How To Keep Trusting In God Even In The Face Of Significant Loss
by Eric Elder
Twelve inspirational messages to give you hope during your time of loss.
Let me start off by saying, “I’m sorry.” If you’re about to read this book, chances are good that you’ve probably lost someone or some thing that was very precious to you. And for that, perhaps the best thing I can say to you right now is simply, “I’m sorry.”
I wish there were something more I could do for you, or say to you, that would help to take away your pain or to ease your burden, even just a little. Although it may not seem like much, perhaps saying, “I’m sorry,” is just enough for right now.
Sometimes it’s just enough to know that there are other people who care, that there are other people who are aware of your pain and that there are other people who have walked through the darkness as well. I wish I could say I know what you’re going through, but I don’t. And even though no two losses are the same, sometimes it’s nice just to know that other people have walked through the darkness and found something special along the way, something they may have never noticed when they were walking in the light. Stars, for instance, shine brighter when there are no other lights around.
I’m not saying it’s easy, or altogether wonderful to walk in the darkness. It’s not. But if you read through the words on the following pages, you’ll find that there are beautiful lights along the way, glimpses of heaven and riches that glisten that you may never have noticed had you not walked this way. Samuel Rutherford, a Scottish pastor in the 1600s, said:
“Jesus came into my prison cell last night, and every stone flashed like a ruby.”
On the pages that follow, I’d like to share with you some of the rubies I saw as I walked through my own period of darkness—my first year of grief after losing my precious wife, Lana. I wrote these 12 messages while I was walking through the darkness, not after the fear and danger were gone, which always seems to make things look brighter and more obvious than before. I wrote them in the midst of the pain and heartache that I was experiencing, both as a way to help me stay focused on the One who was walking through it with me, and as a way to give hope to others who were walking through their own times of darkness.
At the beginning of my journey, I read a book called Getting to the Other Side of Grief. As I was just getting started, I honestly didn’t know that there was another side of grief and, if there was, if I’d ever get there myself. The pain was just too intense. But the authors of the book had both lost their spouses, they made a compelling case for the fact that there is another side of grief, and if I was willing to work through it—and in my case, to walk through it with God—I could get there, too.
I took their words to heart and I began to walk with intentionality, trusting that their words were true. More than that, I had the promise of God’s Word in the Bible that says that He will work all things together for our good:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
I knew this to be true from the previous 26 years of following Him. But I had never had to put it to the test more than in this first year after losing my sweet wife. She was, after Christ Himself, the greatest gift God had ever given me. And losing her was like losing part of myself, too.
On the pages that follow, you’ll get to know a little bit more about me and her and my family and our faith in God. Even though we may not have gone through what you’re going through right now, I hope that something of what we’ve gone through will be of help to you. There’s something about walking with others through their pain that helps to ease our own pain, even if just a little bit.
On the other hand, you may be hesitant to walk with me through these 12 messages for fear that they might open up some of your own wounds in a deeper way. If that’s the case, let me encourage you to keep reading on two fronts:
1) When I decided to put these 12 messages into this book, I was even fearful myself to reread them at first. Having just walked through an entire year of grief, I didn’t really want to relive it. Yet as I reread each of the messages, I was surprised at how hopeful I felt after reading each one, and to see that God was indeed walking with me every step of the way—even when I sometimes couldn’t see it for myself.
2) There’s something cathartic about walking through someone else’s pain that brings healing in our own. That’s one of the reasons people love watching good movies so much, even sad ones, because people are able to release some of their own emotions as they watch others go through similar struggles, even if they’re not exactly the same.
I remember one night some friends invited me to watch a movie with them when I was stopped for the night at their house on a long trip with the kids. This was before Lana had died, but after I had discovered that she may not live much longer. My friends said the movie was about some guys who bought a zoo and that the kids and I might like it.
I had no idea that the movie was about a husband who lost his wife to a serious illness and dealt with the aftermath of that tragic event. As I realized what the movie was about, I started to boil inside, thinking that I would have never watched it if I had known what it was about, and I wouldn’t have had my kids watch it either. I didn’t want to think about Lana dying, let alone what life might be like once she was gone.
But somehow I stayed in my seat, for as the movie unfolded, I was drawn into the story, drawn into the way the main characters walked through this loss in their life. Although it wasn’t all peaches and roses, it wasn’t without hope, either. Many of the thoughts and emotions they expressed were the same thoughts and emotions that had flitted through my own mind but never wanted to entertain. Watching now, however, in the context of someone else’s pain, somehow seemed to ease my own.
As the movie came to a close, I was so thankful I had watched. It didn’t end all neat and tidy, but it did end with hope. And while the movie itself wasn’t about God, it gave me hope that with God somehow He would be able to work it all out in the end. So perhaps reading our story will give you that hope, too.
I also want to let you know you can read these messages at your own pace. I wrote these over the course of a year, so I was at a slightly different place in my grief with each message. One of the books I read on grief during this past year was one that was timed to be read over the course of a year, not all at once (called Journeying Through Grief). Grief is a process, and we can’t walk through every stage right away, even if we wanted to. In fact, sometimes it can be better if we don’t try to rush grief. Bob Deits, the author of several books on grief, said:
“Grief is the last act of love we have to give those who have died.”
If you’re just trying to avoid pain, you might be tempted to rush through your grief as fast as possible. But if, on the other hand, your grief is a way to express your last act of love to one who has died, you might rather take as much time as you need to make sure you express it well.
There’s no hurry or timetable with grief. But I can say there is another side of it. As I mention in the final chapter of this book, I’m thankful now to be able to see it for myself.
There is another side of grief. As Jesus said to His disciples just before He died:
“You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy” (John 16:20b).
That may have sounded like an outlandish promise to the disciples at the time, except for the fact that it was Jesus who was saying it—the same Jesus whom they had seen heal the sick, walk on water and raise the dead. If anyone could make a promise like that and live up to it, Jesus could.
So with that hope in mind, and with my heartfelt condolences for the loss that you’ve experienced, I invite you to read the 12 messages that follow. I pray that they give you hope for your future—and that they help you to see the stones along the way flash like rubies.
In Christ’s love,
P.S. Throughout the book, I’ll be talking more about Lana and our 6 kids. As a way of introduction, here’s one of my favorite pictures of our family, taken at Christmastime in 2009. I’m 2nd from the left and Lana’s 2nd from the right. The kids, from left to right, are Karis, Kaleo, Josiah, Bo (in front), Lucas (in back) and Makari.