I grew up on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Arlee, MT - a little town about 20 miles north of Missoula, MT. No we did not live in teepees, and thankfully we had TV or else I couldn’t watch Tremors which is still my favorite movie. My father and mother moved out west a little over 20 years ago when they felt God calling them to plant a church on the reservation. I grew up with my older sister Laura and two older brothers, Asa and Jordan. Asa and Laura were a few years older than Jordan and I, but we always were a close family that took care of and loved each other. My parents did a great job of raising our family to love Christ. In 2008, God did a work in Jordan’s life and we became closer than we had ever been. The next spring, I took a trip to the Philippines and while I was there I got a phone call. It was my mother telling me that Jordan had been in a car wreck, and that as he was going to get help for his friends he died of hypothermia.
Over the past four years I have become a very sensitive person. Pain will make you sensitive and four years ago I was not prepared for the amount of pain that I was going to have to endure. I remember holding my brother’s cold hands as I sat beside his coffin when I was 19. I was so angry at the Lord. I was angry that He would allow Jordan to die when he was only 21. I was angry because I felt he had so many more things to do and so much more life to live. That day I stepped into the fog of grief. I was young and immature and I did not know how to deal with it all. The Lord taught me a lot during those months of grief. In the quietness I had to come to an understanding that Jordan was never mine, but he was the Lord’s. There was no way I could have changed the outcome. During this difficult time I learned an important truth. I learned that the place where we live now is not heaven so it will never truly be our home. It is a place of experience and trials. When we try to make everything perfect in our lives we rob ourselves of joy. We attempt to make this place heaven, and we are the god. I have tried so many times to control my life thinking I can keep pain and sorrow away. The only thing that did was allow the sorrow and depression to grow even stronger, because we can never create or fix what is broken. Only Jesus can do that. Holding onto this view allowed Satan a foothold in my life. I tried to create this happy place that did not exist. I did not see the joy that the Lord was giving so freely because the selfish side of me took over.
Though the pain was trying, day by day Jesus began to restore my soul. It was a long and difficult process and one that I am still working through, but God has been patient and gracious with me through it all. A little over a year after Jordan’s death I married a wonderful man. He helped pull me through the hard times and loved me when I was unlovable. I felt like the fog had started to dissipate, but the Lord had other plans. Around the time of my wedding we learned that my mother’s cancer had come back. Tumors were found all over her lungs and liver. The grieving process for my brother came to a halt as we all had to prepare for what was next.
When you see the storm before it hits, you think you will have more time to prepare for it. But when it comes to a person’s life there is never enough time to make the blow less painful. Praise the Lord that He knows exactly what is coming. If I would have known that in less than two years after Jordan’s homecoming my mother would also be called home, I would have took an early flight myself.
But Psalm 9:9 says, “The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.”
Only He fully understands the exact amount of grace and strength that you will need for each moment and trial. He gave me the strength to help take care of my mother during her final month with us. During that time the days were long but the nights were longer. The sleepless nights were many as I sat beside her listening to each breath and heartbeat. One of the hardest things on this earth is having to watch someone you love waste away and know there is absolutely nothing you can do. I remember my last moments with her as if they were yesterday. I sat beside her as she talked about God’s glory and how excited she was to see it face to face. She hugged me and told me to not let go. For the last time she whispered in my ear “I love you more.” I can still hear her words and feel her embrace. She was a woman who both in laughter and life, in pain and death, truly had joy that came only from the Lord.
If you are not truly grounded in Christ, grief and depression will destroy you. You will be consumed in yourself and your sorrows. After my mother’s death, I let the grief consume me. I allowed Satan to feed me lies. I believed the pain would never go away and that my best option was to end my life. I remember a sleepless night of crying for three hours straight on my porch. It was in that silence that the Lord gently reminded me that He was right there with me. I took great comfort from Psalm 31:7 which says, “because you have seen my affliction, you have known the distress of my soul.” When no one else knew or understood my pain, the Lord did.
Knowing that one day soon I will be able to sit beside her as she plays with my hair and talk to her again brings me joy. I have a very real hope. A true hope that is in Christ alone. I know that God has spared us from saying “goodbye” but allowed us to say “we’ll meet again.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13 says, “But we do not want you to be uniformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” Today I hold fast to the hope I have in Him. I can only say this now because the Lord has repaired a heart that no man could ever repair, and He is still picking up the pieces each day.
Over the past four years the Lord has taught me a lot about grief and sorrow. I certainly don’t know everything, but here are a few things to know if you are grieving or if you want to help someone who is grieving:
• Please don’t ever take for granted the people in your life. We never know the outcome of tomorrow. If you love people with a love that comes from Christ you can love truly and deeply. The love of Christ will lead you to love with steadfastness and faithfulness.
• People like to put time limits on things. You can never put a time limit on grief. Everyone is different and every situation is different.
• Going through the loss of a loved one will change a person in a way that they will never be the same person. Not a worse person, but things and perspectives will change. The old Anna probably never wept about a person who is not born again. The old Anna wouldn’t have been as understanding and didn’t understand the importance of listening.
• John Henry Jowett said “God does not comfort us to make us comfortable, but to make us comforters.” God lets us go through dark times so that we can help others and serve them during a hard time.
Above all I have learned that Christ can restore anyone. Believe me, I was as broken as one could be. The only thing that woke me up in some of my darkest days and still continues to is Jesus. There were so many days I felt like the psalmist David when he wrote Psalm 31:9-10, “my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also. For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away.”
I have not seen my last days of tears but I have joy, and a peace that only comes from Him.