A paralyzed and slowly crumbling heart of grief, a heart of sorrow melting like wax within, a hard heart suddenly disarmed by undeserved grace, or a heart of joy stunned and overwhelmed by love. As we are driven to our knees it is God who holds us close as our knees give way and we double over into His arms of mercy.
We may be silently reeling inside; speechless and sobbing; or crying out through our tears~ Please help me or even Please just take me Lord; Why this Father?! or Please~ not this Lord. And for those times you have fallen to your knees overcome with gratitude, there may be endless Thank You’s for what the Lord has done. In any case, it is at the foot of the cross where we are fully loved, fully accepted, and completely understood. Not a word need be said for the Lord to know the deepest groaning of your soul or the inexpressible thankfulness in your heart. Our loving Father is in devoted union with you as grief and sorrow overtake you. And He is rejoicing with you when gratitude is spilling over inside.
I believe it is universally true, that we all welcome and eagerly anticipate times of joy~ experiences that come from an outpouring of the Lord’s miraculous love into our lives. This brings a sweet brokenness where the trip down to the foot of the cross is one of blessed humility. We are greatly encouraged and our faith soars to new levels. But what about the brokenness that comes from devastating news; sudden loss and enveloping grief; or other heart-breaking things like rejection or abandonment. When we are broken in these ways, it can feel like we are crashing to the ground even though God is right there cushioning our fall.
So how does God use these exceedingly painful times for good? Where is God’s glory seen in such times? I will give a personal example where these different kinds of brokenness met at the foot of the cross in my life.
Over three years ago now, we got the news that my son Jason and his wife Melody were going to have another child. They had a beautiful little girl named Mya, and were now hoping for a boy. Knowing however, that the Lord could have a different plan in mind~ the main hope was for a healthy baby either way. Melody’s first pregnancy went great and they gave birth to a wonderfully healthy baby.
Very soon after this announcement, came another. This from my son Tyson and his wife Molly who were now also expecting! What a great thing for us all to anticipate~ two new little ones who would arrive just weeks apart!
Well, Jason and Melody did what most couples are doing these days and got a 20 week ultrasound. They were most interested in the health of the baby, but of course were very curious about the sex as well. They had a name if it was a boy, but were not sure of a girl name at that point. If it was a boy, his name would be Abram. We were all awaiting the news.
When their appointment was done they didn’t make calls right away as would be in their nature to do. It turned out that it was because they had some very mixed news they wanted to share in person. The good news was they now knew their baby was a boy~ so now we could have the joy of calling him by name. But there was also some news that raised questions about Abram’s health. The ultrasound showed some
markers that could be early signs of health issues. They could not be sure until further testing as his body developed. It was very difficult news, but we all prayed and waited upon the Lord for the next step.
When Melody went to her first check-up with her Obstetrician after the ultrasound, they told her that they did not believe the test was read properly and suggested re-doing it. So they did, and the follow-up test appeared normal. We were all so relieved and praising God. Either the first test was wrong, or the Lord healed what was wrong. We knew there would be further ultrasounds along the way to keep a close eye on things, but we were all feeling greatly encouraged.
There came a time about mid-term where the doctor’s concerns about Abram’s health increased, and genetic testing was done to see if there were any chromosomal issues in Melody. This could possibly give indications of whether or not Abram also had any defects. We knew Mya was completely healthy, so did not expect any surprises. But we were surprised. Melody had a chromosomal defect that no one ever knew about as she did not acquire any syndromes. It was a very rare defect, so it made it difficult for any accurate prognosis. Jason and Melody did much research and found very little information, but what they did find was also very mixed. Anywhere from no detectable defects to very severe health issues. We just kept praying for the Lord’s will, knowing He knew exactly what was going on.
When a more advanced 3D ultrasound was done further into the pregnancy, there was little Abram looking like a healthy little boy as far as we could see. It was so wonderful to finally see him! The Dr. said he was rather small, but could not say for sure how serious any of the other issues might be. It really came down to the fact that we would not know until he was born.
Well, talk about having people pray for little Abram~ it was absolutely phenomenal. Each one of us asked everyone we knew to pray. There were people praying who never prayed before. I was praying over his picture every day. He was getting in all of our hearts so deeply. He was an inspiration before he was ever born!
So as you might be noticing, Tyson and Molly’s pregnancy journey was a bit more in the background. They purposely were more low-key to respect what Jason and Melody were going through. This was really a beautiful thing, because of the sensitivity shown there. But it was also beautiful because Jason and Melody assured Tyson and Molly that their joy was not at all upsetting, and were very happy for them. In fact, even though they knew Abram could have health issues, they walked through the pregnancy in joy. They had the coolest Seattle Seahawks décor in the nursery just waiting for his arrival. This was also an amazing witness to all who came alongside our family during this time.
Well, we didn’t know the sex of Tyson and Molly’s baby until further down the road because of their health insurance limitations. But when they got their ultrasound we found out it was a sweet little boy also. They were undecided about a name at that point, but were all looking forward to what it might be.
So time went on and Melody and Molly’s bellies grew and grew of course, and both were close to their due dates. Jason and Melody were told that they should have a C-Section so there would be as little stress on Abram as possible in his delivery. They had the surgery set for a Thursday. I had taken Thursday off of work to be there. But Wednesday morning I got a message from Jason that I must have missed when I was in the shower before work. He said: Um, I don’t think Abram wants to wait until tomorrow~. He said they would be going to the hospital and would call me as things progressed. We were all waiting for the go ahead to join them. I was SO excited!
So for the first time ever, I had my cell phone by my side as I saw my clients. They were very understanding as many of them had been praying as well and knew the basics of the story. I was sitting and talking with my second client of the day and my phone rang. I took the call right there because I thought it would be a quick It’s time to come! But that is not what happened. Jason said: Uh Mom~ he didn’t make it. I could tell he was still in shock and trying to be tough~ definitely doing everything to not start crying. My heart dropped so fast and hard and could barely speak. All I could say was Oh Jason, oh no, I am so sorry and said I would get there as soon as I possibly could.
I was so stunned and my heart was aching so much. My client of course could tell it was not good, and was so kind to pray for me before leaving. Molly was the one who picked me up shortly thereafter. We cried and hugged, but got on the road as quickly as we could. What we were all facing was this: Because Abram had died in the womb, he would be delivered naturally. Melody would go through labor as any woman would, all of us so sadly aware of the outcome. These are the things that are indescribable.
When we got to the hospital Jason met us in the lobby. He gave me a hug and one of those stoic smiles that said I’m barely holding it together. I knew he needed to process this his way with the Lord. We went up to the room, and as soon as I saw Melody and the look on her face, it was all becoming more real and the sorrow was welling up more and more. So all of the closest relatives spent those hours with Jason and Melody loving and supporting them in ways only the Lord knew how to do. It was so very difficult to see their pain. So the delivery came, and as with any birth where others are invited to be a part, we were all standing around the hospital bed. I cannot tell you what it was like to see my son and daughter (because that’s how I see her) going through this. We all knew we would not hear a cry, but it was so hard to not hear a cry. In the silence I could almost hear us all gulping back the tears in unison. The nurse took Abram and wrapped him in blankets and put a little hat on his head under the warmer just like any newborn. She left us to have our time with him as a family and to say goodbye.
A constant stream of tears were on everyone’s face. It was one of the most heart-breaking days of my life. My heart could have literally fallen out of me as I saw my son holding his little baby and crying out: My boy.
There was a bond of grieving in that room that I had never experienced in my life. God’s love was so powerfully present. Something that I felt odd about at first was picture taking. I brought my camera along, and it turned out everyone else did too. I thank God there are no rules around grieving. We felt a need for pictures. It is very hard to express why. Over time I would come to realize their importance in so many ways~ the photos came to have great meaning in the grieving process.
When I had my time of holding Abram, I could feel my human need to see him and touch him, and even whisper in his ear those things I wanted to say to him. There was some kind of hope inside that if I put his little face so close to mine that somehow I would be able to feel a breath from his mouth. Does that make any sense? Well, somehow these were the things I needed to go through in my process. I couldn’t imagine what it felt like for Jason and Melody to hold this breathless little one they had looked so forward to seeing. The time came when Jason and Melody felt it was time to say goodbye. It was so hard seeing him handed to the nurse and taken away, never to see him again~ until heaven that is.
There would be much to say about the days to follow, but in short, Jason and Melody were surrounded by loving people who showed love in many ways. My role was one of loving support for Jason and Melody, yet still had my own deep grieving to go through with the Lord. What I can say is that He gave me that peace He speaks of in His Word that surpasses all knowledge. The Lord used two beautiful songs to minister to me. One being It is Well With My Soul. It was really true~ as deeply as I was grieving and would never have chosen this way, the Lord instilled in my heart that
It is well with my soul. God knew what was best, and this is the plan He chose for His good and mighty purposes. The Lord also used the song Held:
When the sacred is torn from your life and you survive. But the song also says that His promise is that in these times that will come in this life, we will be Held by our loving Father. I lived out in this experience that
This is what it means to be held.
We had a memorial service for Abram about a week after his death. This was another time that I would barely be able to describe. There were beautifully perfect songs and deeply touching words from loved ones. I spoke and could barely get through it, nor could anyone else. There was a video of pictures where you would have to have a heart of stone to not break down in tears. We were all deeply touched and richly blessed, and I believe Jason and Melody felt well-loved that day, and the days and weeks to follow.
So back to Tyson and Molly’s story. Talk about shifting gears~ this is a glimpse of the emotional shifting going on in our hearts. Molly was due very soon. How would everyone deal with this? What a transition to somehow make. Well, something very amazing happened shortly before Molly’s delivery. She and Tyson shared the name they had picked out for their little boy~ Elijah Abram. They wanted to tell of it before the delivery to make sure it was okay with Jason and Melody. They were very touched by this, and this would become his name~ with more meaning than any of us could express.
Molly went into labor two weeks later. They were more on the private side, so kept the delivery between the two of them. I was blessed to be able to get there shortly after and hold little Elijah Abram while they got some rest. Yes, he was perfectly healthy. It was the middle of the night so it was very quiet, so I would have some time before others arrived. It was a beautiful time for me with Elijah and the Lord. Now I had tears of joy. When Tyson woke up he used my camera to snap a picture of me holding Elijah Abram.
Now I want to share further of how God used the pictures taken with Abram. Someone took a picture with my camera of me holding Abram with my cheek next to his, holding his tiny hand and kissing it, with my face drenched in tears. A few days after his death I developed those pictures in Sepia, as it seemed to fit well for this type of picture.
After Elijah’s birth, I went to a picture developing kiosk to get those pictures developed. I did them in regular color. I could hardly believe the contrast in my face between the picture with Abram and the one with Elijah. It wasn’t the obvious of sadness in one and joy in the other that I mean~ it was much more than that. I could see God’s glory in what He had done inside of me in my pictures. I could see the Lord holding me in my picture with Abram~ and I could see His glory in my picture with Elijah. My face was bright and beaming. I looked peaceful and content. A person would never have guessed that I had experienced the death of another grandson just two weeks before. This was God and God alone who was shining through me in that photo. His love was pouring out of the picture back into my heart. So I put a caption at the bottom in bright yellow letters: You are so good to me, You are so good to me. I placed both pictures on my refrigerator side by side. Elijah wasn’t the answer to relieving my grief over Abram. It was the fullness of the two experiences wrapped together in the love and mercy of our Lord. My picture with Abram is as precious as my picture with Elijah, as each represents the inexpressible compassion, grace and redeeming power of our Heavenly Father.
Falling to our knees is often under the most heart-wrenching circumstances. I thank God that I could not stand and had nowhere to go but onto my knees. The feelings associated with brokenness are so very difficult. They are so much not what we want to be going through and would never choose such things. But the brokenness that comes through these times has a richness that cannot be found anywhere else. We can only comfort because He has first comforted us. And the outpouring of true love to others only comes from our own experiences with the Lord. The things He has loved us through have molded our lives. God is holding us so closely in our pain. These are the times that convince us that He is who we need. He is the One to turn to. He can be trusted to take care of us in and through our devastating emotions. Let Him take you to your knees at the foot of the cross. Let Him show you what it means to be Held. Painful times will come in this world. Surrender it all to Him. Go limp in His arms. God is the only one who knows what to do. He will take care of you and all the circumstances you face. And then you will also become that seed that spreads the love of the Lord into the lives of others~
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies. It remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.