Grief and loss are hard to talk about, but they are issues that we will face if we haven't faced already. Jesus tells us in John 16 that we will have trials, but to take heart because he has overcome the world. And my friends, this is so true! I was only able to face grief and loss because I KNOW He has overcome the world.
I firmly believe that we do not walk our walks just for ourselves, but that our stories are for someone else. So here is my story.
Having grown up the second oldest of seven children, loss was not a new concept to me. I always had to share things with my siblings and I often lost toys or clothes to them. I think the Lord gave us siblings to teach us to not hold onto anything too tightly :) It wasn't until I was in my senior year at Alabama that I would really understand what loss looked like. I was dead set on going to Medical school when I graduated. I wanted to be a primary care doctor and help people. And I worked relentlessly to achieve this goal! Even if it meant doing research that I didn't enjoy, taking 20+ course hours, quitting marching band, studying countless hours, or never sleeping. Throughout the course of my senior year I felt the Lord saying over and over again that I shouldn't go to medical school. But, I'm stubborn and told the Lord that I would have to fail if I was supposed to be in medical school. So, I started at UAB in the fall of 2012. And y'all, I've never been very good at listening to those who are in authority over me. I failed my first semester of medical school by 1 point. To put that in perspective, if I had gotten two more questions on my final correct I would have passed. I was hit head on with loss. I was devastated. That had been my dream for so many years and I had worked so hard to achieve it. But the Lord knew what he was doing, like He always does! He knew that I had my whole entire identity wrapped up in being a doctor and not in him. Failing medical school was one of the hardest things I've had to go through, but it was also one of the best. Because it taught me that the Lord is good, and faithful, and that He will accomplish the plans He has for us. And as one of my friends told me, it was a perfect opportunity to preach the gospel to myself daily.
Failing medical school was hard, but it is not the most difficult thing I've had to walk through. Fast forward five years later to one morning in September when my brother called me at work. I don't normally answer the phone at work, but it was a slow morning so I did. He had called to tell me that he had found my Daddy in the driveway unresponsive and had done CPR on him. He told me that they took him to the ER in Huntsville and that my twin sister and I should come to Huntsville. So we did, and we made it in time to tell my Daddy good-bye before he passed away at the age of 53. My Daddy's death was so unexpected and sudden I was in shock for the first few days. Everything felt so surreal. But the Lord was so sweet and kind during that time. He had told my Mama the night before my Daddy passed away that "a storm is coming greater than you have ever seen before" and reminded her of his promises in scripture that He would be our peace, He would always provide for all our needs, and that He will always rejoice in us. People from my parents' church also spoke of how my Daddy was so peaceful and joyful the night before he passed, and of how he talked about Heaven and how he longed to be there. All of these things made my grief bearable. I honestly don't know how people who do not believe in Jesus survive things like this. There were days I had to cling to the promises that I knew to be true to not be a sobbing mess. But let me tell you, it is okay to be a sobbing mess! One of the things I have learned through this process is that everyone grieves differently and there is no right way to grieve. Except cling to Jesus. He truly will bring you comfort and peace like you have ever known!! An older lady at my parents church told us to not to try to get over Daddy's death. She had lost both of her parents very young and she said that you never get over it. And it’s true. There are days I still get very sad because I'll never hug my Daddy again or speak to him again. But again, the Lord is there to comfort you!
I also wanted to take a moment to speak on how to respond to loss and grief in other's lives. Because as the church and a as a Christian we should respond in these situations. And because we are a young church most of us probably have never really had to respond to these situations. I know I haven't really had to until recently. When something like this happens, pray for those who are affected by the loss. Prayer is one of the most important things we can do for people! Then do something tangible for the people. They probably do not have the brain capacity to even think of what needs to be done. I know we did not. One of the biggest blessings to us during this time was that people from my parents’ church came and cleaned my parents’ house. And be present! You don't have to know what to say or say anything at all. There is nothing to say in these situations, but presence speaks louder than words. And don't remind them of scripture of what life will be like one day. I struggled with this so much! I knew those promises and believed them to be true, but it’s hard to reconcile them with the sorrow you feel in this present moment. Lastly, remind them that you love them - and again, pray for them!
Grief and loss have had a major part in my story and I am so very thankful for them! They have shown me that the Lord is GOOD and FAITHFUL and that we can still have joy even in the midst of our trials. If you are struggling with this topic my door, my table, and my ear are always open for you! Because I am not the best writer, I will leave you with the words of a professional one who sums it up far better than I ever could. Stasi Eldridge recently wrote about the loss of her grandchild and she wrote: "I have experienced many goodbyes in my life and the older I get the more I have had to say. It would break my heart into shards were I not to know that my goodbyes, though excruciating, are temporary...The only way we can wait with any kind of grace and even know the joy that we are exhorted to possess while we do is if we know in the depths of our soul that we will not be waiting forever. We are going to be filled...I am learning that it is not in living without pain or emptiness or longing of any kind that I will find joy. It is not. No. It is in His presence that I will know the fullness of joy. Because God doesn’t merely give us joy. In every season of our lives be they filled with goodness or grief, summer’s blooms or winter’s chill, He gives us Himself. Joy incarnate...His scars hold all the hope I need.Though I grieve the end of seasons and mourn the loss of those I love, hating every goodbye I have ever had to say, because of Jesus, I know that a grand and endless “Hello” is coming. So I can wait for it. I can long for it. And I can do it with an expectant hope that will not disappoint."