God’s Healing for Life’s Losses walks with readers down God’s path of healing hope. During the first half of the book, to portray four aspects of the grief journey, I share my story of dealing with the death of my father. Even 30 years later, it’s not an easy story to tell. I share it today, just as I did in the book, with the prayer that in reading my story, you too will discover God’s healing hope.
I had to move from denial to candor after the death of my father on my 21st birthday. In fact, it was not until my 22nd birthday that the process truly began. I had been handling my loss like a good Bible college graduate and seminary student — I was pretending!
On my 22nd birthday, one year to the day after my father’s death, I went for a long walk around the outskirts of the seminary campus. That day I started facing my loss of my Dad. The reality that I would never know him in an adult-to-adult relationship. The fact that my future children would never know their grandfather.
As I faced some of these external loses, the tears came. Then I began to face some of the internal crosses — what was happening in me. I felt like a loner. Fatherless. Orphaned. Unprotected. On my own. The tears flowed. The process of candor began. The floodgate of emotions erupted. I was being honest with myself.
In the weeks and months after my 22nd birthday, I engaged in passionate complaint. What made my struggle with my father’s death even more difficult was my lack of assurance that my father was a believer. I had witnessed to him, prayed for him, and he even began attending church with me. Yet even on his deathbed, he made no verbal commitment of faith in Christ.
So I shared with God. I complained to God. I told God, “What’s the use? Why did I pray, witness, and share? Why should I ever pray again? Why should I ever try again, trust again?”
I shared my confusion and my doubt with God. “Why does everyone else’s parent accept Christ in a glorious deathbed conversion? Why can’t I have assurance of my Dad’s presence with You?”
Throughout the 22nd year of my life, as I grieved my father’s death, I cried out to God for help. Up to this point in my Christian life, without knowing it I had believed the lie that I could control life through my good behavior. As my scaffolding collapsed, I could either work harder at being even better, or I could give up on God, or I could surrender to God. I chose surrender.
“God, I’m confused. I’m scared. Everything I trusted in is gone. I used to think that if I only prayed hard enough and worked long enough, that eventually everything I longed for would come true in this life. But now I know that’s a lie. So what is true? What have You really promised? What can I count on? I can’t count on myself. Father, I want to count on You. Please don’t let me down. Rescue me. Help me. Save me.”
For me, comfort reflected itself in my decision not to give up on God and not to give up on ministry. Here I was in seminary, preparing for ministry, and secretly doubting God — doubting His goodness, His trustworthiness, His ability, or at least His desire, to protect me and care for me. As comfort came, I came face-to-face with God. We had some wild talks. We had some fierce wrestling matches.
God won. I surrendered. I was still confused about the details of life, but committed to the Author of Life. More than that, I surrendered to Him and was dependent upon Him. My attitude was like Peter’s when Jesus asked His disciples, “Will you, too, leave me?” Remember Peter’s reply? “To whom else could we go? You alone have the Words of life.”
I was surviving again, surviving though scarred. I was not and never again would be that same naïve young Christian who assumed that if I prayed and worked hard enough, God would grant me my every expectation. My faith was not a naïve faith, it was now a deeper faith—a faith that could walk in the dark.
What is your story of finding God’s healing hope?