The beginning of the year 2017 was a whirlwind of joyful busy-ness. We were in the final preparation for my younger daughter’s wedding. Hers had been a whirlwind romance. Rachel had met her husband-to-be almost exactly a year prior to the date of their upcoming wedding. They were engaged just three months after they met. And her fiance’ was 20 years older than she. I had all sorts of worries swirling in my mind in the beginning.
But, as we got to know him, I felt more comfortable. They were introduced at a Bible study at the home of their associate pastor who had been a great friend of Rachel’s since college. He and his wife both heartily supported the relationship. Rachel was 30 years old – not a naïve young girl, and this was not her first serious romance. They faithfully attended premarital counseling with their pastor. And, most of all, they were obviously in love and committed to a lifetime together. Ultimately, I felt God had brought them together for all the right reasons.
So, on February 10, 2017 they were wed in a sweet, small ceremony and started their married life.
They were busy when they returned from their honeymoon. They only had a few weeks before Rachel’s lease was up to move all her possessions from her condo into his apartment. And she was in the midst of changing jobs. I had a backlog of work projects to catch up on. So, while we had some lengthy phone conversations, we didn’t have time to make the four-hour trek to get together in person. There would be time for that when things settled down.
On April 11, I got a call at work from my son-in-law. It was mid-afternoon on a Tuesday – an odd time for him to call. He said, “I have a hard thing to tell you. Rachel died in a car accident on her way to work this morning.”
No. That can’t be the way this story ends. There has to be a mistake. Nowhere was this in the plan. How could the same God who brought them together let this happen?
I’m not going to lie – I was angry at God. I raged at Him. “Why” and “How could you” were the only words I could pray for a long time, when I could summon up words at all between gut-wrenching sobs. Then gradually I dredged up the words “Help me.” And, although I didn’t realize it at the time, those words signaled the beginnings of hope. Because, even though I might never have answers in this earthly life to “why,” I knew that the only way I could walk this new path I was on was with God’s help. I needed His guidance.
And I will tell you that I was not a consistent reader of God’s Word at that point. I was a Christian and I had been raised in the church. I read devotionals sporadically and prayed occasionally. God was out there somewhere, but not really involved in my day-to-day life. And that was okay. I was in control of my life and only needed God’s help from time to time. Feel free to roll your eyes. Who was I kidding?
Rachel was a devout follower of Jesus. She was also a bit of a rebel. When she turned 21, she got a tattoo on her ankle of a lantern and the words Psalm 119:105. My new path was dark and lonely. I needed a reminder that “Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.” So, as I started reading the Bible every day and kept praying, at some point I started listening. And I realized that God was not out there somewhere. He was here. Right here. He knew I was hurting, and it hurt Him for me to be in pain. John 11:33-35 tells us that when Lazarus died and Jesus came to his sisters and saw them crying “He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled” and that “Jesus wept.”
Jesus explicitly and directly said that God will comfort people who mourn (Matthew 5:4). God knows that the loss of a child is a pain unlike any other. He has specific and personal comfort for grievers. He will weep for us and with us. He will comfort us. And when we are ready to take those first tentative steps onto the new path we have to walk without our child with us, He will shine a light to show us the way.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4
“When Jesus saw her weeping, . . . He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled.” John 11:33
“Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105
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