The Hope of Heaven Day By Day
It wasn’t until I paused in the middle of the day to write the date on a form that I realized it was April 12th. This is the date that still rings alarm bells in my head as the day I unwillingly said "goodbye" to my mom here on earth.
As soon as I recognized the date, my mind began to spiral back in time like a time machine. Memories of our last goodbye, our shopping adventures, and wonderful childhood memories. Not longer after, I stopped and ordered a mint chocolate protein shake and chuckled as I thought about how this type of drink didn’t even exist 25 years ago. I expect my always health-conscience mom would have have loved trying this low-calorie option.
How wild time as we grieve on. Some days you feel frozen in it, other days you are surprised its oncoming. Even still, each day and date is significant to someone. Today someone is facing a heartache that is unlike another, the same will happen tomorrow.
Yesterday, I attended a funeral service for a friend’s grandmother. Sitting in her service, I heard about her faithful life of 93 years and how she prayed for her family daily. It was sad to see the heartache as my friend's mom honored her own mother with a tearful goodbye tribute. Yesterday was a hard day for their family as were the days leading up to this moment. Even when someone has lived a full life for many years, the sorrow and pain of parting is real.
Thankfully, as followers of Christ we also believe in the real hope of heaven. We cling to this hope as our grief and sorrow weaves through our lives in complex ways. This hope doesn't wipe away all our tears, but it softens the blow. I do think at times people can use this forward hope as a way to try and skip over the sorrow and heaviness we encounter along the way, but that's another challenge in the process of grieving. The best we can do is to own our grief and still cling to hope.
These words in Colossians 3 are a good anchor.
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace.
– Colossians 3:3-6
The Sting of Grief & Easter
I want to love Easter, and in many ways I do. Yet, within this beautiful celebration of God’s great love and sacrifice, there are rattles of deep sorrow.
Yes, this sorrow connects me to the somberness of Good Friday and Christ’s ultimate sacrifice in a real way, and it pushes me to cling to the victory over death even more. Yet, as I do, there is an ache I cannot shake, a heartache that resonates.
Logically, it’s easy to see why; two major losses in my life center around Easter, starting with my mom passing away on Easter Sunday in 1998, and then coming face to face with the reality of my husband's brain tumor the Thursday before Easter in 2019.
I just went back and read my own words from our Journey with Josh blog, as I remembered that it was in fact on Easter weekend when that journey began. We were admitted to the hospital the Thursday before Easter. It was a devastating weekend and the beginning of a short and long journey. We were desperately “trusting God, and praying for wisdom and healing.”
A few days later, in our first official blog post I referenced, Psalm 20:1,7
"May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. . . . Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”
Reading these verses today, they are affirming yet challenging. I still trust in the name of the Lord, but I can't help but wonder if I trust in him with the same amount of hope. Do I trust he can do anything still today? Honestly, I am not always sure. Trusting God is an ongoing process and choice - especially when faced with deep loss, and when grief still stings.
This Easter weekend, strangely four years since Josh's terminal diagnosis, I found myself reflecting on a familiar Easter script, “O death, where is your sting?” Almost immediately, I want to answer the question rather than declare it as a victory statement. The sting is right here, stabbing me in the heart. It's true, the sting is duller today, but I still feel it, daily.
As I feel death's sting, the roots of hope spring up. I know it is okay to acknowledge the sting; it also good to declare the victory. God took on the sting of death, he knows it. On this Good Friday (and Easter weekend), we turn to our Savior Jesus who offers hope and healing that stretches beyond our grief, sorrow, and circumstances. We give thanks and continue forward because of the victory.
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
– 1 Corinthians 15:55-57
If you are navigating grief of any kind this Easter. I hope you will take a step toward trusting God, because he does indeed care for you. This might be the time to honestly share your hurt and heartache with God in a real way! He can take it, and he wants to.
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
- Psalm 34:18
Happy Easter 2023
Hi! It's Jenn Brown, writing my story that is now slightly different as we enter a season of new grief. On September 30, 2019, my dear husband Josh passed away after battling brain cancer.