In my role as a father, I’ve always considered protecting my three children from harm and from things that would hurt them as one of my primary missions. Hot stoves. Sharp knives. Power tools. Bikes. Cars. People. All of them have the potential for good or harm. Knowing how to handle each is crucial to minimize the risks of pain.
At times, I’ve succeeded. But all too often I’ve failed miserably. Or at least that’s how I feel when I’m helpless to prevent something from hurting one of them.
On Friday, I felt that helpless feeling again. This time it was a text from my youngest, my baby girl. (Yea, she’s 22, but she’ll always be my baby! You dads know exactly what I mean.)
The text was urgent, simple, and pointed:
“Please pray. One of my friends Micah is in the hospital after passing out in the pool. They haven’t been able to fully revive him yet. Please, please pray!”
A few moments later, she wrote, “He didn’t make it . . . Please pray for his family.”
My wife and I were on our way to meet my son and his wife for dinner. We were anticipating a wonderful time together. Now we were stunned, kicked in the gut. We ached for our daughter, but we felt a deeper grief for Micah’s parents who we’ve never met and who just lost their precious son. (His older sister had been on my daughter’s floor last semester.)
As we parked the car, my wife and I clutched hands and prayed. We asked that God be present with our daughter, and that He would hold and comfort her, her friends, the student body and staff of the Christian college she’s attending, Micah’s family, his roommate, the young men on his floor, and the students who pulled him out of the pool and did their best to revive him. All are reeling in pain from the loss of this vibrant young man.
We prayed that God would surround them with His loving embrace so that they would know they were loved even in the middle of their pain.
Recently I’ve been working through some material on the loss of a child in preparation for an upcoming program. In his book Written In Tears, Luke Veldt writes about the tragic and sudden death of Allison, his 13-year-old daughter. He makes an astounding and terrifying statement: “It took the death of my daughter for me to begin to understand the love of God” (p. 24).
Yikes! I want to know the love of God, but must it require that pain and loss be inflicted on my heart to truly know His love? Luke’s book describes his personal journey through grief and “how I came to know God better, not just despite my loss, but because of it” (p. 25).
Luke goes on to quote A. W. Tozer who wrote: “The Bible was written in tears and to tears it will reveal its best treasures” (p. 22). It’s the journey through grief that often drives us to the God of the Bible for answers. But there are no answers that will bring our loved one back or remove the pain of their absence.
Yet God is there. He’s not silent. And He weeps with us because He loves us. He’s not impotent or uncaring because He didn’t prevent the pain. Even though He’s a perfect parent, God never promised to protect us from all pain. But He’s with us in our pain.
The journey through painful loss was never meant to be taken alone. We need others to go with us, reliable guides who have walked this path and found hope in the God of all comfort (2 Cor. 1:3). How Can I Live With My Loss? is a booklet we’ve prepared to help you navigate your journey through grief.
And a request: Please pray for Micah’s family, my daughter Tracey and her friends, classmates, and the staff at Moody Bible Institute as they take this journey through grief together. Pray that the pain of this loss will bind them into a healing community that is empowered by the loving God who welcomed Micah home with joyful celebration.