There’s no introduction or opening paragraph because I certainly did not plan to write about this. It’s 19th April 2022 as I type this up and all I can think is, Holy Spirit where are you leading me, why are you making me write this?
You see, it’s 4 years later but I still think about my father way more often than I thought I would.
well, maybe because I run multiple businesses which seriously need funding lol. At the same time, it’s really no surprise as a portrait of him in legal robes hangs in our living room to this day. Nobody will touch it or take it down but they all walk past it, some with eyes of pity, sheepish smiles, or a condescending gaze, or I might be making it all up in my head.
Whatever the case may be, I’ve had a lot of time to think about the “why” of it all. Why 2018? Why the 1st of May? Why the hospital? Why not at home? I don’t have many answers, but what I have come to realize is that the events of 2018 have shaped a very different person than I thought I would become. Here are my key takeaways (KT):
KT1 – grief opens us up to the idea of community.
If you’ve ever met me, you know I’m not big on community. People are draining. Yes, it’s cliche, classic introvert. I hate to say it, but it’s true. After thirty minutes of socializing, I want to disappear under a rock and sayonara for at least a week but grief changed that. I couldn’t have gotten through the past four years if I didn’t embrace the idea of community. The idea that it was okay for a village of people to be in my business, that it was okay for people who genuinely cared about me, to care for me. I had to trust that I could be vulnerable before them, I could show my wounds and trust them to help me heal. I had to embrace these angels of comfort God sent my way. I couldn’t turn them away, else, I would have sunk into deep despair.
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.
– 2 Corinthians 1:3-6, 7-11.
KT2 – we share in divine suffering that we may share in divine comfort.
One of the few “why’s” that was answered by the all-wise God, was that I have experienced this grief, so I could taste divine comfort and in so tasting, know how to pay it forward. It can be quite difficult to cook a dish you’ve never tasted before. How can I offer divine comfort, if I never tasted it directly from God’s bosom? Experience harsh as she is is the best teacher overall. For the uninitiated, it is easy to mistakenly cook up words that appear comforting but when served will only bring grief. But having lost 2 loved ones in the span of 2 weeks, and received so much comfort from my Godsent angels of community, I know firsthand the difference between these dishes. Consequently, I think I’m finally strong enough to work as a chef in God’s kitchen of divine comfort, which is perhaps what the all-wise one, desired all along.
KT3 – we share in suffering that we may learn to rely only on God.
Sorrow and suffering, grief, loss, and death. The emotions that break forth because of these experiences can put you in a really dangerous situation. You can face mortal danger if the weight of your emotions gets out of control. When everything you have held on to, is falling apart, survival is in finding something that will hold steady no matter what gets thrown at you. When you find that thing, you hold on to it for dear life, because it literally is all that’s keeping you alive. For me, this was my faith in God. I learned all over again that “all other ground is sinking sand”. Only God remained on the days when I cried so much It was hard to breathe, only God remained on the days chewing food felt like a curse. Like Job and The Psalmist, I truly learned what it meant to rely solely on God, and trust in His capacity as savior.
We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us. And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety.
– 2 Corinthians 1:8-11.
KT4 – that many people may give thanks when their prayers are answered.
Just as the scripture above concludes, many people give thanks when they observe God’s transformative power over our lives through loss, grief, and suffering. Those who are praying over us give thanks and rejoice when we are safely delivered from peril and restored unto the joy of our salvation, and this too is a purpose of suffering. It causes others to mourn with us as we mourn, and give thanks to God in rejoicing as he answers their prayers concerning us.
KT5 – sorrow reminds us of our humanity, and suffering teaches us to value the present.
When I first read the verse below in my time of grief, I couldn’t imagine what God could use this to produce. Yet I chose to believe what I read, that this experience would lead me away from sin and result in salvation. During that time, I was faced with the reminder that I am human, and the factors of sorrow and pain were not beneath me. Money could not drive them away, no amount of wealth could keep them at bay.
Believe it or not, sorrow and grief are valuable “presents” on the path of life. When loss happens, it is easy to fall into cycles of regret and anger. Anger that you could have done better for your loved one while they were alive, or that someone or you could have changed the course of their death by their actions. Such considerations are part of the mentality of pride and independence. In reality, humanity is frail and has little control over life’s affairs. (See James 4:13-17). Once I was able to accept this, each day I chose not to regret the events that happened in May 2018, was a day I chose to take a step forward into healing and allow sorrow to produce in me, repentance from mindsets of pride and stubbornness.
When we arrived in Macedonia, there was no rest for us. We faced conflict from every direction, with battles on the outside and fear on the inside. But God, who encourages those who are discouraged, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus. His presence was a joy, but so was the news he brought of the encouragement he received from you. When he told us how much you long to see me, and how sorry you are for what happened, and how loyal you are to me, I was filled with joy!
For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death. Just see what this godly sorrow produced in you! Such earnestness, such concern to clear yourselves, such indignation, such alarm, such longing to see me, such zeal, and such a readiness to punish wrong. You showed that you have done everything necessary to make things right.
– 2 Corinthians 7 vs 6, 10-11
KT6: we share in suffering that we might receive encouragement through our relationships.
The frailty of humanity is made up for by the strength of its relationships and the encouragement they are able to deliver when cultivated properly. My suffering became the glue that strengthened the bonds of friendship and the ax that chiseled away the relationships that needed to be put aside.
Just as Paul was encouraged by the arrival of Titus, during my time of grief, I too was greatly encouraged by the arrival of two of my friends, one whose mother passed away around the same time as my father, and another who sent her own mother to pay us a visit while regularly having video calls with me as she was in another country. Their presence made all the difference during this time and God, who encourages the discouraged, encouraged me greatly by their arrival.
KT7: that the life of Jesus may be seen in mine, and that my suffering may lead me to God’s salvation.
Just as the verse above says that the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation, see also this verse below:
We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.
Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!
– 2 Corinthians 4:8-10,12
As I said at the start, I do not have all the answers, but this verse at least tells me all I need to know about the why of my suffering. If I am to be conformed to the image of Christ, it is only fair that I participate in his sufferings. Just as He experienced grief, betrayal, suffering, and loss, I have not been made immune from those things, so that his life may be evident in my dying body, and through this, I can attain unto his resurrection power (See Philippians 3:10-11).
In the end, I am truly glad that my father passed when he did. I can rejoice about it now 4 years later because I see all the ways in which his death has brought me life and growth in areas I may never have been open to exploring and accepting if he were still alive and actively involved in my life. I relied on him a lot growing up, almost in an idolized fashion. And the Lord has done a good work my heart through his death, to shift my gaze and reliance back unto Himself as my source and true father.
If you’re in a really dark place right now, and you can’t see anything God is doing through your pain, please trust Him wholeheartedly and stick it out, use His word as a lamp to guide you through every dark tunnel, and you’ll come out absolutely better than when you started.
Grace & Peace