I just finished practicing music for the kids’ music camp concert tonight, and then tabbed my hymnal for playing tomorrow at church. So I’ve been reading lyrics. Good, stout, rich lyrics. Lyrics that encourage but challenge.
One of the songs we’ll be singing tomorrow is “Whate’er My God Ordains Is Right,” and the words both comfort and confuse me. For instance: “Whate’er my God ordains is right: Though now this cup, in drinking, may bitter seem to my faint heart, I take it, all unshrinking. My God is true; each morn anew sweet comfort yet shall fill my heart, and pain and sorrow shall depart.” Sometimes I take it very shrinkingly. There are days when I don’t feel any sweet comfort. And very often I wonder if pain and sorrow ever will depart.
Three days ago, a young woman we know drowned in a nearby lake while swimming with her younger siblings and some friends. Although we were not close friends, this has shaken me. Her name was Rachel, and we worked together for about a year right after I got married. Her sister still works for my dad a couple days a week. These sisters were best friends. And although I have never had a sister, I can not imagine the depth of anguish that is present now in the absence of this darling sister & friend. What a beautiful young woman of God she was.
One of my first thoughts upon hearing of her tragic death was, “I hope my kids gave her a beautiful welcome into heaven.” Now, I don’t actually have much of a clue about heaven or what it’s like. But what’s odd is that that thought was unsolicited, unplanned in my head; and as soon as it occurred, I felt this strange tinge. Usually people bemoan a death (especially of a young person – she was only 23) with things like, “she will never get married, never have kids, never finish Bible college and go to the mission field as she had planned.” But I was thinking, “how incredible that she was ushered to the glorious gates of heaven this week!” I’m not exactly jealous, because I don’t exactly want to die. But I can feel myself, more and more all the time, longing for heaven. I suppose I do more than most young mothers, because that is where most of my children are. But they aren’t the only pull for my heart. They’re a strong pull, but not the only one. To live in bliss — no more tears, no more sorrow, no more pain — and to spend eternity in praise and adoration of our King… who could ask for more? So I do not sorrow for Rachel. Death — although she was not expecting it when it came — was her gain and joy. But I do sorrow for her family. My heart just aches and throbs for them. I know grief. I am well acquainted with it. And yet I can not wrap my head around the depth of this anguish for them. Her parents. Her siblings (some of whom were with her when she drowned). Her sister Renee especially. Her friends.
Another song we frequently sing at church is “The Day Is Past And Gone,” and one of the lines says “So death will soon disrobe us all of what we here possess… And when our days are past and we from time remove, O may we in Thy bosom rest, the bosom of Thy love.” Rachel is disrobed of all ugliness and clothed now with the beautiful garments of heaven and glory. She rests in the bosom of her Heavenly Father.
A number of hours after I found out about her death, I stood in Hallmark staring at the section of sympathy cards. I know sympathy cards. I know how some words comfort and some words sting. I know how words like “sorry” and “sad” don’t even begin to plumb the depths of grief. I wept as I looked through different cards, trying to find something that was appropriate — something that could scratch the surface of what I want to say. Which is really just to say that I don’t have words, that I acknowledge that no words can take away their pain or numb their grief.
I recently finished reading the book, “Grieving The Child I Never Knew” and while it blessed me, I continue to gain the most encouragement from “The One Year Book Of Hope” and “Streams In The Desert.” These books acknowledge that my grief is not an isolated event. Grief overflows into so many, many aspects of our life. These are books that I would like to share with Rachel’s family as they must endure their remaining days on this earth without her — because these books are applicable no matter what type of grief a person is suffering.
This morning I mentioned to Steven that I eat, drink, sleep, and wake with the same thoughts all the time. Thoughts of grief. I am so anxious for this veil of grief to be lifted. Time goes by and the pain changes, but I am not sure I can truly say that it has yet lessened for me. As painful and awful as it is, I am somehow thankful that I am known as a young woman who is acquainted with grief. I want to be an example. I want to be approachable. I want to weep with others who are weeping. I want to proclaim Christ through my tears and even somehow through my empty womb & empty arms.
So this grief is different. It isn’t my own grief. It is grief for a family we know who are suffering. Who were surprised by death. Who must learn how to cling to God anew in their terrible anguish.
This grief is from the outside. And, different though it may be, I don’t like this kind of grief either.
2 Corinthians 2:16-17
“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God our Father,
who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace,
comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.”