A friend of mine recently lost her brother. He died somewhat quickly. He wasn’t very old. Her grief, all grief, is heavy.
She wrote to me: “Through it all, God has been, is, and will be our provision.”
Another friend of mine spent the weekend with her father in ICU. She had only a few days to be with him and because he spent the entire time on a ventilator, she never even saw his eyes.
After that long, quiet weekend this is what she had to say:
Lets talk about what I did get to do… I did read quite a bit from my Bible to him. I did “attempt” to sing at one point (hahaha). I did talk to him. I did hold his hands and rub his arms. I did kiss his hand. I did pray with him… I did cry. I did laugh. And I felt love.
I am so thankful for the opportunity I was given to do all of the things I DID. That is time, precious time, that might not have been.
I look at these women—tired, burdened, so sad—and I’m burdened and sad, overwhelmed by the pain we bear here on earth. But I look longer and I see God, a Father showing up in His children’s time of need, faithful to provide.
I wouldn’t wish the pain of grief on anyone. It is suffocating. I remember reading a short story in high school about a man executed by suffocation, his tormenters slowly piling rock after rock upon his chest, watching him strain for every breath, until finally the last rock pushed out the last breath.
Grieving is like living two rocks away from suffocation.
Like the apostle Paul said, “We do not grieve like the rest of mankind.” Because we have hope for the dead, yes, but also because we have hope for the living. Because in our pain our God provides.
When my brother died, suddenly and tragically, I remember feeling like I might cry forever. I remember wondering how things could ever be right again. I remember thinking every good thing to come would be tainted by his not being beside me.
The night of the viewing was overwhelming. I’d expected to finally see my brother, to hold his hand. To kiss his cheek. But we found out an hour before that the damage to his face and torso was too extensive. The casket would be closed.
I hugged five hundred people that night. Maybe more. Many of them wept and I tried my best to comfort them. The night was long, exhausting, and pretty much terrible.
After the viewing a few of my brother’s friends, my mom, my husband and I went out to the beach. We sat on blankets under the stars listening to the rhythm of the crashing surf. We sang hymns. We told stories—so many stories. We cried. And we laughed. We cobbled together a picture of Bobby, so real, so vivid, it was like we could touch him, like he was there, embarrassed by the nice things and the not-so-nice things we were saying.
I look back on that night and feel the warm, wrapping presence of my Father. The pain was unbearable, but in it I saw God—ever providing.
In the 78th Psalm, the Israelites, hungry and wandering in the Sinai Desert, ask, doubting, “Can God really spread a table in the wilderness?”
The Psalmist says,
He gave a command to the skies above
and opened the doors of the heavens;
he rained down manna for the people to eat,
he gave them the grain of heaven.
Human beings ate the bread of angels;
he sent them all the food they could eat.
I know God spreads tables in the wilderness. I’ve met Him there for meals—He and I, dinner for two, chaos and pain storming around us, shaking the ground beneath our feet. But, like the Israelites, I find provision at His steady table. In the presence of my God, I eat the bread of angels.