Today's guest blogger is author and speaker Andrea Maher sharing about God's faithfulness in the midst of grief, sadness and loss.
"The Great Sadness had draped itself around Mack's shoulders like some invisible but almost tangibly heavy quilt. The weight of its presence dulled his eyes and stooped his shoulders. Even his efforts to shake it off were exhausting, as if his arms were sewn into its bleak folds of despair and he had somehow become part of it. He ate, worked, loved, dreamed, and played in this garment of heaviness, weighed down as if he were wearing a leaden bathrobe—trudging daily through the murky despondency that sucked the color out of everything." (Wm. Paul Young, The Shack)
When I recently ran into a friend, she sadly exclaimed with tear-filled eyes, "How much more can one family take?" I have to admit I have asked God the same question. In a three year period, I had buried my eldest son, my mother, my brother-in-law and more recently had to lay to to rest my dreams for my youngest son, whose promising life has been derailed by the fatal error of drinking and driving. This action caused a tragic accident that took the life of an innocent man. The Great Sadness descended upon my entire family.
During this time, I found myself uttering Christ's words to his own Father, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" I wrestled with God, feeling desolate and abandoned. It was all too much to bear.
My despair became obvious to my husband, who implored, "Anne, are you praying?" I replied, "I'm not talking to God right now; he'll understand." I know through past experiences that God is strong enough to be dissed by me. Regardless of where I stand emotionally, God lovingly and patiently ministers to my heart until I find my way back to him.
Again and again, I heard his Word in my mind: "He will not let my foot slip" (Psalm 121). I may let go or loosen my grasp, but God never will. So I was eventually able to repeat other words of Christ, the hardest words of all: "Not my will, but yours be done" (Luke 22:42). Jesus said this to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane after struggling so violently and passionately to accept what he was facing: rejection and death on a cross.
From the moment I rested on those words, The Great Sadness began to lift and I embraced a greater purpose to all the pain. Instead of asking “Why?”, the question became “What?”
When you are unexpectedly knocked off your feet and blood ruptures from your heart, and you are squeezed emotionally from all sides, it is an opportunity for great seeds of compassion to be bore. It is then that God does His best work and uses tragic circumstances for His good purposes. There are some graces that can only be exposed in life through the fires of trials.
After years of teaching Sunday School, I have once again been given an opportunity to live the very words I teach each week. I pray for the grace to reflect what “walking by faith” really looks like. I realize that to live and grieve with hope looks much different from coping without hope.
I have gained perspective in that there are many others touched by far greater sorrows in their lives. I have found joy in praising God for the bad as well as the good because He is at work through all of it. I practice daily to walk in the spiritual realm, with my eyes on Christ, because to stay in the physical will only make me see the storm—and I will falter. I have learned that we as a family are very strong, and we will use all of our experiences for the good of others.
I am committed to confidently saying to those with "The Great Sadness"—whatever it may be—that God loves and understands each one of us, and He is waiting for you to allow him to not only bear your pain but to use it. And I know firsthand that He wants us to remove the garment of heaviness and replace it with a spirit of praise.
Andrea Maher is the former editor-in chief of PARENT ABC’s, a monthly magazine dedicated to helping parents navigate the everyday concerns of family life. She is the author of the newly released book, SLAMMED: Overcoming Tragedy in the Wave of Grief, A Survival Guide She has been married to her husband, John, for 40 years and are the parents of four sons, and enjoy their six grandchildren in Cape May, New Jersey where they reside. You can connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.