I couldn't look at that box anymore. It mocked me. I took all the verses out and I threw them away. The box just sat empty. Even though Romans 5:4-5 says, "Hope doesn't disappoint," I was severely disappointed by hope.
My son shouldn't have taken his life. I kept screaming that night, "This is not how it was supposed to end!" What did I gain by believing so passionately? I could become a bitter atheist. I didn't know how to believe again. I asked God to start showing me verses that could rebuild my hope for what was next in our life.
Slowly I've been repopulating that box with verses. The first one God gave me was 1 Corinthians 15:43, and it says, "These bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory." When I stand or kneel or lay on Matt's grave, I say every time "God, Matthew's body was buried in brokenness and in weakness, but you will raise him in glory and strength."
Hope is alive again in me. I'm left with questions. Why did I pray so passionately and believe with all of my heart that God was going to heal Mathew only to have him die? A friend heard me talking about that, and she bought me this little ceramic pot, and I've written those questions out and they're on little strips of paper, and they're all inside that little pot.
That's the essence of our faith. It's living with hope in the face of mystery. We live a life of faith completely full of hope, staring mystery right in the face. You can't have one without the other. Your faith won't survive without hope, and hope won't survive without the realization that there are mysteries that will not be answered. If you can embrace both, you can have a vibrant faith.
Why are we so bad at expressing grief?
Growing up in an evangelical church with my dad as a pastor, he didn't express his negative emotions. It was all just happy, happy, joy, joy. You just didn't talk about it. My brother was a heroin addict, and they didn't tell anybody in their church what they were going through. I didn't know anybody growing up that talked about their feelings.
As a child, I was molested and had not dealt with it. When Rick and I got married, I told him in this flat, emotionless voice, "It had nothing to do with me." It was in the past. Within days of getting married, our honeymoon was a shambles and we were broken people.
We started marriage counseling, and I began to see what a wrong model I had lived with. I remember coming home from a counseling sessions lying on our bed just staring up the ceiling, and I felt the love and acceptance of God for the first time in my life. My spirit soared.
I said to Rick, "When we pastor a church, even if I have to stand on the rooftop of that church, I will tell people that we are just like everybody else. We are sinners. We are broken. There are some days I'm not sure God exists. Sometimes I feel like this is a big cosmic joke. We need God to get through every single day." So we made a determination to do that.
What other resources have been helpful?
Ann Weems has a book called Psalms of Lament. She's written these psalms of lament that articulate in one of the most powerful ways that I've seen what it's like to lose someone and to just want to cry out and scream and moan and sometimes accuse God, if you will, of not loving us or not loving our loved one or abandoning us. Yet she comes back to that place of trust. Another one is Steven Curtis Chapman's CD Beauty Will Rise (2009).