short battle with breast cancer. And it was given.
The floods have come —and are still coming— but my assurance cannot be washed away by my doubt or circumstance. I will choose to remember who God is and what he has done.
To learn more about Stacey and Brad’s story, click here.
Stacey has been married to her hubby, Brad, for 10 years and they reside in Hoover, Al where they attend Christ Community PCA. Brad has been battling an incurable cancer for the past seven years and the Lord continues to show himself faithful again and again. Stacey is blessed to be the mom to two miracle babies, Nola and Grey. She is an organizer with House Peace by day and works as a pediatric on-call nurse at night.