Early in the morning I lost my mother. As soon as she left us, grief arrived. She trusted in Jesus and we share the assurance of eternity—but grief is still a tsunami.

I’ve felt grief before and I hate it. I’ve lost a father and some dear friends. Grief always fills the empty space that once was theirs. The person lost is the real issue, of course, but the feeling of grief hovers next to us like a tragic companion who keeps reminding, “She’s really gone.”

I know . . . I know . . . I know. It’s not the way things are meant to be. I knew the end would come but knowing doesn’t reduce the pain. Information isn’t what the heart calls for when it’s wounded by loss.

Time, we’re told, will bring relief; but in the first days of loss the minutes seem like hours. Grief somehow slows the clock. It also turns conversations into charades. We stand next to people but they seem distant. We start to lie when they probe: “Yes, it’s hard,” I say, “but I’m okay.”

Yet it’s impossible to want it any other way; companions still need to stay near because grief is strongest when we’re alone. If only they would say less and mean more!

Yet words can calm the soul if someone knows what to say. Those who speak best are those who have gone before us with losses of their own. The comforted have real comfort to share.

So we’re forced to live out what the psalmist wrote: “I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” And, as in Psalm 23, we have God as the shepherd who comforts us—the one who restores our soul.

In faith I turned to him soon after mother gave up her last breath. I went to the living room and on my knees began to give Jesus the space grief wanted to rule: “Thank you, thank you, thank you, Lord.” Again and again.

I wasn’t thanking him for the pain. I was thanking him for being with me in the loss. I was thanking him for the gift of a mother who though one among many was my mother: the mother who birthed me, nurtured me, who loved me. God had given and now he was taking.

And I thanked him because he knew grief. Evil entered his creation and spoiled it. In place of faith came doubt. In place of communion we adopted the arrogance of autonomy. We grieved the Father. We grieved and quenched his Spirit.

And in Gethsemane we caused Jesus to grieve as he took on the curse of our sins and was forsaken for our sake. Yet in this great exchange we received his life and righteousness as he swallowed death on our behalf. And then he came back to life to receive those of us who trust him—inviting us to join him in eternity.

I thanked him because he offered me real comfort. He invited me to the still and peaceful waters of righteousness as I gave him the pain of our family loss.

So I hate death. I hate sin. It isn’t the way we were meant to live. I’m most reminded of this on my knees with tears flowing—when I receive the comfort he offers. His comfort is real and satisfying.

In the vigil before mother was taken we sang hymns. One was the song, “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!” Mother, already near the end, startled us by singing with us—this chorus and others—offering her heart nearly to the end. It was a special grace.

So Jesus understands. I thank God for such a good shepherd who knows grief and overcomes it with his love. He is a friend who brings us peace. And mother has finally arrived.



  1. Bill Burge

    Ron sorry for your lost, praying for you and family. I lost my mother 11 yrs ago but here is a poem by Henry Van Dyke,

    I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength. I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

    Then someone at my side says: “There, she is gone!”

    “Gone where?”

    Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side and she just as able to bear the load of living freight to here destined port.

    Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says: “There, she is gone!” There are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the shout: “HERE SHE COMES!”

    And that is dying

  2. Kinga

    It is really hard to find the right words in difficult moment like this. One of your sentences ‘I hate death’ made me think about my life. I lost many of my closest family members but I never ever said I hate death. There were times when I said ‘I hate God’ or ‘I hate my life’ but I never hated death. I think I accepted death as a fact after being next to so many death beds and seeing the closest from my loved ones leaving us. I still don’t think I hate death. I wouldn’t want to live on this earth forever. There are moments when I look up on the sky and deep from my heart I thank Jesus that the day is coming when I can leave everything behind and I can have a perfect one with Him. May God give you strenght in these difficult days. Psalm 84:6 ‘Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well.’

  3. R N Frost

    Thanks, Kinga. The question of what ‘death’ represents is important. If we only think of it as the end of our physical animation, as in Jesus speaking of “that which is born of the flesh,” then it should be treated as a natural step in the order of existence. But if death is greater than that, i.e. the realm of Satan’s rule and rebellion, and the basis for the coming of physical death, then we see it as the culmination of moral opposition to God. That’s what I hate.

  4. Kinga

    Thank you, Ron. Sadly, I don’t think my thoughts about death are so deep as you described. I don’t think I understand the depth of this moral opposition to God. I am more concerned with my small word, daily difficulties, struggles than thinking of the bigger picture. But God is still good and faithful. In the last few weeks one day as I walked on the streets He suddenly spoke to me. I hardly could hear it as was so gentle and for a moment I couldn’t recognise it because of the noises in my heart and mind, but suddenly I realised this is the Lord. I stood there totally amazed by His love and I asked Him quietly and ashamed: ‘Lord, are you still talking to me?’ That one moment broke down strong walls in my heart and took me to a place where I haven’t been for a long time. It made me realise once again how amazing and special is knowing Him and He knowing me. He is The Life, without Him I am dead. There is just pure emptiness.

  5. R N Frost

    Yes, God is still talking and giving comfort, isn’t he. He was gracious to bring Proverbs 3:4-5 to mind just yesterday. Thanks.

  6. Gretchen

    When I read Kinga’s comments, it made me think of the account of the Lord speaking to Elijah in I Kings 19:

    The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

    The Lord will rarely yell at us…He is almost always gentle when He speaks. Like Kinga pointed out, we sometimes miss Him speaking because of the noise in our hearts and minds. One of the blessings of the Bible read-through is that we can hear God’s heart through His Word, and He so often then speaks other things to our hearts through His Holy Spirit.

    I’m continuing to pray for you and your family, Ron. May God’s gentle voice speak words of comfort to your heart.

  7. R N Frost

    Amen, amen, amen. Thanks, Gretchen. And my family is doing fine . . . grief is now in the ‘catch you by surprise’ mode when something reminds us of mother & we start to feel the sharp side of loss once again. But we’re settling in with the reality that she’s doing just fine right now & we shouldn’t be selfish!

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