How Job Teaches Us to Grieve With Hope

MARISSA BONDURANT|GUEST “Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:20-21). In February of 2019 my husband taped a sign on our refrigerator that said, “It’s been 0 days since an incident in this home.” He was trying to bring some levity to a horrible week for our family. One thing after another occurred and we were exhausted from dealing with all the emergencies. I remember feeling on edge with the thought of, “What’s next?” On a much bigger scale, Job understood what it was like to receive one tragic report after another. In Job 1:13 a messenger arrives and tells Job about the Sabeans who came, taking all his oxen and donkeys and destroying his servants. While he was still talking, another messenger entered and told Job that fire consumed all his sheep. While he was still talking, a third messenger inform him that his camels were stolen and more servants killed. And while that messenger was still talking, a fourth comes in and tells Job that all his children perished in a horrible house collapse. His children, his livelihood, his finances… all gone in a single day. How did Job react? And how can his response encourage us in our sufferings today?...

How Job Teaches Us to Grieve With Hope2022-08-03T01:53:44+00:00

A Living Grief

HEATHER MOLENDYK|CONTRIBUTOR Hot water pounds my shoulders. I reach to turn the temperature hotter, desperate for the heat to stop the shivering in my bones. Although I am completely alone, my arms hug my naked chest in a protective gesture. They attempt to hold the broken pieces of my heart together. They utterly fail. The crumpling starts with my face before traveling down my vulnerable form. Dry sobs push up through my throat, contorting my mouth in a silent scream. There I stand completely alone, body raging against the guttural pain of grief, and unable to catch my breath before the next wave of tears push past my clenched eyes. To say that losing a loved one is hard is like saying an erupting volcano causes landscaping inconveniences. The exit of one you love always leaves a hole. Others may make substitutions. Others may offer what they can. But just like the uniqueness of individual snowflakes, each person in our lives contributes a special touch that only their fingerprints can make. We all know that life – no matter how vibrant and impactful – is always temporary. Each person is destined for eternity somewhere else. No one is guaranteed tomorrow. No one can live forever. That’s what each carved stone whispers to us from the cemetery. To dust we all return. No one is exempt...

A Living Grief2022-06-25T20:12:15+00:00

A Time to Mourn

JESSICA ROAN | GUEST She really was extraordinary—funny, loving, and firm when she needed to be. If a perfect teacher exists, she would be at the top of the list, in our house anyway. Thankfully for us, our younger son was in her class, not once, but twice. When we found out he would have his kindergarten teacher again for 5th grade, we were elated. The unpredictability of 2020 was especially difficult for him. While we couldn’t be sure which activities, even school itself, would go on, we could be sure about one thing: Mrs. W. And she delivered—suddenly breaking into song, encouraging dance-offs, dressing up in wild costumes. If there was anything an 11-year-old would love, she did it. Now that life has resumed some normalcy, we have tried to embrace change. My boys started new schools this year. While they were excited to move on to new adventures, the subtle dread of leaving this enjoyable relationship behind haunted us all. My son periodically says, “I miss Mrs. W.” After six great years under her tutelage, we all miss her. We mourn this transition in our lives. Mourning comes in all shapes and sizes. Not only has our family mourned transitions, we’ve mourned broken relationships, and the passing of dear family members. Life is filled with losses and each one brings us great grief.

A Time to Mourn2022-05-04T00:44:54+00:00

Grieving the Loss of a Baby? You Are Not Alone

LAURA BOOZ|GUEST The banquet room sparkled with excitement as waiters removed our dinner plates and topped off steaming cups of coffee. I reached toward the center of the table and selected a dish of chocolate mousse. I was attending a bloggers’ conference with hundreds of women from all over the country who loved the Lord and wanted to reach others through blogging. We networked with one another and attended sessions about how to write compelling content, attract readers, and manage the technical side of writing online. The room relaxed as we rearranged our chairs to enjoy a warm drink and listen to the evening keynote address. We applauded as Angie Smith made her way up to the stage. I couldn’t believe that she was speaking at this conference. I had just read I Will Carry You, a book Angie Smith wrote about carrying her baby, Audrey, to term, despite the doctor’s prognosis that her daughter wouldn’t live long after birth. Audrey did, in fact, die shortly after birth. The book is heartbreaking and helpful. Here was Angie, at the blogging conference that would keep me occupied as my baby’s due date came and went. I originally thought I would have to miss the conference because I would be in my hometown delivering a full-term baby, healthy and happy. But I had delivered my baby four months ago. She was stillborn. Earlier in the evening, I had introduced myself to Angie and told her how much her book meant to me. She listened intently, as if I were the only grieving mother in the world. She hugged me and looked in my eyes and asked, “What is your baby’s name?”...

Grieving the Loss of a Baby? You Are Not Alone2022-05-04T23:29:03+00:00

Letting Go of My Mother and Friend

PATSY KUIPERS|GUEST God blessed me with the gift of a godly mother, a blessing that would impact my life in innumerable ways over the six decades we shared. Raised as an only child after my baby sister passed away, my bond with Mom was strong and multi-faceted. She could be a firm disciplinarian, but she was also my best friend and closest confidant. When my 39-year-old husband, Ray, passed away suddenly, Mom and Dad moved to Georgia to help me and my then 7- and 10-year-old daughters navigate life without our beloved husband and father. In the ensuing 24 years, my daughters, son-in-law, and three grandchildren also benefitted from her selfless, unconditional love and unwavering faith. I couldn’t imagine life without her. As a child, I would sometimes hope we’d die together in an accident of some sort. Little did I know then that a day would come when I’d sit by her hospital bed and plead with the Lord to take her Home. But it did. Role Reversal Unlike my husband’s sudden, unexpected loss, I lost Mom bit by bit over the last few years of her life. Tiny but determined, she continued to take care of her home and loved ones even as arthritis and osteoporosis took a greater and greater toll on her physically. Then came some red-flag moments signaling a decline in her mental abilities— her request for help balancing her checkbook even though she’d worked in banking for years, the inability to successfully bake a cake she’d made countless times over 50 years. Those moments alarmed and saddened me. Gradually, our roles shifted as I assumed more caregiving activities. Mom would often tell others, “I don’t know what I’d do without Patsy. She’s the mother now.” Or she’d tell me, “Thank you for your help. I can’t ever repay you.” I’d remind her, every time, of the years she’d invested in my children and me, lavishing so much love and care on us, and that if we were keeping accounts, I’d be the one forever in her debt. Bound by love, we knew there was no record-keeping between us. Yet, there was a growing sense of sorrow as we experienced our changing roles and limits on what we could do together...

Letting Go of My Mother and Friend2022-05-04T23:24:06+00:00

Delicious Despair 201

ANN MAREE GOUDZWAARD|CONTRIBUTOR My entire backyard burst with the colors of spring. Everything bloomed. It was a perfect, 70-degree day and the landscape showed off. I looked out my window and saw the wicker chairs scattered under the pergola and balloons dotted on the boulders strategically situated throughout the yard. When we invested in landscaping last year, I had visions of hosting joyful events. The picturesque backdrop was perfect for a tea party or bridal shower. In fact, we planned to host a “baby sprinkle” for my daughter that very day. (A “sprinkle” is a baby shower for couples who already have children.) Cori and Brett had all they needed for two kids, but then they found out they were expecting twins. So, we planned a sprinkle to help them provide for multiple babies. We hosted a memorial for the twins (Deacon and Hallie) that day instead. In 2020, the pandemic reminded us to preface our plans with “if the Lord wills.” Everyone’s agenda hit a “hard stop,” and we realized how precarious goals are. For our family, 2021 ushered in the opportunity to experience that truth in real time. My husband and I planned for chaotic bliss in adding a twelfth and thirteenth grandchild to our already bustling family. Together with our other children, we coordinated our calendars to support Cori and Brett at her due date. God had another plan. The Lord willed something different. Something more difficult. An accommodation we had no idea we would need to make. And so began my education in grief. What’s essential in the grief process is to try and grasp God’s redemptive plans. This takes time. It may even last indefinitely. In Delicious Despair 101, I wrote that Martin Luther fully expected the pain of suffering to result in a transformation.[1] For instance, in opposition to the “first step” of grief (denial)[2], candor looks suffering in the face and says, “Yes, that really happened.” Candor acknowledges devastation, but it also asks, “Now what do I do?” Wallowing in self-pity over the events God ordains is antithetical to biblical grieving. In 1 Thess. 4:13, Paul instructs mourners not to grieve as those without hope. So, we must keep moving through our grief and actively seek wisdom to reinterpret what happened as perfect and good...

Delicious Despair 2012022-05-04T23:19:25+00:00

Delicious Despair

ANN MAREE GOUDZWAARD|CONTRIBUTOR It was date night. My husband and I were enjoying our first outing in over a year. Our favorite restaurant looked a lot more like a family night; kids and babies were everywhere. My eyes kept connecting with the sweet baby boy at the table next to us. He was cooing in his daddy’s arms while his father gently rocked him. He was content despite all the commotion. I’ve never been much of a baby person. I prefer hanging out with teenagers. But ever since my twin grandchildren were born and passed too soon, I’ve found my eyes lingering on chubby cheeks and toothless smiles. Deacon and Hallie’s brief life outside the womb created an emptiness in my arms for something I had but lost. The void is overwhelming. So, instead of growing impatient with the noise of children and a baby’s laughter, I smiled. As we were leaving, I turned to stand and saw the baby boy seated in a Bumbo on his table happily eating his dinner. I smiled at him. He smiled at me. But, in a flash my joy turned into ugly tears because, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a second Bumbo. Seated next to the baby boy was his sister. His twin sister. My eyes went back and forth between them. Was I seeing correctly? Were twins really sitting right in front of me? Torrents of grief washed over me. I couldn’t stand. I looked to my husband to confirm the scene. He saw the shock in my eyes. He wrapped his arm around my heaving shoulders and helped me walk out of the restaurant. I barely made it to the car. In an instant, I found myself back to square one. Denial. It’s typically the first “step”[1] of grieving.  It had only been a little over two weeks since our grandchildren’s death and, in a heartbeat, I was once again questioning, “Did that really happen? Did mourning really crash into our family’s world? Were the sweet little babies we expected to love and cradle ushered into the presence of God instead?” Grieving is not passive. Suffering isn’t something that just happens to you and then you ride a wave of emotions until the circumstances quell. Suffering is like school, and grieving is how we accomplish the coursework. It’s not the kind of education anyone willingly signs up for. But, when devastation enters our lives, we are automatically enrolled into the seminar on suffering. And, just as we would prepare for any class, we must download the syllabus and begin to faithfully complete the assignments...

Delicious Despair2022-05-04T23:17:18+00:00

Grieving Loss and Reordering Loves

When 2019 ended, I raised my glass and rejoiced at the conclusion of one of the hardest years of my adult life. I was thrilled to enter into 2020, seeing it as a new year filled with new potential. The first half of my year was planned to the max with travel, speaking engagements, conferences, teaching Bible study groups at my local church, and the publication of my first solo writing project. There was excitement, joy, and expectation; after a season of wandering, I felt as if I finally had direction and was gaining traction. During the first weekend of March, I was on a trip with friends in South Carolina when I got word of the first COVID-19 infection in Nashville, my hometown. As I traveled home on Monday morning, I found myself walking through empty airports and flying home on empty planes—the spring of 2020 had officially begun. Over the course of the next two weeks, my 2020 calendar went from full to numbingly blank, as every event I was attending or leading was (understandably) canceled. I spent hours on the phone with friends, crying about lost events, anxious about firings and furloughs. And I, like so many, had to learn to work from home in a job which was never meant to be done through a flat, cold, computer screen. On Monday, March 23rd I finally hit a wall. It became apparent that no amount of wealth, education, or social connection could prevent the experience of loss. This beast was going to deeply affect us all in some way. Any semblance of control seemed to be slipping away, and—if I am honest—the collective experience of loss left me feeling as if I were swimming against a rip tide of grief and fear....

Grieving Loss and Reordering Loves2022-05-05T00:12:17+00:00

If the Lord Wills

There is a short-term mission trip truth that many of us understand: The one going on the mission trip usually receives way more than the people to whom we are hoping to minister. And that was true last summer when I visited some old friends of mine in Kenya. A team of women from my church went to teach at a women’s leadership conference and put on a medical clinic. It was fantastic. If the Lord Wills As we arrived, we started reconnecting with women I hadn’t seen for years. It felt a little like old home week! I was laughing and chatting with a friend of mine when I remembered something about her. This woman would rarely make a statement regarding her future without ending that sentence with the phrase: “If the Lord wills.” It was like her own personal punctuation mark. She’ll say something like, “Sue, I will see you in the morning, if the Lord wills.” My friend is a farmer and lives her life a little more hand-to-mouth than some of us do. She lost her daughter tragically and has a deep faith in the Lord. She knows exactly what it feels like to pray for rain, food, clothing, and all the Matthew 6:25-33 things. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes forget that the Lord has a plan, a sovereign plan, and everything we have is from his hand. One of the most difficult days for me since this whole crisis started last March was when I began to clear my calendar of upcoming events, both professional and personal. I mean, I wasn’t simply postponing things or rescheduling. I was removing them from existence. It hurt. Many of us have experienced grief and loss of many kinds during this season...

If the Lord Wills2022-05-05T00:19:16+00:00
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