It was a dark and stormy night. The doorbell rang.
Why is she ringing the doorbell? I grumbled internally about my super-late 18-year-old sister.
Except when I opened the door, it wasn’t my sister standing in the rain. It was two police officers, fidgeting with their hats.
We all know what that means.
If you’ve never experienced police officers on your doorstep, it’s hard to imagine the way your heart stops, then painfully restarts as you put the puzzle pieces together.
Fifteen years later, I still experience the same heart-stopping nausea when I think about that moment, like that missing part of my heart has phantom pain. They didn’t even need to speak before we knew she was gone.
Earlier that day I gave a life-filled, joyous adventurer the car keys so she could have one last adventure with friends before college, and later that week, three families were hosting funerals.
Life Really Stinks Sometimes
Of course, I’m not the only one on this planet who has experienced excruciating sadness. Live here long enough, and as Jesus promised, “in this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33 niv).
As Christians we know that he has overcome the world, but in this place in between the fall and the final resurrection, we have a lot of trouble. Some people experience mounds of it.
How Do We Grieve as Christians?
Do we brush off the hurts as temporary troubles that will seem tiny in light of eternity?
I tried doing that. When I saw my sister in her casket, I was washed in a profound peace that reminded me that this world is not the end. This body in the casket was not my sister. Not truly. I would see her again.
I tried to hold onto that peace for many years, but it became clear that I hadn’t dealt with the grief. Finally, I began to realize that bad things happen and not always for a reason.
We can’t paste platitudes of peace over the pain and expect it to go away. We have to own the grief, or it will own us.
So, I learned to own the grief and realize that it had changed me. The grief implanted in my heart rises up as anxiety for my children. It makes me a yelling mama when my kids are near busy roads. It springs up on me silently when I watch two sisters embrace in church. My heart reformed over time, but the grief has left scars that still ache.
Grief Changes Our Kids Too
When they move to a new town, they grieve. When their parents lose a baby, they grieve. When they lose a grandparent, a friend, or a teacher, they grieve.
And just like my grief, it doesn’t always come out as tears. It can look like anger, behavioral issues, sudden incontinence, baby talk, and a whole host of other issues.
As is my usual practice, I turn to children’s fiction to help kids deal with tough issues. Quinn Says Goodbye was written out of that place in my heart where I still have scar tissue but also the place where I relearned that God is indeed with us in the hardest times of life.
After bonding with an injured firefly, Quinn wakes once more to find that her new friend is gone. Her parents explain that the firefly has gone home to be with family. Quinn will have nothing of it. She flies away in a panic and weeps in the forest, thinking she’s alone. But just like the writer of Psalm 91:4, Quinn finds herself finding refuge under the wings of love.
“He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge.”
Her mama reminds her that many of us learn the hard way. “Sometimes we need to say goodbye to someone we love, and that makes us sad.” She continues with this truth, “God doesn’t always stop bad things from happening. But he does promise that he will always be with you, and he will never stop being your friend” (Quinn’s Promise Rock, Christie Thomas).
That’s a truth that we can spend our entire lives learning, and with each loss, it gets richer and truer.
May your next dark and stormy night be peaceful as you remember this promise of Jesus.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 niv).
Christie Thomas is busy loving her family of boys and writing. She encourages Christian moms to nurture the hope of Christ at home at christiethomaswriter.com and is the author of Quinn’s Promise Rock and Quinn Says Goodbye.