Grief and Victory

I came into the day hopeful. My husband and I had a wonderful date night last night and I was ready for a refreshing morning of worship and was also banking on an afternoon hike. Then I woke up in pain.

After emptying a few coffee cups which also acted as a substitute for my heating pad, I went upstairs to wake up the hubby and hop in the shower. That’s when I noticed my phone glowing from a missed call, my mother-in-law.

I turned to my husband with wide-eyes and told him who had called. He grabbed his phone which was also illuminated with missed calls and “call me” text messages. We knew that the terrible thing we had been dreading had happened. Cancer had wormed its way through his dear aunt’s body and had claimed her.

We held each other silently, letting our grief fill the room. Traveling to the East Coast from Hawaii is no easy task and after much deliberation over the summer, we had decided to travel in September to visit family in an attempt to ensure that we could see our dear aunt knowing that it meant that when this awful, grief-marked time came, we wouldn’t share the burden with family gathered around the living room.

But we will always treasure our time with her.

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Grief, death, the absence of life has consumed our weeks. The last month I have echoed the Psalmist, lamenting regularly that darkness is my constant companion. Death has now decided to join the entourage.

But this weekend, I am reminded that death is laughable.

Today, children will dress up as princesses and ghosts and firemen and monsters and will gather to say, “Death, we laugh at you! You are child’s play!” for the children will gather and play death. We do this, because we will rise for death has been conquered.

After some time to process and lament, Hubby went to the store and came back with syrup and I made pancakes.

I can’t even recall the last time I made pancakes. Such a sweet breakfast is something reserved for birthdays and Christmas morning. But today, we feasted. We drank our teapot coffee and ate the sweet, syrupy wonders until we were bursting.

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I felt guilty at first, like we weren’t honoring her with our grief. Then I smiled and recalled the fuzzy details I imagine of what she is experiencing.

The wholeness, it had defeated the cancer. While we mourn for her body and for our separation, we long for the glory she now knows intimately. For she has been claimed, not by cancer, but by the greatest love of all. That Love is wrapping her in His arms and telling her, “Well done.”

Today is a day of mourning. Sorrow is here for the night and we long to wake, as she did, in the dawn of eternal joy.

So today we feast, but we also hunker down. We long for family, and we hold tightly to each other. We cry over our loss and laugh at memories. We proclaim that God is good and, in the midst of our tears, we remember His promises. Every single tear will be dried. As Sally Lloyd-Jones writes in The Story of God’s Love for You, “And the King says, ‘Look! God and his children are together again!…No more being sick or dying, because all those things are gone. Yes, they’re gone forever. Everything sad has come untrue.”

Oh Lord, hasten this day! We are grieving because what we know has already happened but is not yet revealed.

Today, if you are grieving, I encourage you to feast in the face of your trial. To proclaim in your sadness that God is still here, still on the throne, and still good. To laugh at the face of death because we know that this affliction, it is momentary in light of eternity. We are grieving a body today that will be resurrected and glorified. Let us never forget our Hope.

“[Some mortals] say of some temporal suffering, “No future bliss can make up for it,” not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.” – CS Lewis, The Great Divorce

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