by Linda Brown
You know that person to whom nobody knows quite how to respond?. The one who makes some people say things like, “She keeps talking about this thing that happened almost two years ago.”
“Where is her faith?”
“She has lost her joy. I feel kind of sorry for her, but I never know what to say when she talks about her grief.”
“It’s like she is a different person.”
Sometimes I am that person--the one with whom nobody knows quite what to do. They kind of hope I don’t talk about suffering today, because it’s an uncomfortable topic. However, it seems like almost every conversation leads to it at some point.
To be perfectly honest, sometimes I don’t know what to do with me since losing my daughter, Jessica. I am a different person. My thoughts are different. I see things differently. My faith is different. Let me clarify that statement. My faith is deeper than it has ever been. My joy is deeper, because it is only in Jesus, not in people or things. My perspective is deeper. Losing a loved one—especially a child—makes you take an immediate inventory of what is important in your life. That is partly because you don’t have the emotional energy to deal with the things that aren’t important. I find that I cling to the things of this life less tightly. I love my Lord, I love the Word; and I love my family and friends. Those are what bring me joy, along with so many other things: music, wildflowers, singing birds, sunrises, sunsets, the color green (because grass is green), delighting in a good, sweet watermelon in the summer, and sitting on the porch with my husband and neighbors.
Having joy—living a life of joy—does not necessarily mean laughing all the time and being the life of the party. Speaking of suffering does not necessarily mean a person is filled with depression and gloom.
Having a proper understanding of suffering has led me closer to Jesus. He suffered, and He assured us that we would suffer, too. He said that in this world we would have plenty of troubles; but in that same sentence He told us that He has overcome the world (John 16:33 ESV). Because He lived, suffered, died, and rose from the grave, we have a fabulous HOPE! We have the assurance that the pain of this life is not all there is. When we are surrendered to Him, we can look forward to the prospect of spending the rest of eternity with Jesus, while living out the good plan He had for us from the beginning.
The question is, "How am I going to live out the rest of my life while I am here on Planet Earth?" I want to be a living example of life, love, and hope, and at the same time, point people to Christ. God had a purpose for me the day before Jessica died; and He had the same purpose for me the day after she died. My life circumstances are entirely different now than they were then. However, my purpose is the same--to love the Lord my God with all my heart, mind, strength, and soul, and to love my neighbor as myself (Mark 12:29-31). The opportunities each day may look different, but the purpose is the same. It’s not about me, but about what I do with those opportunities.
Did I ever think the death of my daughter would be an opportunity to share about the love and hope of Christ? Nope. And it’s certainly not an opportunity I wanted. But here it is. Our suffering may not feel good, but does that make it bad? None of us are Job, but as that wise man said, “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.” (Job 13:15 ESV) And thousands of years later, we read the story of his great faith in the ultimate goodness of God.
If you can relate to this, or if you are struggling with this, I pray for the peace of God to wash over you. There will still be hard days, but be comforted in this, “For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort, too.” (2 Corinthians 1:5 ESV).
Linda Brown is a local teacher of the Word, women’s mentor, Certified Peer Specialist, and taker-of-sunrise photos. Her passion is encouraging and discipling women, and she does this through engaging in life with women in her community, writing, leading Bible studies, and facilitating small groups through ministries such as Celebrate Recovery, GriefShare, and While We’re Waiting, which is a biblically-based group focusing on the unique and seldom-talked about needs of bereaved parents. As a bereaved parent herself, and one who has overcome many life challenges through God’s word and the healing power of the Holy Spirit, Linda relates well to women who struggle with similar challenges, and delights in pointing them to the Hope she has found in Christ. Linda lives with her husband Paul and 13 year-old granddaughter in rural Missouri, where they enjoy porch time, and occasionally wrangling turkeys and cattle.
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