In Loving Memory of #3

Dena Johnson Martin

When I was walking through my divorce, I remember that moment of surrender.

“Lord,” I cried out, “I don’t want this journey, but I will take it if this is what you have for me. But don’t you dare mess with my kids!

I’ve dealt with my share of hurt and pain over the last decade. I’ve walked through more trials than I can even recount. God has been with me, so faithful, so much more than I could have ever dreamed.

But there’s one pain I just don’t know if I could handle: the loss of a child.

The last year has been filled with enough struggle, watching my daughter suffer from a new diagnosis of epilepsy. The fears. The unknowns. The frustrations. The loss of abilities. The terrors that always seem to happen at night. The endless doctors’ appointments and medications and tests. It has been a difficult year.

But I still get to hold her, pray with her, hear her voice. I still get to tuck her in bed at night, kiss her forehead as we pray together. I still get to listen to her whine and complain about how life isn’t fair. I still get to watch her laugh, live life to the fullest. So many little things I still have, I still enjoy.

This weekend, a family in our community lost their son. No more opportunities to hear his voice, to laugh at his jokes, to enjoy one of his hugs.

And my heart is shattered into a million tiny pieces as I try to imagine the anguish they are experiencing.

He was the all-American child. Smile that lights up the room. Quarterback of the football team. Kind and popular. Funny and well-liked. Full of life and joy. And, from what I’ve heard, he loved Jesus, was a light to the middle school, pointing the world back to the Savior he loved.  

When we learned of his unexpected death, I sat with my daughter as we talked about her classmate. We looked out her bedroom window, watching the cars come and go at his house. With tears streaming down our faces, we prayed for his family as we imagined the pain and loss and devastation.

Sometimes life makes no sense. It isn’t fair. It hurts. It just flat out sucks. This family is a beautiful example of what Christ can do in and through people, a beautiful example to the world of a tight-knit family that leans on their faith and on each other in the midst of life’s troubles.

Why? Why them? Why a family that loves God? Why a child that had such a bright future? Why?

I don’t know the answer to that question. I don’t understand God’s ways for they are way higher than mine. I don’t know why God allows trials and tribulations into our lives, why He doesn’t protect us, our children, on this side of heaven. I don’t know why God’s most precious children often experience the most pain.  

I simply don’t know.

Here’s what I do know:

God is near the broken-hearted (Psalm 34:18). There’s no doubt that God is in our midst right now. You see, I stood around the flag pole at school last night, candles lighting the sky, listening to the wails coming from the student body. To see these big, macho football players collapse in their grief. To watch the parents holding their own kids tightly, unwilling to let them go.

Our community is broken hearted as we bury another precious child gone way too soon.

Pain is part of this life (John 16:33). When sin entered this world, so did pain. No one is immune from the difficulties of this life.

The beauty of this passage is that in spite of the pain we must experience, He has overcome! We know He is the victor! We may not see it today or tomorrow or next week or even next year, but we can walk in assurance that He eventually wins!

When we experience pain, we will also experience His healing (Hosea 6:1-7). God never allows us to suffer pain, loss, injury without also offering us His healing touch. How would we know His healing if we never suffered pain? How would we know His restoration if we didn’t experience brokenness?

As difficult as it is, we must surrender to God, to the pain that overtakes our lives. We must ask Him to use the trials to do a mighty work in us so He can do a mighty work through us.

It’s all about letting Him do what He wants in the midst of our pain and devastation.

God grieves with us (John 11:35). When Jesus’ friend Lazarus died, his sisters were distraught. They were angry with Jesus, not understanding His delay. They had called for Him, asked Him to come save the day, knowing He alone held the power of life and death. And yet Jesus waited. He didn’t come to their rescue immediately.

When He finally showed up, He saw the heartache and devastation of Lazarus’ family. And what did He do? He wept. He mourned with the broken-hearted, taking their loss upon Himself. He saw their hearts, their devastation, and He understood the depths of the emotions they were experiencing. His heart broke for them just as their hearts broke over their loss.

I pray I never have to experience the loss of a child because I simply don’t know how my heart would handle it. I want to believe my faith would be strong enough, I would be able to cling to Him in spite of the loss of a part of myself. But I can’t—I won’t—sit here and tell you I would walk perfectly with Him. I don’t think any of us knows how we would respond in any given situation until we are walking that journey ourselves.

What I do know is that there is a family, a community, that is mourning. I know my own child is suffering at the loss of her classmate. I know there are many people here, right around me, who are in desperate need of a touch from the Father.

Would you join me in praying?

Lord Jesus, our hearts are broken over the loss of this precious child. We can’t even begin to grasp the pain of his family, of those who knew him best and loved him most.

But we know you understand.

You understand the intense grief. You understand the pain, the loss, the anger. You understand the confusion, the depths of the brokenness and grief.

And we ask you to pour out your love, your tender mercies. Pour it out so powerfully, in such abundance, that there’s no way to deny your presence. Let your mercies be new every morning, your faithfulness abound in our lives. May we all experience you in ways we never have before.

As this precious family walks this journey of grief, may they see your hand guiding them every step, lighting the way to a new future, one they never wanted but one filled with blessings they never could have experienced. Keep their eyes open to the many small miracles happening all around them.

May we, as brothers and sisters in Christ, surround them and uphold them. May we be the hands and feet of Christ to this precious family, meeting their physical needs, their emotional needs. May we keep them constantly before you, their Heavenly Father, as you pour out your mercy and grace to help them in this time of need.

We lay this family, this community at your feet. May your light shine in us and through us. May we walk this journey in such a way that it reflects the hope that Cade himself had in you.

In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.