It has been twelve weeks since we lost Penny and her death still weighs on our hearts daily. In a moment of tiredness I miss the daughter I never got to properly know. When my other three children are playing I grieve that they will not experience her joining them in their roller coaster ride of sibling play. It has probably been the mercy of the Lord that we stay busy, but both Katie and have both been longing for a day when we could really stop and think and process. That day finally came last weekend.
It has been hard to know what to do with this grief. Where is this grief supposed to go and what is it supposed to become? I have never found the Kubler-Ross model (5 stages of grief) particularly compelling or descriptive of my own experiences of grief. I know that in some ways we carry our wound of grief with us through this life until our hearts are healed in the life to come. But I had a sense that my grief was not yet pleasing to God.
So over the weekend I was reading Faithful Leaders by Rico Tice and came across a section where Rico lays out the questions he asks himself every morning and came across this:
Question: Rico, why is today a great day?
Answer: Because today is the day that God has planned for you, and if God says it’s good, then it’s good. Whatever God brings into your day -the things you’d choose and the things you definitely wouldn’t- he will work in them for your good.Faithful Leaders, Rico Tice
And I realized that my grief would not be pleasing to God until I acknowledged His goodness.
In Genesis 1, God declares every day good. The Light was good. The heavens were good. The plants and animals were good. Every day was good. And then the cosmos was rent because of the lie that God is not good, and ever since that lie the world has been less like a garden and more like a wilderness. Like Israel wandering in the wilderness we cry out to God in anger that even the waters we stumble across are filled with bitterness. But then Calvary came along and God Himself drank the bitter dregs of our sin. The cross of our Lord has been cast into the sea of humanity’s bitterness and it has become sweet to drink. For those who have been purchased by Christ, every day is good.
March 19th was a day filled with pain and suffering. If I allow myself I can almost relive it moment by moment. We experienced enough pain on that day that if we allow it, it would dominate our hearts and poison our grief. Some might even think that reasonable, but it would just be another instance of believing the same lie that plunged our world into darkness. Instead, I believe the most definitive thing I can say about March 19th is that God was good to me. God was good to my wife. And God was good to Penny.
How can I say that? How can I believe in the goodness of God on a day like that? I can say it because of the Cross. The unceasing, life changing, overwhelming love of God is manifested in the cross, not in the circumstances of my life. And on March 19th the cross had not changed: God has still sent His only begotten Son to rescue a world full of sinners, of whom I am chief. The Father loves the Son with a special kind of love, but it was on the Son’s worst day – a day of pain and suffering – that the goodness of God was displayed with dazzling clarity. Salvation was born out of the collision between sorrow and love.
Many have shared with me how they prayed alongside of us and felt sure that God would heal Penny. Their own shock at her passing is almost startling. Why didn’t God answer our prayers? The short answer is that I don’t know. But I do know that when He didn’t, He was good to me.
And with that, I can weep like Jesus.