To My Friend in Pain,
I cannot imagine how you felt when you heard the shocking news of the loss of your loved one. Perhaps the world stood still for you, as a crushing weight of unimaginable grief drove you to your knees and tears streamed down like a flood.
Some pain lasts for a moment, but not the broken heart. It remains open, twinging at every new and unwelcome piece of information. We rehearse the news that breaks our hearts, hoping that at last we will realize there has been a mistake. But, as the moments and hours pass, we embrace reality, and darkness overtakes us.
This week I have thought of you often. I wonder if there is any life left in you. If you can sense your surroundings and receive comfort from your friends and family. If not, please do not be frightened. You will feel again.
I wish I could answer questions you might have. An investigation might reveal certain facts about a sequence of events, but we are still left to wonder “why?” Or perhaps, more accurately, “why not?” Why could there not have been an intervention. An interruption in the order of things, leading to a better conclusion.
For now, the pain remains.
While I have few answers, I offer lessons learned from my personal journey. Our paths are unique, yet, we pass many of the same signposts along the way.
Signpost #1: We are never really alone. Though others surround us, it is easy to feel isolated as few, if any can fully understand our suffering. Still, they are there. People who love us walk with us and the God who knows us watches over us. We should not fear the sound of silence, but cling to the reality of presence and wait for our senses to return.
Signpost #2: We still have purpose. Our purposes, together with our hopes and dreams are woven into the fabric of our relationships. When the people we love leave us, we are left to think our future has vanished. While it is true the tapestry of our lives may be torn, the God of comfort and creativity can weave a new pattern. The damage will always be visible. It should be. But it will not prevent us from continuing our journey
Signpost #3: A thin veil separates us from our loved ones. I do not understand all of the nuances of eternity. The Bible tells me when I am absent from the body, I am home with the Lord. But where is the Lord? Indeed, He abides in me through the presence of the Holy Spirit, but He also sits at the right of the Father in glory. If I am with Him when I leave this life, then my loved ones who die in Him are there now. And if He is there and also in me, then the distance between this reality and the other must be closer than it first appears. If nothing else, the Lord draws the two points together as we await the rolling back of the heavens like a scroll and the full revelation of His glory. We cannot touch our loved ones who have left us, but the One who touches us holds them.
Signpost #4: Indescribable joy awaits us. No, we do not suddenly feel the burden of grief lifted from our shoulders, nor should we feel there is something wrong with our faith if we do not. Still, the shadow of unimaginable pain cannot forever cloud the vision of indescribable joy. Our joy is not indescribable because it has overcome the pain, but because it can be found in the midst of the pain. Joy is the product of hope restored. It is the reclaiming of our senses and the awareness of our connection with the Father. Joy sustains us. It restores us. It opens our eyes to something new in the presence of our broken dreams.
The signposts on our journey of pain may not be embraced at once. At first, it is probably enough to observe them. To know they exist. Then, in time, they will guide us to a place of resolution. And from that place we will resume our travels.
I will pray for you my friend. Your pain does not make you less of a believer. Instead, it proves you are human, limited by your earthly perspective. Hold on, you who are loved. Hold on until morning. You are not alone, and the signposts of your journey remind you there is a better day.