My little girl started school a couple weeks ago. Everything was picture perfect: her blonde curls bouncing as she skipped toward the building, the too-big backpack on her tiny body, her little thumbs up on the way into the building. My social butterfly preparing to take flight.
It is in these moments that I brace myself. I lean into the tidal wave of grief, and feel my eyes start to sting. Because my beautiful girl doesn’t have her Dada to kiss her goodbye on her special day. Shortly after her first birthday our lives were rocked as her father and my kind, loving, amazing husband was taken from us, abruptly and brutally snatched away by a health condition we didn’t know existed.
We hear a lot about trust in the church. About trusting God when life goes wrong as well as when it goes according to plan. The implication is that it’s easy to trust God when things are going well for you, but it’s a lot tougher to trust when things are at their worst. What surprised me was that I never found that to be the case.
When my husband died and I was left as a single mother, I felt like the ground had fallen out from under me. I had lost my love, my life partner, and the entire future we had envisioned together. For months, my daughter was the only reason I had to get out of bed in the morning.
However, in a time of unspeakable challenge, one thing was easy. Trusting God. Because at that point in my life, I had no other option. I was given a crash course in the reality that I couldn’t control everything. In fact, I couldn’t control anything. I was mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually exhausted – heartsick and depressed. So I gave it to God. In prayer, I sat and repeated “take this from me” and God began to show his goodness. Or rather, I was able to start seeing it.
In time, I grew to appreciate being alive again. I began to see my husband in my daughter – in her love of people, her singing, the way she always wanted to lend a helping hand. I walked on the beach and was inspired by the music blasting through my headphones. God showed me the good in the world again, and through the fires of grief and pain I came out stronger.
More challenging for me, and the part rarely mentioned in this conversation, is trust in the “medium times”. These are days, weeks, or months when you are no longer walking through the ashes of what your life once was, but neither are you on the mountaintop of joy with all right in the world.
These are the times when you cry but you also laugh. When you live the best you can through day-to-day joys and sorrows, but life is still incredibly difficult. These are the times I find myself in now, and I have to fight to stop my trust from waning.
My shattered heart still shows fault lines – cracks where the pieces were fused back together. When my trust wavers the waters of bitterness seep through, filling the cracks and threatening to destroy me once again.
Strangely, I sometimes miss the early days of my loss, because through the agonizing pain I felt a reckless abandon of control and a total trust that I have been unable to grasp since. I start to fool myself into thinking I can do it by myself, but the bitter and despairing side of me never fails to make itself known.
One of the most quoted Bible verses is Romans 8:28.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28
When things are going well, it is easy to see how God works for our good. When they are worse than you ever thought they could be, maybe you have no other choice but to believe it.
When you’ve thrust your head through the waves and you are no longer drowning, it is my prayer that this trust remains in you. That you remember the Saviour that was with you on the mountaintop. The same one who was with you when you were nearly drowned in the rocky sea. He is still with you. He is still with me.
My little girl will come home and tell me all about school today. I’ll tell her that her Dada would be so proud of her. She’ll ask me, “do they have school in heaven?” or something of the sort. I’ll tell her I don’t know, but someday we’ll find out and then we can see Dada again. She’ll say she misses him, I’ll tell her I do too, and she’ll skip off to play Lego.
We have grown to accept our new reality, but grief is my ever-present companion, waiting around corners to knock the wind out of me again. Through it all my Lord is there, ready to hold me up when I cannot stand on my own. I just have to let him.