The Pain of God's Goodness

“Behold, a king will reign righteously ... like a refuge from the wind, and a shelter from the storm ...”  Is 32:1-2

What does the goodness of God look like? Last Thanksgiving, my three sisters, one biological and two by marriage, were expecting babies. Jackson, a healthy baby boy, was born first to my sister-in-law, Molly, in December. In January, we learned that our baby girl, Audrey Caroline, would not be staying with us for very long. She graced our presence for two and a half hours before we said good-bye to her. Jesus took her to heaven to be with Him seven weeks ago. Nicol and my brother, Greg, welcomed Gregory “Luke” on March 17th. We were thankful that both Jackson and Luke were going to grow up with their cousins although we were painfully aware of the void Audrey had left in our lives. 

Two nights ago, I received a phone call from my mom. The adrenaline started coursing through my veins immediately as I heard her voice over the phone. Sobbing on the other end of the phone, she told me that the paramedics were trying to revive Luke, who wasn’t breathing. She just said, “Pray, Shawn, pray, pray, pray!!” This had to be a cruel joke! I had just gotten an email with a beautiful picture of Luke and his two-year-old sister that afternoon. He was a big, beautiful boy--the picture of health with no hint of what was coming later that evening. 

All of us are together now, trying to find words of comfort for this incredible sorrow that has been thrust on my sister and brother. They have been asked to walk a road that Todd and Angie have been walking for weeks now. I cannot go with them. I have not been required to say the most unnatural good-bye this side of heaven. I have not been asked to bury my child. The gap between my desire to empathize with their pain and the reality that I cannot is ever before me. I am wrenchingly reminded of my clumsiness as I try to offer words of comfort for their sorrow. My sorrow is real, but distant. Their sorrow is all-consuming with constant reminders of their empty arms that should be holding those precious babies that are no longer here. 

I know that God is good all the time. But I have come to realize how distorted my definition of His goodness has been. God’s goodness does not equal my happiness or my comfort. God does not cease to be good when I cannot comprehend what He is doing or when I wonder if He has checked out and abandoned me. His goodness involves my pain, too, along the hope that He is working all things together for good because I love Him and I am called according to His purpose, not mine. I know that without that hope, I would lose my mind. 

Please pray for our family. My brother and sister are experiencing pain so deep that it is physical. I pray for their ability to grieve, wail, and fight through this aching abyss that little Luke has left behind him. The Congolese sit with each other and cry with all their heart and soul at a funeral. They sit together with the grief-stricken and don’t say a word sometimes. They are just together, trying to share some of the sorrow of the family. That is what I hope these numbing days will do that we are trying to get through. The ability to share the tremendous sorrow, at least for right now. 

Jesus, we desperately need You. We do not understand what You are doing. We are feeling crushed under the loss of these babies and the shattered expectation of what life would have and should have been with them in our family. We are trying to make sense of what is senseless in our minds. Please, please, help us. We are  lost without You. Be the comfort I cannot be to my siblings. I am reminded of the words of an old hymn I grew up singing:

“Jesus is a Rock in a weary land,

A weary land, a weary land. 

Jesus is a Rock in a weary land, 

A Shelter in the time of storm.”

Be our Shelter in this storm.