Today is another “I’m so sad” day. The up and down of emotions on this journey is exhausting. There are so many days I’d just like to curl up in bed with my head under the covers and pretend I’m never coming out. I’m too practical of a person to even let that thought go for more than a second, though. Soon after I think it, I think, “I’ll get thirsty. I’ll have to get up and get a drink. Then, I’ll have to go pee. Then, I’ll see something that needs to be put away or swept or dusted. Or, there will be a phone call or email that needs to be returned.” On and on my thoughts would go if I’d let them. So, I try to continue with my normal daily activities, with bursts of tears interspersed. That is the only way I know to handle this.
The interesting thing to me is that all of “this” is “feelings”. My hubby and I have had many conversations over the years on the difference between faith and feelings. It has seemed, over the years, that I am the one less likely to yield to my feelings when it comes to distinguishing between faith and feelings. But, this gaping hole in my chest caused by the loss of a cherished son has me following my feelings around like a puppy with its nose to the ground following a scent. Our little beagle does that a lot. The various scents the poor little thing’s nose picks up on seems to completely control her sometimes. I’ve read that a beagle’s nose is thousands of times more sensitive than other dog breeds’ noses. That’s how I feel about my feelings now compared to my feelings before Izzy died. Before he died, I was sensitive and, at times, let my feelings get the better of me. But, now, I feel controlled by my feelings way more often than I am comfortable with. And, they well up inside of me like a capped volcano, beginning in my core, rumbling around before I’m even aware of them. When I begin to be aware of them, my stomach is already beginning to ache and my eyes feel like they are twitching with the desire to vent these uncomfortable feelings with tears that won’t yet come. The volcano has to rumble and growl and quake for a while before it can erupt. But, when it finally does, and the tears come, I get sweet relief from the torment of grief for a few more hours, or sometimes even a couple of days.
Back to the thoughts about faith vs. feeling, though. Before Izzy died, I believed I believed the scriptures, and I do. I not only believed the scriptures myself, but I taught them to my children, shared them with friends who were hurting and needed encouragement, taught them to youth in church and to women in Bible study. But, when tragedy struck my family, the very scriptures I’ve taught and shared with others, have caused me to take a second (and third and fourth) look at my heart and reevaluate whether or not I truly believe.
We experienced three deaths within about a year, two of which deeply affected our family and our beliefs. The first was the death of our associate pastor’s wife after a long battle with cancer. This probably wouldn’t have had much of an effect at all, as we weren’t particularly close to her, but extenuating circumstances caused it to be an issue in our family and prompted us to do some serious reevaluation of our beliefs about our faith, particularly regarding death. I had been on a journey of learning about the sovereignty of God for a few years prior to her death, but her death seemed to supply a pivotal moment in that journey. I had to decide what I believed about God and suffering and death.
Shortly after the pastor’s wife died, my niece’s 4 month old baby died of SIDS. He was her first child, and she was a very young and tender 20-year-old. My sister, her mother, was three hours away when she got the call from her daughter that her baby had stopped breathing and they were taking him to the ER. Since I lived only 30 minutes from where her daughter lived, she called on me to go to the hospital in her stead to be with her daughter until she could get there. Amazingly enough, Dan and I were blocks from the hospital when she called me, so we were there with her in minutes. It was one of the saddest things I’d ever seen. The looks of bewilderment and sorrow on those two young parents’ faces as they held their dead baby was enough to make the most staunch believer question God.
And, again, shortly after my niece’s baby died, one of my youngest daughter’s friends was killed in a 4-wheeler accident. At the time of her death, we were helping lead the youth group at our church. This young lady had been a member of our church and attended youth group at our church along with our daughter, our three sons and about thirty other young people who were looking to us for some answers. A fifteen year old girl was killed. A beautiful godly young woman with believing parents and siblings. What does one say to thirty young people about a loving God who allowed that to happen?
Dan and I were asked to speak to the youth the night we (the youth group leaders) decided we would address her death. I shared with them the two scriptures I had been meditating on for several years regarding death: Psalm 116:15, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones.”, and Ecclesiastes 7:1, “A good name is better than a good ointment, And the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.” I believe God’s Word to be just that – God’s Word. It is absolute truth and I believe it. I believe these two scriptures to be God’s view of death. Isaiah 55:8 says, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” He thinks differently than we do.
But, when my son is the one who has died, it is no longer about doctrine, it is no longer about theology, it is no longer about theodicy, it is not really even about faith or feelings. It is about life. My son lost his, and now I have to learn to live mine without him. What do I believe in the midst of this? I’ve had to wrestle this question down. But, I’ve come to know that I believe the Word of God. It is not easy, and my feelings have gotten in the way more than they ever have, but I believe God. I believe His Word is true. I believe the death of my son was precious in the sight of our Heavenly Father. And, as precious as the day of my son’s birth was to me, the day of his death was a better day.
“Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” Job 2:10