By Anne Peterson, Crosswalk.com
We’ve all heard it said. God is a God of peace. We’ve sang hymns about it or little praise songs. I’ve Got Peace Like a River, or maybe Like a River Glorious. We even know some verses that talk about peace. But somehow when we see those we love in the midst of pain, what we know doesn’t seem like enough at the time. We just want them to stop hurting. God gave me peace in my suffering, and hopefully, this article will show you how to find peace with God when your loved one suffers.
I have lost a lot of loved ones in my life. My mother, my father, and three of my siblings. I’ve also suffered a couple of miscarriages too. But I must confess one of the hardest losses of my life was that of our baby granddaughter, Livie. And I believe it was be-cause not only was I grieving for what I lost, but I was watching my loved ones suffer through it as well. God is the only one who got me through that dark, dark time. And I’d like to share how he did it. May it help someone else reading this.Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/RajEiamworakul
Ask God questions
Our heavenly Father is not a dictator. Although God is the ultimate authority, he does not hold things over us. He is loving and kind, just like a father should be. I remember watching my son hurt and I heard myself ask God if he knew how I felt. And God gave the best illustration he could. He took me to Calvary and reminded me that he saw his only Son suffer and die. Yes, God did know how I felt.
Sometimes when we hear ourselves ask God questions we realize how silly some of them are. Read Isaiah 55:8-9. Because God does empathize with us, sometimes we forget his thoughts and ways are so much higher than ours. Yes, he understands us, but because he is infinite, we cannot understand God. And yet, he is open to us. Many men and women in scripture talked openly with God. There is coming a day when we will understand his infinite mind, but that day is not today. Thankfully, God left us with his Holy Spirit to help when we cannot figure things out. We just need to remember that we don’t need to figure them out. We just need to trust him.
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It doesn’t take any faith to believe what we can see. It’s all there before us. But when we decide to trust God with no clue as to what he is doing, well, that, takes faith. I watched as my grandchildren missed their baby sister. I watched and I listened as each of them would share with me. And yet, as young as they were, they each knew she was up in heaven and they knew they would see Livie again.
How would God enable us to walk this difficult path? One thing was certain. We were not asked to walk it alone. Read Isaiah 41:10. No, we were never alone, even though in times of grief it feels like it. God was with us and he would strengthen us when we needed it. And the day I heard my young granddaughter ask me, “Grandma, what will I do when Livie falls out of heaven, how will I catch her with my arms?” Yes, God was there for each day of our journey of grief. I just needed to believe what he said in his Word. I needed to let the situation stretch my faith.
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Call unto God
I know from experience that I could call God at any time. There is no call waiting with God. You get through right away. He is already listening before you even say one word. Read Psalm 46:1-3. When you watch your loved one suffering you feel as if your life is slowly falling apart. And yet, God tells us even if the earth gives way and the mountains are moved into the heart of the sea, God is there. And believe me, there are days where you feel your heart is shattered in a million pieces. God is still in control.
There were other days I felt the color had faded out of my life. Those days especially I would just call unto God and tell him how I felt. Read Psalms 139: 1-4. The very God who had made me knew what my thoughts were, even before I verbalized them. I never had to wonder if God knew how much I hurt. I knew instead that God must have been hurting too. Just like when Jesus wept at the home of Mary and Martha when he learned his friend Lazarus was dead. Jesus knew what he was about to do, but he wept because he had compassion just like his Father, God.
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Lean into God
I had been down difficult roads before. And God had showed me how to lean on him. Read Proverbs 3:5-6. I seemed to get in trouble when I tried leaning on my own understanding. And I had learned when my sister was murdered we cannot understand many things that happen. When I stood on the gravesite of my baby nephew I leaned into God more. I knew in my own mind, I would never be able to understand a baby’s death. And I even got more practice, but this is one area I had to trust God without leaning on my own feeble understanding.
God tells us to acknowledge him in all ways. So I needed to share with him when I felt I was falling apart. Like when I’d go over to my son’s house and see Livie’s toys, but not her. Only God could help me through this time. Or when I’d see other babies and miss her so much. I knew only God could mend my broken heart.
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Sit with God
Sometimes I needed to just be still. Nothing else worked. Read Psalm 46:10. I wondered why God would ask me to be still, when everything inside of me was screaming how this wasn’t fair. How could our granddaughter die at only 14 months old? How were the children supposed to process such a huge loss at such young ages? And how in the world would my son ever get past his feelings of guilt because he was not with her when she died?
And yet, I did learn to just sit still. And God wanted me to know that I was not sitting alone. Read Psalm 34:18. God himself was there with me because he is near to the brokenhearted and he knew my heart was shattered. After a while I felt God’s presence. Sometimes I even tried singing to him. And afterwards I felt as if I had pleased God because I was praising him for who he was, despite how I felt at the time.
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Remember why people die
It was important to remember why our granddaughter died. Why I must watch my loved ones suffer through this. Why some of you are watching your loved ones go through unimaginable pain. This world is fallen. And because of the fall of man, there is death, there is pain and most certainly suffering. God doesn’t take your loved one. You loved ones die because we live in a fallen world.
For those of you who have seen loved ones suffer with illness and disease, God didn’t send that disease. He hates cancer as much as we do. That isn’t what he wanted for us.
Read Genesis 3 some time. And you will see how the world was before sin, and the results after. God loved us so much that when man disobeyed, God made a way to bridge that huge gap. He used a cross and allowed his only Son to be the one to pay the price. God had to order Adam and Even to leave the garden because they had sinned. And Jesus redeemed us so we could live with God forever without sin.
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Yes, our granddaughter died. My grandchildren lost their little sister. My son, Nathan and his beautiful wife, Heather lost their precious daughter. But this is not the end of the story, this story will have a happy ending. For you see, this is not all there is. I love hearing my grandchildren talk about heaven. They know their little sister is there. I imagine she will be waiting to show us all around. That is something we have to look forward to.
We released white balloons against a very blue sky when Livie died. The sky was as blue as Livie’s eyes. We repeated that experience a year later at a memorial we had for her. That second time, I kissed my balloon before I released it, a kiss for Livie. Yes, we do mourn when we lose our loved ones. But those of us who are Christ followers don’t grieve like others. Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13. Why don’t we grieve like others? Because we know our loved ones will be awake in heaven. The Bible says they are sleeping now.
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Receive God’s comfort
Read 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. God has promised us that he will comfort us. But make no mistake, God comforts us so that we pass it on. We are not meant to be like reservoirs who receive from God and keep it to ourselves. God made us to be channels. Read Philippians 4:7.God gives us peace and tells us to pass it on. His comfort is like a wonderful blanket that we can wrap ourselves in.
Read Psalm 56:8. All our wanderings, all our journeys, God has kept track of them and every tear we’ve cried has been saved in a special bottle. One he’ll show us in heaven. Watching my loved ones suffer has been impossible at times, but the things that are impossible with men, Luke tells us, are possible with God. God has been with us all through each difficult day. And I have seen a growth in my loved ones which is beautiful. Just like Livie.
Lord, I pray for those who are reading this article. Father, thank you for giving me the words to share from your Word. Thank you for making us people who need other people. I pray right now that you will embrace those who are hurting. Let them know for certain that you are the God of all comfort. And let them feel your presence like never before. So they can one day pass it on to others. I pray this in your Son’s precious and Holy name. In Jesus’ name, amen.
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Anne Peterson is a regular contributor to Crosswalk. Anne is a poet, speaker, and published author of 14 books including Broken: A story of abuse, survival and hope. Anne is familiar with grief. To sign up for her newsletter and receive a free Ebook, go to www.annepeterson.com. Or follow Anne on her Facebook pageor read her articles on Medium.