Today my heart feels broken.
A friend I love is facing an agony of loss. In joining her in her grief, my own heart is heavy and sorrowful. There have been many prayers and many, many more tears.
And as I think of this friend in her particular pain, more loved ones come to mind who are grappling with their own unique weight of sorrow, loss, or grief. Each precious person carries such a heavy load – unable to be measured adequately or fully comprehended except by the bearer. I feel so helpless and unable to lighten their weight, even as I take some of their sorrow to carry in my heart alongside them.
So what do we do to find hope in the dark? How do we find strength when the pain and anguish seem like the only real things and the world spins on, heedless and indifferent? What perspective should we hold to enable us to move forward?
Years ago, I read a strange and beautiful short story which I have never forgotten, and which I share an adapted excerpt from here, in the hope that it will help answer the above question.
As a brief introduction, a young wife has just delivered her first baby, who is unexpectedly stillborn. This is a great loss to both herself and her husband, who had both been eagerly anticipating the birth of their son.
In this scene, the wife has been lying in bed, grieving and weeping over her baby, and thinking a great deal. She then unexpectedly prays the following prayer to God:
“O God, if you will not let me be a mother, I have one refuge: I will go back and be a child: I will be your child more than ever. My mother-heart will find relief in childhood towards its Father.
“For is it not the same nature that makes the true mother and the true child? Is it not the same thought blossoming upward and blossoming downward? So there is God the Father and God the Son.
“You will keep my little son for me. He has gone home to be nurtured for me. And when I grow well, I will be more simple, and truthful, and joyful in your sight.
“And now you are taking away my child, my delight from me. But I think how pleased I should be, if I had a daughter, and she loved me so well that she only smiled when I took her plaything from her.
“Oh! I will not disappoint you – you shall have your joy. Here I am, do with me what you will; I will only smile.”*
This woman’s prayer is no bitter spurt of cynicism or anger.
She is not being weak in her acceptance of her loss, nor does she minimize the pain or depth of it. With courage she chooses an unusual perspective, but one in which she senses the thrum of a Truth far greater than herself:
She knows herself to be a dearly loved little girl who is under the care of a wise and trustworthy Parent, One in Whom she can trust even when she doesn’t understand why she is experiencing loss or pain.
This kind of trust is terrible and terrifying to us who have become adults and enjoy the [seeming] security of independence and self-reliance. But implicitly loving, joyful trust is natural to a young child, especially one who has utter confidence in the kindness and ultimately good purpose of their parent.
When they experience pain or sadness, a little child finds comfort in the shelter of their parent’s arms – even if the pain is not ended or the sadness is not stopped. It is enough to rest there, knowing they are held and loved.
In our grief, in our feelings of lonely sorrow, we can find solace knowing that our Father not only understands, He is able to relate well:
“He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.” (Isaiah 53:3, NLT)
Our part then, is to humble ourselves as little children. Choosing to place ourselves, our lives, and even our loved ones under His care, we are called to the courageous place of behaving as a little son or daughter should to their loving Mommy or Daddy. (Matthew 18:1-4)
Without negating any of the anguish we feel, and truthfully acknowledging our loss and sorrow, we can look up at Him through our tears and, with open hands, offer up what was a gift from Him in the first place.
And each step, each breath, each moment afterward, we can walk in our journey through our grief knowing that He is right there holding us up, walking with us, tenderly caring about us and the hurts we carry in our broken hearts.
“God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NLT
*From George MacDonald’s The Gray Wolf and Other Stories, “Birth, Dreaming, Death: the Schoolmaster’s Story”