Finding Comfort in Unbearable Sorrow

It has been said on numerous occasions that the greatest loss a person can experience is the loss of a child. Betty and I experienced that three days after Christmas. One cannot even imagine the indescribable, seemingly unbearable grief. Time and again as a minister I have sought to comfort the brokenhearted. After Robin’s passing, I wrote that the verse of Scripture that kept coming up in my mind along with setting captives free and the good news that would be announced was from that same passage when Jesus said He came to bind up the brokenhearted. I knew how important that was to me and Betty, Robin’s husband Kenny, their children and all of our family. I have always sought to be very sensitive to God while seeking to comfort those who were grieving.

Last weekend we heard the report that Pastor Rick and Kay Warren of Saddleback Church in California, lost their 27 year old son, Matthew, who battled mental illness and depression for many years. Betty and I can to a large degree indentify with this precious couple during this time and we sent them word of our concern and assured them of our continuing love, support and prayers.

Max Lucado posted this prayer on his website which is very appropriate when talking about what it’s like for parent to lose a child.

GRAVESIDE GRIEF

They never planned to bring their child here, Father.

They planned to bring their child to school, to the zoo, to kindergarten, to the beach…

But here? No.

To piano lessons? Yes.

To soccer fields? Yes.

To graduation? Yes.

But here? Never. No parent plans to bring his child here.

Children bring parents here. Isn’t that the order of things? Sons and daughters bury moms and dads. Who can bear the weight of this reversal? Who can stand to stand near the grave of their child?

Such a deep sorrow. This elixir of regret, remorse, second thoughts, and “if onlys”… Who can abide its taste?

We pray for these parents, Father. Our kindest words fall like empty husks. Help us know how to help them.

You know. You’ve been here.

You brought your Son to a cemetery. You witnessed the silent tomb. Yet, you resurrected hope from that tragedy.

Would you bring hope again?

Through Jesus,

Amen

 

Here are the verses of Scripture that God brought to my mind during our pursuit of comfort and also as I prayed for the Warrens:

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.

2 Corinthians 1:3-7 NLT

 

Take note that Paul said, “God will comfort us in ALL of our troubles” – not some of them, ALL of them, including the seemingly unbearable. He said that He is comforting us with purpose so that we can comfort others with the same comfort we ourselves have received from God. There is indication that even when there is greater suffering, we will be showered with abundant, amazing, grace-filled comfort through Christ. It is when we seem weighed down with the unbearable that we experience the comfort which clearly reveals the salvation we have received through Christ. When we are comforted we become comforters and we can tell others that as we share together in similar sufferings, we will also share in the comfort that God freely offers.

As I have walked through this valley of the shadow, I looked back over the years and evaluated what I had shared with those who were experiencing unexplainable or unbearable grief.  I remembered clearly what I had shared with deep, God-given conviction. I would tell people, “I’m not certain we will ever understand WHY or have all the answers to the why’s and come to a full understanding this side of Heaven.” In deep compassion I would tell them, “I sense that God is impressing on my mind that it would be wise for us to ask WHAT rather than WHY. Ask God and others to pray with us for these answers.

  • What do You want to do with this for the benefit of all affected by it and the benefit of others – not only the others who need comfort because of the experience, but those outside our circle of grief who need to know You more intimately?
  • What do you want to do with this crisis, this pain, this experience that will give You glory and help fulfill your Kingdom purpose?

It is by asking these questions I believe we have the best opportunity to experience the “peace that passes understanding”. From the moment we lost our precious daughter Robin, this is where God took me and it was the only place I could find abiding peace.

He led me to take the advice and heed the suggestion I had made to others. I must not be stuck asking “WHY?” I must ask in deep sincerity, “God, WHAT do You want to do with this that will lift our load, bless others, brighten their day and fulfill Your will?” In that, I began to find the comfort only God could possibly provide.

I found peace by sharing openly what I was walking through and I began to write. I prayed, “God as I seek comfort, help me comfort others. Help me learn what it means to bind up the brokenhearted and to do it effectively.” Hundreds of people communicated with us not only the fact that they were praying for us and wanted to express their concern, but also the blessing they received reading my commentaries which I posted the weeks following Robin’s passing. You might be blessed to read them and share them: Goodbye for Now Sweet Robin, When Hearts are Broken, Mending Broken Hearts.

Betty has been journaling since the loss. I have found indescribable inspiration and comfort reading what she writes. I am convinced some day it will be shared in some form with others who are experiencing the unbearable or walking through the valley of the shadow of death, loss, crisis or some unexpected heartache. Here is what she first wrote.

Psalms 56: 8 God bottles our tears!

Our daughter Robin went to be with Jesus on Dec. 28th, 2012 at 1:08 pm.

We need to understand Heaven before we can be Heavenly Minded!

I am studying about heaven, trying to gain wisdom and understanding. I never thought I’d be sharing my thoughts on this subject because of the death of one of our children. No parent could ever imagine or want to imagine losing a child. We can’t wrap any reasoning around that possibility.  But, it happened to us.  We keep wanting to awaken from this horrible nightmare!! It can’t be true. No way!!!

But for the grace and mercy of our Heavenly Father we could not make it or stand the pain of it. God is faithful and trustworthy all the way through it all.  “THIS IS THE DAY THE LORD HATH MADE AND I WILL REJOICE IN IT” I may quote that verse more than once as I put in writing my thoughts on the journey I never expected to experience – the loss of a child.

Oh, the pain! There truly is no way to describe this kind of heartache.  I feel I am experiencing some of the pain Mary went through as she watched Jesus die on the cross. Yes, He is the Son of God but she is still the Mother of Jesus, the one who had nurtured and cared for Him in his growing up years. The one that bore the pain of birth that He might be born. I have to believe she asked in her own way, is there another way other than death for Him to bear our sins? She had to know in her heart that there was no other way, but it still didn’t stop the heartache.  In my heart I had asked, “Oh God, what can I as Robin’s mother do to spare her this pain?” as I watched her take this horrible pain with grace while trusting God all the way to heal her. Never any doubt or complaining, only believing and declaring, “I Win!”

SHE DID WIN!!!!! Not as we would describe winning but no doubt, Winning!!!!

Jennifer Rothschild was one of our LIFE Today guests we taped with this week. Due to a disease she lost her sight when she was fifteen and yet she sees more clearly than most sighted people. She shared with us that she heard about a lady with the same disease who had lost her sight also, who got down on her knees with her husband, prayed and asked God to heal her, trusting Him to do it. She stood up with perfect sight even though she still doesn’t have retinas. Jennifer said, “Why, God! Why not me?” She had prayed the same way. She realized that God could handle her “why’s” but she also had to learn that even though you ask, “Do You care? Are you fair? Are you there? Are you aware? Do you hear prayer? Do you err?” She had to realize that He could handle her questions and what really needed to happen was for her to not necessarily get the answer to “why,” but to experience more of His presence and greater intimacy. She did not get the answer. God gave her more of Himself.

She had another friend who had cancer and he wasn’t healed no matter how much they prayed. He kept asking “why?” It led Jennifer to write a song, “Take Me to the Cross”. The chorus says,

Oh, take me to the Cross
Where you cried my tears.
Hide me in Your tomb,
Crucify my fears.

I’ll praise You with my pain,
Though the mystery remains.

You are a God Who cries,
You are a Savior Who died
And I can trust You with ‘WHY.’

The song closes repeating:

You are a God Who cries,
You are a Savior Who died
And I can trust You with ‘WHY.’

Betty wrote this in her journal the morning after we taped the television program with Jennifer:

We taped our show with Jennifer Rothschild last night. She wrote a book called, “MISSING PIECES” about the missing pieces in our lives.  She refers to the spiritual and physical pieces in our journey we face. We know the trials will come and we know for sure the suffering will come. God tells us in His word that we will experience the sufferings of Jesus. I really believe when we lost our daughter Robin we felt the suffering and are still walking our way through it. Jennifer asked some very important questions that I’m sure we have all asked some time in our lives concerning why life is so unfair: “Are You there? Do You care? Are You aware? Do You err?” It is natural to ask these questions and more. The big question we all ask is “WHY?” What she left us with was very thought provoking: WE SHOULD TRUST GOD WITH THE “WHY“.  Wow, that is tough at times, especially as a parent who lost a child that wanted to be healed and enjoy her family for a long time. I have to remember a very important promise: because of Jesus – she LIVES. What Jennifer said really blessed me and gave me resolve in my heart. It doesn’t mean I don’t shed tears anymore, and it doesn’t mean I don’t get angry, and doesn’t mean I get over my moments of sadness, but I did decide to not ask “WHY”!!!! I will join James asking “What?”

If your heart is broken today, please know Betty and I care deeply and we are praying for you. The gift of comfort we have received is what we want to share with you. We must trust God for comfort, pray for His comfort to be real for others and share the comfort we have experienced. This is how we move from “Why?” to asking “What do You want to do with this for Your glory and Your purpose? Our loving God, we trust You with ‘why’”.

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22 comments

  1. Dear James &Betty,
    I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your beautiful daughter. I can say I know how you feel because 25 years ago, we lost our 17 year old daughter, Sara, to an automobile accident. I can honest say that looking back it was the worst time of my life, but also the best time because I found God to be so real and so present in all stages of my grieving, that it surely was a bittersweet experience. I am so glad to see both of you continuing on the show and sharing your faith and journey with others that need to hear the message of love and restoration that only Jesus can bring!! Like you have said, we will never get over it, but God can enable us to go on and let Him make something beautiful out of our lives. God bless you both, you are such an inspiration to so many people.

  2. Oneida Higginbotham

    I am so sorry for your loss, but rejoice in your daughter’s gain, I can not imagine what Betty must be going through at this time, as a mother of three grown children my heart goes out to her. I like what she said no matter the age of your children a mother loves her children always. I have had my share of sorrow due to poor choices on my part and willing choices that my children have made with their life. Yet, it is only through God’s sovereignty I have come thus far, and by faith believe He God if need be will carry us the rest of the way. I pray for Betty to find comfort in the Father’s arms during this difficult time. ” If He carried the weight of the world upon His shoulders I know He will carry you both”, through the process of grief and sorrow, may you feel and be comforted by all the prayers that are being lifted up for you. God Bless and Keep you always, Oneida H

  3. Betty Wattinger

    it was good to hear from you ipray that God will continue to heal your pain I am still walking with Sid Jr through his pain of his illness he has moved to apartment after 30years if in Austin come see us blessing Betty

  4. Loriann Herchuk

    Dear James and Betty

    I used to watch your program years ago when we had cable. I just watched your interview with Sally Clarkson and discovered the news about Robin. I am so sorry to hear this. I am so glad she was triumphant and peaceful. I pray God’s Holy Spirit’s comfort on you and her family. Thank you for sharing about her life. I am inspired as a 45 year old mother of 4 boys, to live wholeheartedly for Christ no matter what.

  5. Betty you are a strength of encouragement of what a true woman of God is. As you sit feeling alone, sad and discouraged just remember that there are women out there that are not only praying for you but who are encouraged by your strength to press on. I have never experienced the pain of loosing a child in death but I am experiencing the loss of my 2 daughters life’s being out of Gods will and the loss of their ministry and talents being buried. Yet when I see the faith you have and the faith your dear daughter had it gives me encouragement that God is in control that satin never wins , that even through all her sufferings and pain your daughter kept her faith and so did you. I know it’s hard for you but I just wanted you to know you are my hero and I will keep on praying for my kids because they were raised as Christians and God is with them and “I will win” this battle for my daughters to be in Gods will.

  6. Sylvia Figgers

    I was so sorry to hear of your loss. Nothing can be as heartbreaking. I pray the Lord will comfort you, Betty, the rest of your family and friends. God bless and keep up. I admire the work you do for the Lord.

  7. Dear Betty & James,
    So sorry I did not know about Robin. I know how you feel. My sweet Tyler went to be with Jesus seven years ago. There is never a day that I do not think of him. He left four beautiful children and a precious wife. When I first heard of the accident,. I started screaming like never in my life! I thought I would never stop. This was not the first time I have had to deal with sorrow. Not by long shot. I could have “run” to The Lord or from Him. I decided I need Him like never before. “My Comforter”. Even tho I must grow old without my dear son, I am not offended in how the Father conducts his business!

  8. Dear James and Betty,
    We are so sorry for your loss and the pain you are experiencing. Your writings are beautiful and comforting to many. We too lost a child. Two years ago our 37 yr.old son died very suddenly from a disease he was unaware he had until two days before it took his life. This journey is nearly indescribable. But connecting with others has been a blessing that I would never have expected. By “others” I don’t mean people we had known, or family, or friends. God sent Brothers and Sisters in Christ who we did not know before our loss into our path. Sometimes they ministered to us, and sometimes we ministered to them. The universal Body of Christ, strangers we had not met, fellow believers who are not afraid to care and share have been like a healing balm for us. And we, likewise, have reached out to other hurting people who have lost loved ones with our story, our hope, our confidence that God took our son Home and we will see him again.
    You are SO right to ask WHAT, not WHY. Because God’s plan is for us to do something with this tragic experience. And He has a different journey for each of us to embark upon. I am still discovering where it will take me; one thing I know for sure–God is using this pain for good, as long as I let Him lead the way.

    God bless and comfort you on your journey, too.
    Love and prayers,
    Dawn

  9. Thank you James and Betty….for being transparent…I so see Jesus in you, our very constant….
    Though our heart and flesh may fail us, He will not fail us…..His way is fail proof…..
    We lift you up as His life is being poured out in your heartbreak…
    You have strengthened our faith over the many years and even now your writing encourages us
    to keep going on…..Looking to Him!

    Blessings to you and Betty
    Hetty

  10. Thank you James for this heartfelt and deeply emotional message. I have never lost a child, but I like Rick Warren’s son also I struggled with depression and deep suicidal thoughts, which I did for 24 years, until finally Jesus delivered me from this. To go through this is very painful, and I questioned why he didn’t deliver me from this much sooner he told me through another friend, souls. This struggle lead me to write my autobiography From Death To Blessing, hopefully it will lead many to know Jesus as Lord and Saviour. I found out through a friend about Rick Warren’s loss, I’ve been praying for God’s grace/peace to comfort him and his family. He is speaking at our Hillsong Conference in July.

    L.Agius (Sydney, Australia)

  11. Thanks so much for sharing from your heart. Like Susan, we also grieve the choice our dear daughters have made to walk away from the Lord and get involved with liberal causes. We have hope in the Lord’s word that our entire household will be saved. May God continue to comfort and use you as you faithfully serve Him and may God also comfrot the Warrens.

  12. Life today, and so much the more, from early on the work Our Lord is accomplishing through servants like
    Yourselves is of the GOD kind.

    Thank You for your genuine openness as to issues you personally face. You are right I truly have no IDEA.

    In looking unto JESUS, not just the City whose builder and founder is God, but seeing God in reality,
    as Sovereign and knowing as a Good Dad- will not deter right in any form or fashion. As we know God active in Our world
    he does things His way, and His will is our purposed Heart also. In seemingly Weakness he shows forth strength. In what we call death there is redeeming principle even toward fuller life itself.
    In faith we Want what God wants, we are led to believe in seemingly intangible things/heart of love that from our human eyes needs a more deeper solemn perspective even to want to contemplate the the event we are facing. Human being in sphere of Deity, yet This God we serve is not just profound, but is ever seeking to reveal more of Himself into our experience.
    Jesus had to die or else we’d be doomed/dammed. Thank God even in tragedy there is triumph to be known. We have what we think is great with 20/20 but God sees it all. Thus said, this seemingly tragedy will not go to waste because God
    knew he could Trust you in this seemingly insurmountable life issue within the limited human experience laboratory, if permitted to say so.
    Where there is evil, even so there must to be a GREATER good. Else how could we see evil as it is. Though evil was not
    within God initial plan, God can and will show us the “what” as we be still and KNOW… I am His and He is Mine. What’s His is mine and what’s mine is HIS. IF God make what is out of “whats” not, surely we can trust Him in has come to be knowing His outcome will be best for all involved, though we both know the Father grieves with us in our sorrow… the JOY comes in His morning.
    We do not have the luxury as Enoch… and he was not there. It says God took him. If we could be so much in agreement, as In Jesus God is still wanting to bless us and through Us, the Nations.
    We together, thus and so… YES, AND Amen.
    We can say it softly and then we’ll say it more profoundly-amen,Amen,AMEN!
    Through Faith eyes, blessings and Peace. Bro B

  13. I am dealing with a different sort of loss! My son is divorcing his wife…he has left her and his young children, ages 6 and 8, for their neighbor, his wife’s ‘best friend’ who is the mother of his daughter’s best friend. I’m so heartbroken! I am a child of divorce; my current husband is a divorced dad; and I divorced an abusive first husband. I have experience divorce from 3 different perspectives. Divorce is SO DEVASTATING for the children! They don’t understand why Daddy doesn’t want to live with them anymore! They don’t understand why he would rather be with the neighbor and her best friend, than with them.

    I am so hurt and shocked by his selfishness. Perhaps, in this case, also…WHAT is the better question than WHY?

    Please PRAY that we can all, (his wife, the children, and I), can get beyond the WHY and discover the WHAT!

    • Thank you for your honesty Pam. God will bless you for standing beside your daughter-in-law and grandchildren in this terrible affair. My daughter and her husband are divorcing after less than 2 years of what I believe(d) was a God- ordained marriage…I remember the day on my knees when The Lord showed me they would be together. I don’t know what has happened, other than to say every failure is a prayer failure. I hope we both see these marriages restored although it looks impossible now.

  14. So beautiful and comforting. Thank you for sharing from Betty’s journal too.

  15. I too find myself asking why a lot, but I am beginning to understand that His plan
    is much bigger than my ability to comprehend.. As I struggle with why I come up with more questions than I can answer and it is at that time that I must resolve to trust all that He has done in the past and know that HE has always been faithful and always will be until the end.

  16. Thanks Bro. James and Sis Betty for this heart touching blessed message. May Lord bless me to understand His ways and give me patience not to ponder on Whys but just to surrender to His will. God bless both of you and continue to use you for His glory. You are His channel of blessings to us.

  17. Truly the Fathers heart … Love y’all soooo much

  18. James & Betty,
    We have walked with you for many years now in the joys and sorrows of Christ. Our knees have bent and our faces have bowed before Him when you lost your precious daughter and we grieved with you, we gave thanks in all things with you, we wept with you and will stay on the journey with you.
    I have read this blog today and God penetrated my heart to the core, I had to write. I have studied with Beth (Moore) for twenty plus years, and Jennifer is a fresh light into His faithfulness as well, so many wonderful and precious teachers. Yet you James, and yes, Betty, have taught me so much for my every day life that I am sustained by His grace through you so often.
    Our family has loved Jesus for twenty five years plus James. We raised our ‘baby girl’ Tara in the Lord since she was 10, she is now 32. We shared countless joys of Christ in her life, she married a Godly young man in college and has given us three INCREDIBLE grandchildren and they were in ministry together, raising their own family for Him. And THEN, somewhere began a ‘slow fade’ that we did not see, we did not expect to ‘see our child there’ and our worlds crashed in a kind of loss that it indescribable, a mourning that has no gravesite to go to and leave your tears. The week after Christmas 2011 our Daughter and Son-in-love came to us and told us (after twelve years of marriage and three children) that they “NO LONGER BELIEVED IN GOD AND NO LONGER WOULD BE A PART OR RAISE THEIR CHILDREN IN HIS FICTION”. My son-in-love is now a proclaimed “Skeptic”/atheist, and our beautiful baby girl simply follows him in a life of denial. I cannot express the loss my husband and I have felt, the grief and loss we have experienced, the depth to which our souls cried…none in comparison to what you and Betty and so many have experienced, oh but James, it hurts EVERY day. Our kids are GOOD kids, they once loved the Lord more than life itself for many years, Tara’s voice is the sound of His angels and she sang for Him for so long and no one else. But they got involved in a very cultic Essemblies of God church and was ‘taken under wing’ by the Pastor when they lived in Virginia, he was strong, cunning and manipulated young learning lives and hearts of several young ‘couples’ he took under those ‘wings’ of his. It took years for them to try and heal from that, we now think perhaps they never did and are angry at God for years they feel they ‘wasted’ serving Him that way. We know that they KNOW the truth, and, that they are still His, that they will NEVER be allowed to ‘forget’ who He was in their lives and what He accomplished in them…but this horrendous pain of our grandbabies being torn over Mom & Dads choice, their little eyes wanting to go to church with us and they miss their little friends, etc, it’s hard! Our grandbabies are being slowly hardened and it’s a ‘Job’ time for us in many ways. James, we pray for you and for Betty, please, pray for us, Randy and Susan and our kids Eric and Tara, babies Caleb Joshua (10), Amelia Joy (8) & Madelyn Grace (5)…notice they named each one with biblical delight:(. Thank you James for all you and Betty do, and are in Christ. Thank you for your humility and your hearts like none I’ve ever known in public, you are simply ‘people’ with heart God, we never feel lesser than you or separated from you in any way and that to us speaks such incredible volumes of Jesus. You are precious to us and we love you both very much. I had always dreamed of coming to visit you and Betty and have coffee and laughter and stories, that is how real you have seemed to us. Reality is not such I know, lol, but it’s just an image of how comfortable you make us feel, and yet how He stirs in us through you and your love of each other and your family in Christ. We will be married 40 years this September…we never thought it would be bittersweet, to gain so much and lose the one thing in our daughter that we could not fathom. This is why we continue to pray for both of you James, because we have a link that cannot be genuinely expressed, but we know it’s there. Godspeed James Robison and Betty, Godspeed.

    • dear Susan McDaniels, I can relate to your pain. I find comfort in knowing that God will not let them go, but I believe He will send the right one to cross their paths and lead them back to Him. All praise to God..Amen! “Be strong,… and let God”..

  19. Like you we had to stand at a grave and wonder at the love of God and say what to we do with this Lord. Soon after, I was asked to speak to a group of women about our loss and how we are walking through the night into the beautiful day of victory. I realized it is in pain that I can see clearly His love! It is one step at a time with Our hand in His. We are blind to the next step but He is not.
    We love you both and praise God for this ministry. We are members of Gateway and thank God for giving us such a place to worship. With a broken heart, healed by Jesus I can say Praise Him, Praise Him, for my strength comes from my Savior and Lord. One day your heart though broken for Robin will feel His complete healing.
    In His Love amd mine,
    Kay Ivey

  20. James,
    Good morning, I am always so encouraged by your writings ! I am also a fan of the Lifetoday progarm. Please give my greetings to Betty and God Bless the whole Robinson family.
    Julie Detrick