I’ve been in the throws of intense grief, heartache, and uncertainty at least three times in my now 30 years.
Losing my dad to cancer…unexpectedly.
My husband losing his job…unexpectedly.
Finding out I was pregnant and losing our baby, both…unexpectedly.
During those types of times, do you know what is the absolute worst possible question someone can ask you?
How are you doing?
“Really? Really?! How am I doing? You’re asking this right now?” is what I usually think.
It’s even worse when people know about what you are going through.
People don’t tend to mean any harm by this question, but the truth is it’s insulting. It’s insulting because they tend to expect you to give some fluffy answer and to release them from that part of the conversation.
On a less grief soaked day, I respond just as casually as the question with a “good” or a “fine” or a “great.”
But right now, I’ve got to be honest. My days are drenched in grief. I’m not even through the 9 month journey toward motherhood that began in early July and ended at the tail of August.
The lie I respond with to those who offer that question is, “I’m alright.”
My truthful answer is either, “I’m hanging in there,” or more accurately, “I’m NOT O.K., but God is good.”
That’s where I am right now. My world has crumbled. Dreams have turned from dancing with my son at his wedding once he grows up to one day dancing alongside him after I’ve met him for the first time in the presence of Jesus.
I can’t say what was harder- losing my dad, whom I knew and loved dearly- or losing my child, whom I never got to know and loved dearly. Both were the biggest wind-sucking blows I’ve ever dealt with. Both made my world stop turning while everyone else just marched right along with the spin of the rest of the earth.
But still, God is good.
He has shaped my response for that dreaded question of, “How are you?” He cares how I am. He knows how I am. And by His goodness, I haven’t been swallowed by despair.
When all my circumstances change, He stays the same.
My mom wrote a chapter for a ladies’ devotional book once after a terrible wreck she, my sister, and I were in. She had experienced other near death experiences by then, a broken engagement from a man who turned out to be crazy, and a miscarriage as well. Do you know what the title of her chapter was? “God is Good, Even on a Bad Day.”
That takes guts to say when everything else isn’t going so good and you’re not “good” yourself.
Subliminally, her title must’ve taught me to look for the goodness of our unchanging God in every turn of events I face.
This bout of pain and suffering I am in right now is teaching me more about the character of God than I have ever known. I’ve tasted. I’ve seen. But right now, I am stuffed with the truth of His faithful friendship and Christ’s compassionate dedication to nurse my wounds toward healing.
He is the only one who fully understands what I am going through, because He’s experienced it Himself.
He comforts me with His gentle reminders of His presence in my life. The times I am lonely, He speaks up to offer me assurance that He is with me always, no matter what.
He illuminates His Word with passages that lift my soul’s ears to hear Him and His promise to redeem my sorrows and to trade them for joy.
He wakes me up each morning and reminds me that He has great purposes for my life. As a woman, I am not defined by the number of children in my arms, he reminds me. I am defined by the fact that I am HIS daughter.
He rallies His people around me to send me words, or acts of encouragement and assurance of prayers for me just when I begin to feel forgotten and alone.
Even when I’m not the slightest bit ok…
He. Is. Good.
I’m not ok, but God is good.
He has given me more than I can bear and taken what I was bearing.
But He is good.
The loss He has allowed and the life He has kept are His prerogatives. And they are part of His plan for my life and this world.
But He is good.
The baby whom God miraculously placed in my womb has rocked my world and I will never have the chance this side of Heaven to rock him in my great great grandmother’s chair as I had hoped.
But God is good.
The loss is devastating. Just when I think my well of tears has run dry, they let out like a geyser with deep, bellowing wails that echo the sorrow of every mother who has lost a child-even Mary, the mother of Jesus.
But God is good.
I’ve already experienced the throws of sorrow with losing my Daddy to cancer when I was only 19. I’ve already learned firsthand what
Corrie Ten Boom said- that “You may never know that Jesus is all you need until He’s all you have.” I know that already, but Ilive it first hand-again, only differently.
But God is good.
Everyone wants a good answer when they ask the wretched question of, “how are you?” But I don’t have a satisfactory answer to give them…unless I lie, which sometimes I do.
But the truth is, God is good.
“I need more time. Just a few more months and we’ll be fine,” ring the lyrics as I struggle to breathe through inhalation a between salty drops of sadness gushing down my cheeks. The months bring milestones, even as the wounds heal.Pain stings from the wounds with painful reminders to our empty arms.
But through it all, God is good.
I’m not ok. Not right now. But I look forward to the redemption of the pain in my story, because I’ve been redeemed by the story teller.
Because God is good. Even on the most tragic and loss-filled days. Even when life is not good. Because God redeems and transforms our sorrows into glory. ‘Till we have faces,’ I will walk by faith and not by sight because His loving kindness is better than life.
Because God is good.
One of my African brothers heard what was going on with our recent baby loss. And he sent me this question:
How are you faring?
I love that. It brings dignity to my journey. It insinuates that he understands I’m faring on a journey that isn’t always easy and is sure to face storms. It implies that he truly cares and wants to hear the real answer to the question, which is usually posed with the words, “How are you doing?”
Brother, Sister, I’m faring onward by the goodness, grace, mercy, love, promise, and comfort of my God. My journey is strenuous right now, but He is strengthening me by Christ to move with one step in front of the other. When the winds knock my sails down and I start to drown, He reaches down to pick me up and says, “Peace, be still.” When I feel sad, His joy pours energy in me to fuel my drive. When I feel like giving up because of all the darkness that grief brings, He flashes His light of truth over my soul and says, “Walk this way, child.”
I’ve never been down this road of losing a child before. I have no idea how to navigate it with my own devices. Lately, I’ve really related to the lyrics from NEEDTOBREATHE’s “State I’m In:”
Bright lights they won’t leave me alone
Need a shadow or a hole in the wall…
I don’t know what kind of state I’m in
People ask me questions that I don’t have the answers for. People probe about moving forward and hoping for more children. The Mama Bear in me just wants to scream, “But I wanted THIS child! What about THIS child who just died?!” I do hope for more children in the future. But right now I am freshly grieving the one who I just had to say goodbye to. No one could ever replace that child and my love for him. My heart is open to love more. At this season, though, my soul is in anguish over the experience of not ever holding him in my arms, skin to skin. Not even once. Just seeing his remains and burying them deep under the earth that continues to spin. Sometimes, all I want to do is just hide. Hide from the reality of it all.
So, I do.
I hide from it all.
I run away from not having any answers.
I hide in truth.
Because I’m not OK, but God is good.
He lets me hide from all the lights, all the noise, all the people, all the questions.
Truth covers me with His wings and holds my fragile heart.
Truth recognizes that I’m faring… and that if I’m not OK right now, it’s because I am becoming…
Truth resurrects my soul and moves me from whatever state I’m in toward becoming more like Jesus.
And He is good.
I don’t even want to be OK. I just want to be good.
So, right now, here’s the truth of my heart…
I’m not OK, but God is good.
How are you faring today, my friend?
“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” Psalm 91:4, NIV
“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:10-11