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.