For the Woman Who is grieving the loss of a parent
This is my story. It’s a story about loosing my dad here on this earth but it is a story of grief, disappointment, and the loss of hope. Grief comes in many situations and doesn’t have to be connected to death. I also carried a lot of shame for the way I felt, acted, and reacted to my situation. I admire those who clung to Jesus in their stories tighter than I did, but I want to give myself the grace to recognize that I probably clung to Jesus more than I realized. Each person that walks a similar journey can relate - or not. Details vary. What I do know, in every story of grief, is that the Lord remains the same. He is good, He is faithful, and full of love. He brings healing to the brokenhearted. Here is my story.
If you had asked me in my early twenties what my biggest fear was I could have easily told you it was to loose my dad. I was fortunate to grow up in a house full of love, with both my parents in a small prairie town. My dad was a farmer and I never wished for any other life. He was kind and loving and adored being a father of three girls. His hope for us was to know and love Jesus, the biggest love of his own life. His faith was something he could have taken for granted but he travelled the journey to make it his own. His favourite promise is found in the book of Isaiah, "But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31) I loved my theological discussions with him - Bibles open and me so curious about the Lord my dad knew so well.
One August weekend and a trip to the emergency room turned our simple small town life into a reality many families walk through. The following days were filled with tests and too much time to think. Finally the dreaded diagnosis - cancer. But there was hope. His form of leukaemia, we were assured, would be something he would live with but it wouldn't kill him. Above that, we had so much hope in the healing hand of our Heavenly Father.
A few months later I found myself rushing away from church a week before Christmas. My dad had had a stroke and it wasn't looking good. The medical team was right, it wouldn't be the cancer that would kill him.
The hospital stay was three months long. Our faith as individuals and as a family had never been so strong or so united. We prayed long and hard and loud over my dad and his health. There were friends and family and strangers praying big faith filled prayers for his recovery. We knew our God was bigger than the obstacles in the way. We were believing for the supernatural in a very natural setting. I stood on many promises the Bible holds. Clinging to them and saying them over and over like, ”The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)
When that game changer of a day in March showed up, I knew what was coming but I refused to believe it. I desperately told myself it was a day for a miracle but I remember choosing clothes that morning that I didn't particularly like because I would never want to wear them again. As I sat there and watched my dad struggle through his last breaths I just watched in disbelief. What happened to “the prayer of a righteous person was powerful and effective”?
Those next five years were not my proudest moments. I wasn't rebellious or making ‘typical’ bad choices. I simply lived in disappointment. My faith was bruised in a big way. I had really believed the Lord would heal my dad on this earth. I had lost the ability to hope and refused to pray about anything that mattered, or I should say, anything that I wasn't feeling in control of. It's not that I didn't trust the Lord, but I didn't trust myself. I didn't think I could hear the Lord correctly. Reading my Bible wasn’t happening either because I didn’t think I understood it very well. I did a lot of life without the Lord. I asked Him to stay at a distance - but not too far away. He loved me so perfectly through this heartbreak. Pushing me when needed but for the most part, being gentle as we slowly built up our relationship again.
I never wanted to turn fully away from the Lord. I knew He was still good and I knew He was still God - but wow - I struggled with hope. My only hope was heaven because nothing else was a guarantee. All I wanted to do was protect my heart from ever feeling disappointment in the Lord again. It was hard to give Him more than just a little bit of myself - but the Lord wanted all of me back. He pursued me with all of His love and the intimate knowledge of who He created me to be. My heart’s desire was to be in full time ministry and soon I found myself, with my disappointment baggage in tow, working at a Bible camp. Slowly I was growing to trust the Lord again, and slowly I was going from a place of simply still loving God to being so deeply in love with Him again.
Hope was still a four-letter word for me when I left for Tijuana on my second mission trip with the camp. We arrived in San Diego to sign some paper work and collect our new t-shirts before heading into Mexico. I looked at the lime green shirts with disgust. Across the front said "Hope is...". I was not impressed to say the least. My outside was definitely not going to be advertising what I felt on the inside. The whole team wore these bright, and not at all subtle, t-shirts to church on Sunday and then through Wal-Mart that afternoon. I was stopped by a lady, a Wal-Mart employee, who spoke a bit of English. She asked me, "what is hope?" I had no words. How could I answer honestly? This was at the root of my brokenness. She answered her own question in complete sincerity, "hope is everything". Something happened in that moment that I can't fully explain but it was healing. On a trip to help a family with a material lack I was confronted with my own poverty. The brokenness in my relationship with my Lord.
The Lord had been in close pursuit of me, and here was the turning point of healing. I spent the next weeks diving into hope, learning what the Bible had to say about it and praying I would have a hopeful spirit restored in me. Proverbs 13:12 says that deferred hope leaves us with a sick heart. I had spent five years putting off hope and my heart had been so sick. But now I was meditating on the beautiful truth of Romans 15:13, "Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." I am hopeful, I am joyful, and I have traded my anxiousness in trusting God to peace in believing.
A switch has been flipped but my journey continues. I still miss my dad in a big way. I still cry. I still ask the Lord to put him in my dreams. My comfort comes in knowing that the same Holy Spirit that was in my dad, is in me. When I need advice I can go to the same source he went to. I rejoice in the truth that to live is Christ but to die is even better. (Philippians 1:21) How can I be upset that my dad is in heaven? With Jesus! I still get an overpowering ache in my chest from time to time and holidays are hard. March is still the worst month of the year, but I am trusting the Lord will restore that too.
From that first weekend of bad news and all the way through to this moment, putting my story in written words, I have seen the faithfulness of the Lord. Recently I read these beautiful words in Exodus 19:4, "You know how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself”. I finally understood that promise from Isaiah 40:31 that my dad loved so much. Looking back I can see how the Lord carried me on eagles wings - He sustained me and I found new strength - as He brought me back to Himself.
Holly enjoys small town life in the Canadian prairies. She loves coffee, ice cream, and heart to hearts. This works out great because all of these elements pop up regularly as she serves in full time camp ministry, loving on the campers, staff and volunteers. You can get in touch with Holly at firstname.lastname@example.org