Asher Witmer

rediscovering Jesus

Grieving Behind the Curtain 4 verses that have carried me through the last five years

I sat in the living room by myself reading my Bible when Mom walked in. She sat down with me, and then gently asked how I was doing. I think I said something like, “Fine.” Maybe hinted at being tired, because I was.

aw_grieving_mom

Mom and I during our 2012 Evening Bible Camp

She asked how Teresa and I were doing. Two days before we had asked our families for prayer because we felt stressed out as a couple, getting ready for our wedding, and it was starting to affect our relationship.

But I wasn’t in the mood for talking about heart-stuff. I had a busy day ahead of me—we needed to finish cutting out programs, meet with some guys to figure out the livestream situation, and arrange for how we were going to fit everyone in the little gym we had rented for the reception. So, I brushed her off. Inside I felt annoyed. “Can’t you see I’m having devotions, Mom?”

Five hours later I was bending over my Mom’s limp body lying on a hospital table with tubes sticking out of her mouth.

 

She was gone.

That was five years ago, and every year since, on the anniversary of her death, I’ve felt the same annoyed, irritable feeling I felt that morning with Mom. Only, it’s a different kind of irritableness. At first, I didn’t know why I felt irritable. It was a feeling I tried to brush off, attempting to pull myself together.

But I’m learning to embrace it. It’s okay to feel anger over loss. And it’s okay to feel regret after losing someone you deeply love.

I think the most difficult thing about losing someone you love is that while the world goes on, while everyone else’s life continues as they’ve always known it, yours remains shattered. Loss shatters the world. Especially, the loss of life. And a family who has lost a Mom is just as wounded five years later as they were the day she died.

Pain in losing a loved-one isn’t just from the loss of the person, themselves. But others close to you change.

Dad changed. And the pain he carries in his eyes deepens my pain.

My sisters changed. They were forced to play roles most ladies never have to fill. And I can’t do anything about it.

Family times changed because they give the starkest reminder Mom’s no longer here. And we feel a gaping hole.

The experience of having children changed because they remind me how much she looked forward to being a Grandma. And it hurts like crazy.

Now, I know not everyone’s life continues on as normal. Others, if not most, experience their own wounding as well. And that’s just it: we get caught up in our own wounds and forget those next to us.aw_grieving_momSo, as I sit here today, remembering the day Mom cared about my heart, and as I take my family to visit her grave, my boys wondering if there will be toys at Grandma’s grave, I think of all those I have met in the last five years who have also lost loved-ones. I think of those who grew up without a Mom. At least without a Mom who cared for them. And I’d like to share some of my favorite Scripture verses in my journey of grief.

 

My selection may actually surprise you.

 

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

-Romans 8:18-26

This passage captures everything chaotic going on in the world today. If you ever wonder where this mess came from, remember Adam. And if you ever wonder why God allowed Adam the opportunity to sin, remember that unless Adam was given two options, choosing God would not have been love.

And God longs for our love above anything else.

So, because Adam did not choose God, as we do not choose God when believing the lie that He doesn’t have our best in mind, the earth groans in pain.

The shootings in Texas, the war in Syria, the oppression of communism, the destruction drugs and alcohol bring to the home, the infidelity in marriages, the sexual assaults of lust-filled men, the discrimination of races, the dishonesty in politics, the death of loved-ones, the loss of infants—the earth is groaning.

This world is broken.

 

There is a lie running rampant in Christian circles that says life can be fully redeemed on this earth, that we can experience the full resurrection of Christ in our bodies, today. That lie has led many to reject God because the reality is we don’t experience that redemption. Not fully. Not in the way advertised. And God never promises that we will be fully restored on this earth.

His promise is for the future. When He returns and restores all things. That’s what we hope for. And if could see it, it would not be hope.

But He doesn’t just leave it there; He promises that His Spirit intercedes on our behalf. God’s Spirit stands at the throne and begs for everything we need, right now.

In our weaknesses, when we feel most helpless and vulnerable, we are given God Himself.

 

I suppose the question could be asked, “Is He enough for us?”

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

-Hebrews 4:14-16

It would be brutal for God to allow us to go through this suffering while He sits in the luxury of Heaven. But if that’s your image of God, someone has grossly misrepresented Him to you.

God desires you enough to allow you the chance to choose Him; not just force you into a relationship. And then, when humanity did not choose Him, He loved you enough to come into the broken chaos of this world and be the sacrifice needed so we could be restored with Him again.

Through His Son, Jesus, God experienced every pain imaginable to mankind, today. He knows exactly what you’re going through, right now.

 

Because of that, because God Himself has suffered in every way, we can come boldly to Him. When we are at our wits end, when it feels as though the whole world is crashing in, we can walk straight up to the throne of God, through prayer, and He gives us mercy and grace.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

-2 Cor. 4:16-18

Yes, inside our hearts we can experience the redemption of Christ in this life, even though the outer world, the things that we see, are wasting away.

BUT—and it’s a huge but!—the amount of pain we carry today will feel like a feather compared to the weight of glory we experience through all eternity if we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen.

To the truth that Jesus has secured our future full restoration by what He did on the Cross.

 

The saying is trustworthy, for:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;

if we endure, we will also reign with him;

if we deny him, he also will deny us;

if we are faithless, he remains faithful—

for he cannot deny himself.

-2 Timothy 2:11-13

If you have surrendered your life to Christ, putting your trust in Him and turning one hundred and eighty degrees from your way of life to follow Him completely, and if you endure through the pain and suffering you’re going through even now, you will reign in Heaven with Him.

And if you doubt that, if you struggle to believe Jesus really is coming back, and that all things really will be restored, it doesn’t matter. Because God said He would restore us. God said He would complete the good work He began in us.

And He cannot deny Himself.

 

I don’t usually have many words for people going through grief. Partly because my own wound is tender.

But I know God. I am discovering His story at deeper levels. And as I am willing to embrace and linger in the pain of this life, I experience His gentle hand on my tender heart.

Much like the gentle caring of Mom the day she died.

aw_grieving_momToday, as we remember, we weep. We ache. We long for what was. We hope for what is to come, even though at times with fickle faith.

 

God is good. Some of you think I say that from my head, as if I hope He is good.

I know He is good.

I have seen Him and tasted Him. I cannot un-see and un-taste things. I know this world is corrupt. And His explanation for why it is corrupted makes most sense. Add to that the experiences of His goodness, and I believe deep in my heart that one day I will see my Savior face to face. One day, all things will be restored.

And seeing Him with my eyes will have made all the suffering—the ability to choose and, having chosen wrongly, the pain that came with it—worth every step of the journey.

Have you lost a loved-one? What has been your deepest comfort in the journey? Share in the comments below.

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About Asher Witmer

I am a son of God, husband, father, and difference maker. I love helping people sort through hard questions they face and rediscover Jesus. I have written three eBooks dealing with church frustrations, and send out daily posts addressing faith, church and relationships.

  • Gina

    Thanks for sharing your pain in a way that brings hope to those of us experiencing pain. Those Scriptures you shared are ones that have been precious to my husband and I since he was diagnosed with aggressive brain cancer six months ago. I can’t imagine losing my husband but I know that the God who has carried us these last months won’t leave us.

  • Michael Harris

    May you feel a deep sense of God’s presence and peace! I lost my father at 4 years old- nearly 40 years ago now. It was sudden (a work accident). Our family still feels this keenly to this day…and it is hard to put into words all the emotions we have lived through with this. However, one comfort to me has been the promise that God will be a Father to the fatherless…and indeed, my sister and I both could testify strongly to the faithfulness of God to that very promise. We can only humbly and with awe marvel at God’s amazing grace through all the thick and thin. May your whole family feel a keen sense of God’s presence holding you up. What a comfort to know that in the new heaven and the new earth that there will be no more grieving…no more tears…and the former things will be forgotten!

  • Rachel Michaels (Hershey)

    Thank you, Asher, for sharing. Your thoughts are candid & real. I have been on this journey for some years now. My granddaughter in ’04, my son in ’07, my dad & husband in ’11, in that order. Without God’s love & grace, I never would have made it through. Because of His love & grace, He has given me a church family that has stood by my family through each of these losses, giving encouragement that comes from His own heart. Heaven has been brought closer than ever before.

  • Dorcas Smucker

    As Carita said, this is beautifully written.
    When I was in Colorado recently, Kay Knepp took me out to see the crash site.
    Please know that you and your family are thought of with compassion in the magnitude of your loss.
    So many of us felt your mom’s gentle care, in small ways, and we miss it and her.

  • Carita Witmer

    Beautifully written post. Thanks for putting some of your thoughts and feelings into words and sharing them…

  • Danette Martin

    My sympathy to you and your family this day, a day of ache and hope. Yes, I have lost loved ones. One of those was my mom, and even though that was 22 years ago, I still miss her and wonder about what could have been; what you wrote in your post really resonated with me. My deepest comfort in the journey? Learning that God has my best in mind (picture me beating my fists on God’s chest and discovering it is wet – with His tears) and also, being able to grieve in community. There is something very powerful and strengthening in that.