My mom died exactly 2 weeks ago.
It’s still sinking in. I feel the sting of death.
We have prayed to our God for 10 over years for our God to give my mom more years, and in His good (and incredibly painful) Will, He took away.
We miss her, more than I can even say. She suffered so valiantly in Christ for so many years.
My family and I have been reading through Psalm 21-26 for the last 7 weeks during my mom’s immense suffering with liver failure. We have read over and over again of the ranging emotions from the psalmist’s of anguish to God to deliver him from suffering to praising God for His immense faithfulness.
We are feeling all of these emotions:
“My God, my GOD, Why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.”
“For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.”
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
In the midst of our grief, I have felt at the same time both the Lord forsaking me in anguish and the Lord holding me tight in peace and safety.
Two weeks ago, we received a funeral liturgy from a friend after my mom died and it provided much comfort for me to truly express to God the immense feelings of betrayal, anger, despair, and bitterness that I have experienced in my grief. Our friend wrote:
“Friends, God gives us these psalms in order to help us see what faithful response to tragedy looks like. In the face of brokenness and tragedy, our protests are more faithful than our pious talk. God is most honored, not when we attribute such tragedies to his will, but when we recognize that this is not the way it’s supposed to be. Embedded in our protest to God is a kind of paradoxical faith, because even being angry with God requires a certain faith.
Brothers and sisters, God is not scared of our anger or questions or doubts. God is big enough, and loves us enough, to absorb them all. He might not answer them. But he embraces us while we’re asking them. Picture a teenage girl, overcome with grief and hopelessly exasperated with her father. Lashing out, she begins beating on his chest, “No! No! No!” And her father envelops her in his arms, absorbs her in his embrace, and holds her tighter and tighter as she pounds upon his chest. And he quietly says, over and over, “I’ve got you. I’ve got you.” God reaches out to us today and says, “I’ve got you. I’ve got you. Let it all out; I’ve got you.”
We feel the sting of death. We feel it in every moment we remember that our loved one is gone. And yet, we are told:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
For us who live after our family and friends have died, we live in the tension of feeling both victorious over death because of Christ’s atonement and also subject to death. We feel both forsaken and comforted by our Immanuel. We feel both angry and at peace. We despair, and yet we hope. We know that ultimately, death has been swallowed up in victory and for those who are in Christ, we have a beautiful hope, indeed.
But until then, we live in the tension.
Death, Be Not Proud
John Donne (1572-1631)
Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou’art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy’or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.
Lord God Almighty, You are a God who gives and a God who takes away. You are good and just in your ways. Give us comfort as we wrestle with you through our grief. You are merciful and mighty. Show us your mercy in the midst of experiencing your might. Lord, show us Christ in the midst of sorrow. Do not forsake us. Though your silence be great, in the end, Lord, comfort the brokenhearted, as you have promised. God, we pray for you to come again for so that we may truly feel the reality that death shalt die. In the name of Jesus, Amen.