Our Family & Faith in the Valley of Suck

Dear Logan and Jay,

This sucks.  In all my years I never imagined having to write this.  Why did I think our family was immune to suffering and pain?  Well, we aren't and we had already learned some of the suffering we could endure. Why did I ever think I could protect you from the reality of being in a family?  Into every family, death IS going to come.  I was lulled into a false sense of security as it is so easy to do.  Just like our cats who doze off until someone sneezes or thunder booms - your world has been rocked to the core.

I tried to prepare you for some of the things you would hear and read.  People WANT to SAY the right thing desperately.  You DON’T have to believe that but it helps with living and surely helps during dying.  People WANT to DO the right thing to help you.  They do not know what it is though and you probably do not know either.  Nothing prepares you for death but death.  And nothing could have prepared you for the death of your mother.  You only had one.  I only had one wife.

We’ve talked enough now and you have heard and seen so many things.  So very much of it centers on what others think you should do and what other people think God’s role in this was.  I have seen your response and I have heard the pain and anger in your voice.  This is what grieving looks like.  You wanted to deny it was happening at first.  Now you are angry.  

Being angry is okay.  
Being angry at the world is okay.  
Being angry at “people” is okay.  
And being angry with God is okay too.
You are not the first and you won’t be the last.

You’ve heard phrases like, “God needed her,” “God has got this,” “God has a plan,” “She is an angel now,” “at least she is not hurting anymore,” and more.  I have to stop writing these somewhere.  People mean well when they say these things but they don’t help.  I know, they don’t help me either.  Remember, I am a pastor.  I have a Masters of Divinity Degree and am an ordained clergy, and I’ve been in full-time ministry for over 20 years now.  They don’t help.

God didn’t need your mom.  God already had your mom.  Remember Advent?  Remember the name you grew up hearing every year?  “Emmanuel.”  It is one of Jesus’ names and it means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).  God was already here and God had your mom.  She was formed by God in the womb (Jeremiah 1:5), and God has known her and loved her.  God didn’t need her but always had her.

God has a plan (the same as “God has got this”) and what I know of that plan from Scripture and study is God wants everyone to come to know and believe in God.  But we must cooperate with the grace God gives.  Oh wait, was that different than what you’ve heard?  Sorry, no, I do not believe God holds sway over every moment and every decision we make.  When I read Romans 8:28 I read two things, one is, we must pursue God and love God, and second, if we do love God, then the good which is worked is part of that bigger plan - for all to believe God.  This is why I find this phrase so unhelpful in the midst of grief and I expect by what you’ve said, you do too.  Dealing with all of humanity is a bit overwhelming at this time in our lives.
I know it sounds good to hear Heather is an angel but we weren’t created for this.  Hebrews 2:7 says only right now, we’re lower than angels.  In the next world, we are to be “crowned with glory and honor,” we “heirs” with Jesus.  Angels are wonderful creatures of God’s creation but God has more in store.  It is one reason your mom had John 14:2 read at her service: Jesus went to prepare rooms and mansions for those who are the Children of God.

“At least she isn’t hurting anymore.”  This one doesn’t bother me quite so much because yes, I’m thankful she doesn’t know pain anymore.  I saw more of that pain than you did but if you remember, you’ll see it.  The problem with this one is it doesn’t address what you are feeling right now.  There will likely come that time when this will bring comfort but it is not NOW.  No, I suspect this is more of what you’re feeling along with C.S. Lewis: "You tell me, 'she goes on.' but my heart and body are crying out, come back, come back." ("A Grief Observed")

You are not alone in your grief and your anger with God.  You are in good company but nobody seems to want to hear it.  And like in centuries past, we only want to hear the good stuff, the blessings, the favor of God.  We don’t want to hear people might be disappointed in God!  Forbid it!  Silence it!

But I will not.  It is not fair to you or to any of those who have cried out and found God silent, the way shut, and we can’t get a signal.  You need truth and the truth is, all those Bible verses printed on mugs and pencils and bouncy balls are pull quotes which rarely tell the full story.  You don’t just need hope in your grief, you need to know you are not ALONE in your grief and pain my dear children.  And you are not...

My eyes are spent with weeping;
my stomach churns;
my bile is poured out to the ground
because of the destruction of the daughter of my people,
because infants and babies  faint
in the streets of the city.
(Lamentations 2:11)

Their heart cried to the Lord.
O  wall of the daughter of Zion,
let tears stream down like a torrent
day and night!
Give yourself no rest,
your eyes no respite!
(Lamentations 2:18)

Well of course, this is Lamentations!  Fine read the words of the prophets.  Read the Judges and how the people suffered.  Read Psalms.  So could it be just an Old Testament thing?  Then read of the greatest missionary Paul and what he suffered in 2 Corinthians 11:21-30.  And how did he die?  Likely as a martyr in Rome.  

Logan.  Jay.  You stand in good stead with many through the centuries who have grieved, wept, ate sand and the gravel of suffering.  It hurts. You are in the valley of suck and it sucks.  Period.

What you NEED is for people to remember and live Romans 12:15: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”  It isn’t time for rejoicing, not yet, and you don’t have to.  Don’t fake it.  But it will be again one day.  Right now the NEED is for people to WEEP WITH YOU (Hear this my friends). There are people who WILL do it.  Your church IS.  Your friends ARE.  I AM TOO.  Just as she was your mother; Heather was my wife.  

Will I give up on God?  No.  Though this valley sucks, it doesn’t end in suck.  Your mom believed it and her pain was worse than ours.  Wherever she is, that is where I want to be and since she didn’t give up on Jesus, then neither will I and I will pray, as she did, for you to not give up on God.  Cuss God.  Yell at God.  Be angry and call down wrath but don’t let go!  Like Jacob at the river, you’ve got God and you may not even know it.  Don’t give up.  Ever.  Just as your mother loves you even now, so do I and will always.

Love always and forever,

Dad


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