It’s been on my prayer list for God to heal us from Tristan’s death but one day I stopped to contemplate, what would that look like? I’m always going to miss Tristan. I’m always going to be sad that he is not here. I’ll always feel pain with that reality, so what am I asking God for, exactly?
I am excited to share that God has answered that question. And it happened in the most unexpected way.
Todd was asked at the last minute to preach and I was mad at God about it.
Sadly, both of our pastors were in a last minute COVID quarantine and nobody else could preach. Two services had to be held to accommodate people and I knew from experience it would be WAY too exhausting for Todd to get through them. He could barely make it working full-time and trying to grieve this past year. So instead of trusting him, and trusting God, I got grief-mad.
I almost wanted to pitch a protest and stay in the car drinking my coffee while Todd taught. This was the attitude that God was dealing with when all He wanted to give me was an answer to my prayer. Because His answer came through Todd’s sermon.
I will post it for you here. It is for any sufferer but if you’ve lost a child it is probably only for seasoned grievers. I say this because at the beginning of my grief it would have fallen on deaf ears and that’s okay. Maybe God will bring you back to these truths in His time.
I learned what the difference is between grieving and languishing.
The phrase “healing from grief” was confusing to me because it conjured up images of someone who had come to the place where grieving was no longer necessary. But that couldn’t be true because Jesus walked this earth being a man “acquainted with grief” and in the Greek, that meant intimately acquainted. So what would healing look like?
The goal of my healing journey is simply to avoid falling into languishing. And I might have that tug-of-war between grief and languishing all my life. But the missingness of Tristan will always be at home in my heart and that is as it should be.
I was given a precious characteristic of Christ
I also learned that in one moment I was given something Jesus had. You know how God promises to make us more like Jesus day by day in a lifelong process? What if it happened suddenly? What if we were suddenly granted a facet of Jesus’s character like goodness, or patience, or self-control? Wouldn’t we consider ourselves blessed?
Well, one of His characteristics was being a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”. This was handed to me in one fell swoop.
He has chosen me to reflect this characteristic for the rest of my life and it will be okay because I have a picture of my Savior living that way on earth. He was not a picture of doom and gloom like that phrase suggests.
What did He look like on earth as a “man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief”? He was sorrowful to the point of death, He wept at funerals, He cried over His losses and longings, but also: He raised a family after Joseph died, He developed friendships, He taught, He led, He rejoiced, He got alone with God, He gave people what they needed, He celebrated Holy days, He went to weddings, feasts and dinners, — all the while being a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
In time, my life can look like that. In time.
The Body of Christ needs people of sorrow and those acquainted with grief.
At the end of Todd’s sermon, while he was giving the closing prayer, he could not hold back tears and started to weep. (This was the 10am service, not the one recorded here.) His crying made me start to weep right in the front row.
The service was over but God’s lesson was not. Two women came on either side of me. I didn’t even know who they were at first because I was crying so hard. One put her arm around me and murmured God’s comfort in my ear, “You’ll always miss Tristan for the rest of your life, and that’s okay. You’ll have good days and you won’t have to feel guilty for them. You’ll have bad days missing him and that’s okay. You’ll always love him and miss him and it’s okay to feel that way.” The other woman simply sat silently and held my hand. When I was finally able to see she looked at me and she said,
“I don’t know if this is good to tell you, but turn around and look at who your son is talking to.” I turned and saw Greyson talking to a young man I’d never seen.
“Is that your son?” I asked. “I bet you’ve been praying for him to come to church for years, haven’t you?”
“Yes,” she said.
“Does he know Tristan’s story?”
He did. And, she told me, he has the same struggle with depression. She related that now her son is in a place where he can’t wait to come to church. I told her I was so thankful that even though Tristan’s story with depression was over, God was still working so that this young man might be saved from it.
Guess who God used to sit on either side of me that day when I needed it? Two women of sorrow. Only those who have experienced the suffering of life can speak into the suffering of another’s life with the same language.
Dear God, I’m so sorry I was mad about Todd preaching. You are so good and gentle. You knew what I needed even though I balked at it. I never thought about sharing in Jesus’s suffering like those apostles in Acts who rejoiced in it. That never made sense to me. But now I guess I’m getting it a little. To be like Him, even in a sorrowful way is a privilege. Is that something good You brought out of the horror of Tristan’s death? Beauty for ashes? Redeeming in small ways until the Great Redemption we all groan for? If I can keep thinking this way, perhaps it will be a little balm on my pain. At least I won’t languish. Save me from myself, in Jesus’s precious name, Amen.