You saw from my last post that my dad died suddenly during one of our early years in Jamaica. It was November 1973. We had been there almost 3 years.
As January 1974 rolled around, the reality of his death was hitting me. I had no experience with a close member of my family dying…apart from our baby who was stillborn. And I received almost zero help with that. So I was completely ill-equipped to deal with this.
Maybe not 100%, but mostly ill-equipped. The things I thought would be comforting weren’t. Maybe because I mostly took them for granted. Yes, it was good to know I would see him again someday. It was good to know he was doing well and had no pain or grief in heaven. But my loss was agonizing and that really didn’t help me!
I craved a good-bye from him…a last kiss, a hug, a few last words. I know they would never have been enough, but to have nothing? It was awful! Last words and hugs filled my dreams…literally!
On one level, the knowledge that he was in a good place was small comfort, a comfort I took for granted I’m sure, but small comfort in many ways.
I needed some truth to feed my brain and heart
So I did what I normally did when I needed answers before the days of google, I read books for help! I read Elisabeth Elliot and others at the time, on death. I learned much.
First, that I wasn’t weird for not finding comfort that my father was in heaven because I wanted him here! I missed his presence.
Next, the “if only” questions hounded me! I could not escape them. If only someone had stopped in his office when he was having more distress, if only someone had called when his distress was worse, maybe he could have gotten help when he wouldn’t naturally have called for it. The list of “if only’s” was a mile long! I couldn’t escape them!
One of Elisabeth Elliot’s ebooks helped me and for the life of me, I haven’t found the title since! She talked about the part GOD’s sovereign plan for each of us including the person who died plays in all this. At some point, we have to learn to accept it.
It was not something I enjoyed reading or hearing about. In fact, when I first read it, it felt like I was being hit by a sledge hammer in the head! But I grappled with it and found it helpful over time as I dealt with this issue. Another person’s writing on this topic, though not specifically about death, is Joni Eareckson Tada regarding her accident.
These two women are not light weights when it comes to dealing with GOD’s sovereignty. Elisabeth Elliot had lost two husbands by then, one to martyrdom, the other to cancer. She had lived this out personally. In other ways, so had Joni. They were people I needed to listen to.
GOD’s sovereignty is not a feature we seek out. It isn’t a fun doctrine. But it is one that brings safety and security as we submit to it.
As Americans, we don’t naturally gravitate to the topic of GOD’s or anyone else’s sovereignty, as shown by our hatred of the word submission. But the one person who has a total right to be sovereign over us is GOD, the eternal, all wise, Creator of the Universe, for starters. He is the only one who knows us inside and out, from beginning to end and knows the timeline of the world intimately and where all of us must fit into it. I think it is Joni who talks about it this way: He wasn’t blinking or had his back turned when this happened.
We are so inclined to think He somehow missed some detail, or like the teacher in class whose head was turned when something happened, He didn’t know anything about it. But in His universe, it just doesn’t happen! No matter how good or evil, small or big, He is sovereign over each event. Nothing takes Him by surprise.We are so inclined to think He somehow missed some detail, or like the teacher in class whose head was turned when something happened... He didn't know anything about it. But in His universe, it just doesn't happen! Click To Tweet
When I thought of His planning my dad would die at that time and place in history, I was angry! But the only person I could truly be angry with was GOD. And that gets downright scary. I think that is why many are afraid to see GOD as having that kind of power. It is scary to wrestle with GOD!
With time, struggle, thought and prayer, I came to believe this truth. I now serve a bigger GOD than I once did. I also see this truth as a friend, not an enemy. GOD is in control. Even the evil events don’t happen without His awareness. He has the power to prevent them, but for His reasons, He doesn’t. They serve the purposes and plans He has for the people involved. I don’t say this easily or tritely. But the alternate belief is worse!
What kind of GOD do we have? A sovereign King or a weak, puny, helpless
Is He a god who is weak and unable to understand what is happening? Is He a god who has to stand aside and wring his hands helplessly? NO! He is powerful and aware of everything that is happening. He is powerful, almighty, infinite, eternal… But His goals for us and our world are very different than many of ours. That affects the things He allows into our lives.
This was one of the huge issues I struggled over as I worked through grief over my father’s death. It took a very long time. I would think I was over it and something would happen that would plunge me back into the grief again. But as I look back, I think this was the biggest part of what I had to deal with. It’s not always the biggest thing for every griever. It was just my big thing.
Challenge: In your times of grief and loss, where do you see your deepest issues in grief? Have they related to GOD’s sovereignty? His right to take your loved one in the way He did and at the time He did? There is no question, it is often a difficult issue that needs to be dealt with.
Where else did you have to struggle? How did you grow through your grief and loss?
Your questions are awesome. I lost my father at 24. He died of cancer in the space of six months. I struggled to see him become weaker and weaker. When he was gone I found a bit of trauma in feeling insecure. My father was so strong and seemed to take care of me. I would see him in a crowd and get excited that it was not true. But, it only looked like him. Seeing him struggle, I was relieved to see his pain end but I wanted him back as he was.
so true isn’t it? we don’t expect our fathers to die…or be weak. and when they are gone, we think we see them and it turns out not to be true. it is sad and difficult for sure…and adds to our grief.