On January 2, 2018, my expectations of God were violated, in the words of my DC pastor, Pastor Donnell Jones of Grace Covenant Church DC. That was the day my worst nightmare came true. My mother woke me up telling me my father had stopped breathing. At that time, my mother revived him as I spoke on the phone with the paramedics, told my sister to get ready, and collected our things. My father was a healthy 55-year-old man who’d had hernia surgery a few days earlier on December 26. When the paramedics arrived, he gave them his name and birthdate, then he went out again. His last words were “Thank you, Lord.” Although we believe he died at that moment, the paramedics claimed they did everything they could to save him. Nevertheless, they were unable to revive him. Although we aren’t completely sure how he died, we were told that it was most likely a blood clot that led to a pulmonary embolism.
Why was this a violation of my expectations? As I’ve grown up in the church and am a person of strong faith, I have a certain perception of who God is and what He is capable of. I’d come to understand God as someone who could do the impossible. He could heal the sick, work miracles, and raise the dead. Because I knew this was who God was and what He was capable of, I fully believed that he would heal my daddy and come through with a miracle for us. So, I took my father’s Bible and my anointing oil with me to the hospital with the faith that he would be able to read some scriptures and at the worst, he might have to endure a surgery. I had total faith that God would heal my daddy, but He didn’t, even though it was fully within his power to, and my father passed away. In the moment I needed God the most he wasn’t there. I was crying, and he didn’t see my tears. I was praying, and he didn’t hear my prayers. I was signing worship songs, but my worship didn’t quite reach heaven. I just knew God would raise him from the dead like he did Lazarus, even after they told us he had passed away. But he never came back. He was gone to be with the Lord but that means he is no longer here with us.
So, what happens when God doesn’t come through the way we expect him to? What happens when he doesn’t prove to be a waymaker and a miracleworker in our lives? We must relearn our relationship with God. In the words of singer Blanca, we must allow him to “restore what was shattered.” In many ways approaching God after a loss can feel like starting our relationship with God all over again. First, God had to realign my perception. When my daddy passed away, I felt like God was not there for me, although I expected him to be. In realigning my perception, God had to reaffirm His presence in my life. He let me know that He had been there the entire time, and He is still with me now. Not only did he reaffirm it, but I had to believe it, and I do believe it. He has never left me.
Additionally, I had to trust that this is all a part of God’s plan. Although asking questions of God is good, there are some things we may never understand. I may not understand why God chose to take my father in that moment until I get to Heaven and ask Him for myself. Additionally, no matter how many questions I ask or reflect on what we could have done differently, nothing can bring him back. Nevertheless, I must trust that it was part of God’s plan and there is purpose in my grief. Moreover, grief allowed me to see God in new ways. I didn’t know God could be my light in the darkness until I experienced what I felt was the ultimate darkness. Nevertheless, God was my flashlight (a reference to the song that got be through the funeral and continues to get me through in my grieving process).
After grief, we will oftentimes have to be reconciled back to God. God understands our feelings toward him. Jesus was fully God, but he was also fully human. That means he experienced all the emotions we experience. When Lazarus died, Jesus wept. We know God understands loss because he sent His only son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. God sees your tears and your hurt and your anger and he understands you because he’s felt it too. It’s okay to be mad and disappointed in God, but we don’t want to stay there. We can go from feeling like he abandoned us to trusting Him again. It is a process, but we can relearn our relationship with God.
P.S. Here’s a playlist to get you through your loss and grief.