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In 1986 my sister, a mother of four, died instantly in a car accident. It was my first experience of colossal grief. I was 27 and my first baby was 8 weeks old. Pain, fear and sobbing were my new roommates. Like a shark in deep black water or a never ending falling, it was a panicky, wide-eye’d, where can I run to experience. The longing - the unbelievable reality that it. is. over., never to hear, smell, touch, taste or see that person again. Utter despair. If you’ve ever lost someone before “their time” you know that for quite sometime the world looses color, nothing smells as sweet or looks as bright. Things become insignificant, completely falling off the radar. A clean house, mowed lawn, entertainment, even eating can take a back seat. The mind pulls the pain into our bodies and we retreat, into a jungle of grief. A retreat is necessary for us to lick our wounds and to begin healing. But because I was new to grief, there was an underlying fear. Will I ever get out of this jungle? Will life be worth living again? My first experience, in this jungle, was of thick vines that entangled my heart, swinging me from, laughter of sweet memories with her, to body-shaking sobs. I stumbled along week after week looking for a path, praying for a clearing. What I found was an extra measure of God’s enduring love! After about a year I staggered out the other side. I now know that sooner or later loss comes to everyone. It is a part of life and a great mystery. I learned to have empathy toward others and learned that those who have suffered make the most effective comforters.
Five years later, my sweet mother died from cancer, I was 33 but no longer a stranger to grief. With labored breath and falling tears I again stumbled into the jungle this time knowing that through faith and hope, I would come out the other side. God was waiting there for me and we started down the path. I learned that suffering produces intimacy with God. In Job 42:5 Job says, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” This deeper intimacy with God works together for our good.
In Job 42:5 Job says, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” This deeper intimacy with God works together for our good.
In 2005 my most beloved brother died from cancer, he was just 48 and it was awful. As I watched him slip away from me, the familiar jungle of grief was tapping on my shoulder. I dreaded the pain and separation with everything in me. But by now I had learned that I must get about the business of going through it. Pushing the elephant off my chest, I grabbed God’s hand with both of mine and walked intentionally into the jungle clinging to faith, hope and love. Suffering produces growth and maturity. I’ve learned that the people who are the most interesting and whom I like the most have always experienced some kind of deep pain or loss. I have learned that we can trust God to see to it that our suffering is not wasted.
Here’s what I know.
II Corinthians 1:3 (NLT) 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.