By: Danielle Ilacqua (Guest Blogger)
I have found that after a life altering experience, a game changer so to speak, i.e. the death of someone you loved so much, resting becomes very difficult. It’s been my personal experience that the loss of my mother has led me at times to stray away from resting. In fact, advice given to me from day one has been: “Stay busy;” “keep busy – stay distracted;” and my favorite, “go to the gym so you do not become depressed.”
Yet, I found all the ways that I tried to keep busy did not give me any peace or rest. I was busy being busy. Surfing Instagram or Facebook, exercising, over-eating, binge sleeping, entertaining myself with the frenzy of the ridiculous political climate we are now in … all fell short of giving me any true peace or rest. This is because there is NO REAL REST from the chaotic disarray of a broken world that must experience death.
Our busyness of keeping busy further amplifies the void that we have after the death of a loved one, because once the distractions go away, the issue still exists – loneliness, sadness, pain – whatever the fill in the blank emotion is. Your heart still aches for the longing of that person to be here with you, or, when dealing with a sudden and shocking death, you continue the quest for all those unanswered questions.
The “what ifs” or the “if onlys” hidden deep within cause the cracks to widen when trying to cope with grief. These are very natural and normal thoughts but can be very detrimental to the progression of healing.
If only I called more often. What if I saw her that day? If only I lived closer. What if I did this or that? If only I had done this or that … things would be different. As if anything we could have said or done would negate the fact that when your mom’s number was called by the All Mighty Sovereign King of the World, little ole’ us would have anything to do with it. If only I knew sooner, or what if I brought her to this doctor or had that treatment? We start leaning on ourselves and the “I could have made a difference mentality,” when in fact, the truth of the matter is, there’s nothing we could have done to take away what’s imminent for each of us alive today. We are all going to die, and as my mother used to say, “None of us is getting outta this life alive!”
In essence, the very things that we think will give us rest only fall short of more emptiness. Surfing Facebook or Instagram can lead to frustration over someone’s post or distract us by comparing our lives to our friends.
The basic vanilla truth is, as Christians, we know nothing can give us full rest and peace besides Jesus. That’s why Jesus tells us in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Can you imagine the creator of the universe giving us rest? He says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; For I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29).
We labor in vain as we seek to burden ourselves with our own works. The fruitless cares for wealth, promotion, beauty, and fitness. The endless thoughts of thinking, “If only I could do this or had that, then I would feel better.” We labor to establish our own righteousness and fall short each and every time, because only Christ can give us rest for our weary souls.
When confronted with death, our very own mortality gives us a heightened awareness that death IS very real. SO, how then is God going to turn this thing for good which the enemy meant for harm? Please don’t get it twisted my friends, God never meant for us to experience death, and only through the fall are we now forced to face the fatal consequences of this broken world. But why lean into a God that has allowed death? Why put hope into something we can not see and at times feel we can not hear?
BECAUSE just as Jesus told Peter, he tells us, “Come.” (Matthew 14:29) “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27-28) The God who walks on water is the God we take refuge in, and when He tells us to “Come” he truly means it. If like Peter, we look at Jesus while walking on the water, we will not sink. Our void will eventually be healed. Our comforter will comfort us.
When Peter got out of the boat and focused on Jesus, he didn’t sink. He went to Jesus with full confidence as Jesus told him to “Come.” It was only when Peter became distracted by the wind and afraid by the waves that he began to sink. The Bible says, “…he was afraid and beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me.” (Matthew 14:29)
This brings us even more reassurance. Even when we step out of the boat and walk by faith and not by sight, there may still come a time when we start to sink. Take heart friends, we are humans and we will stumble and fall, especially during the grieving process when we are more vulnerable and weaker than normal.
But, see the faithfulness of God. Matthew writes, “But immediately, Jesus reached out his hand and caught Peter. “Ye of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31) Whether it’s day two, week, two, month two, or year two – as you experience the loss of your mother, we can go to the word of God and know without equivocation, no matter where we stand and how many times we start to sink, Jesus will “immediately” reach out and extend His hand to us. He will catch us and pull us through. We just have to call out to Him, “Lord save me.”
When Peter got back into the boat, no one congratulated Peter for trying to walk on water or doing a swell job and wishing him better luck next time. We see the other disciples saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” Their focus was on Jesus and who He was and is. The very Jesus who in Mark 4:39 said, “Quiet! Be Still!” as He rebuked the wind and waves.
We are all going to go through the storms of life. Whether it’s the death of a mother, step-mother, grandmother, or mother figures, we are all going to experience this type of loss at some point in our lives. It may or may not hit with or without notice – and we may experience at first a strong sense of trust – like Peter jumping out of the boat and walking towards Jesus. But inevitably, in this thing we call being human, we also experience sinking.
The key to it all is recognizing the God we believe in doesn’t merely walk on water, but COMMANDS the water and wind. He speaks and the waves and wind tremble in obedience. The magnitude of this power sometimes blows my mind, but gives me great assurance that the God who calms the sea, can also calm the turbulence in my heart and soul during the pain of grief.
The prose, “Footprints in the Sand,” is not biblical, but it is right on point. During the man’s most troublesome times in his life, when he sees only ONE set of footprints and inquires about it to God, Jesus says, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you. During the most troublesome times when you saw only one set of footprints, it was then I CARRIED YOU.