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.
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?
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:
3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 4 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. 5 For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. 6 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. 7 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’”.