Here you'll find answers to some of the common questions Nancy has been asked, edited for brevity, and with details altered to maintain the privacy of those who have posed the questions.
If you have a question you'd like Nancy to answer, send it to her via the contact page.
How do I respond to people who say my child is now an angel?
To: "Your daughter is an angel in heaven now," you might say, "Oh, I am grateful to know that my daughter is in heaven, but of course she hasn't become an angel. Angels are their own created order. Humans don't become angels when they die. But she is with the angels in heaven doing what everyone there does which is worship Christ."
To: "My daughter that died last year is watching over your daughter now," you might say, "It is sweet to think about our children being together. But what is even sweeter is to know that they are in the presence of God. He has taken them to himself and he is the one taking care of them until resurrection day."
To: "Our children choose us, you know. They choose what families they are born into," you might say, "What we know from the Bible is that God is the one who knits a child together in a mother's womb. He is the one who places children into families. We don't have that power of choice and that is good because God is so much wiser than we are and always does what is right."
How do I find healing when I don’t have assurance my child is in heaven?
The truth is you and I can never know what is in anyone's heart. And so our comfort about anyone's destiny beyond this life must rest in the character of God, which we do know. In Genesis 18:25 the rhetorical question is asked: "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?" We have to answer, "yes he will." He will do right by me and you. He will do right by our children. We can rest in knowing he will do right.
Secondly, think about the first time God revealed anything about his personal nature—when he allowed Moses to catch a glimpse of his glory. We read: "The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, "The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness" (Exodus 34:6). The first thing God wants us to know about him is that he is merciful. He loves to show mercy. That's who he is, the essence of who he is.
My sister, let the goodness of God and the wideness of his mercy give you peace. Choose to rest in it and refuse to listen to all of the voices from the enemy of your soul who wants to keep you miserable.
I know we won't be married in heaven but will we know and love each other?
You and I want to know the truth. Anything less than that is ultimately unsatisfying. We want to know the truth about God. We don't want a God that is so weak that we can just shape him into the image we want him to be. So in questions like this, where it is not spelled out like we would like for it to be in the Bible, we grab hold of what we know is true. We don't try to bend what God has promised to our preferences. And here is what we know is true:
Here is the big question for you: Is this something you can trust God with? I assume that you have told him that you are willing to trust him with your eternal future. Can you trust him with this aspect of it—that he will do right by you and by your husband and your sister? Ultimately do you believe that God is reliable and trustworthy, that his promises to you are worth waiting for and longing for?
If you have not read Randy Alcorn's book, Heaven, I would encourage you to read it.
Also, I know that right now your heart so longs for that day when you will see those you love again. I do too. There's nothing wrong with that. But perhaps you could pray that God would use that longing to implant in you a deeper longing to see Christ himself. Ask him to give you more affection for Christ, so that you will long for heaven not only to see people you love, but so that you will enjoy Christ with those you love. This doesn't happen overnight. It is something God works in you as you saturate your life in his Word and his presence.
How should we pray if God is more concerned about our souls than our bodies?
First, your questions about prayer. You say that we are taught to pray about earthly concerns. And I think you're right. At least that is what we can gleam as being important from how prayer is practiced in the typical church. But if we look at the Bible, prayer is not primarily about practical concerns but about spiritual concerns. It is mostly about inviting God to have his way in the world and in our lives. Take a look at this list by John Piper on what we should pray for based on the prayers recorded in the Bible. Prayer is spiritual work toward spiritual ends. Perhaps part of the sanctifying work God wants to accomplish in our lives through the loss is to move us past praying only or primarily about what matters to us and more about what matters to him.
But what matters to him? Certainly we matter to him. He is our Father. And that is why he invites us to bring our requests to him. But we do so as a child who trusts our Father to do what is right, not as a child who seeks to manipulate him or demand from him. And we pray in a way that welcomes him to accomplish his purposes in this world and in our lives. What are those purposes? What is his "kingdom agenda"? To answer this, we have to have a clear understanding of the big picture story of the Bible. I don't know about you, but for most of my life, while I have known a lot about Bible stories and lots of parts of the Bible, I have had a very limited understanding of the overriding story of the whole Bible. So while this may seem like overkill in answering your question, this understanding of the bigger picture and purposes is essential for understanding that smaller picture you are asking about in regard to body and soul.
Genesis begins with the creation of the Kingdom of God in the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve lived in willing obedience to God's word and rule. But a rival regime established a beachhead in God's kingdom. Evil infiltrated the kingdom when the serpent successfully tempted Adam and Eve to sin. And when they sinned, Romans says, "all creation was subjected to God's curse" (8:20). How will this curse be dealt with? Only by God becoming man in the person of Jesus, and taking this curse upon himself on the cross. Christ did what was necessary at the cross to put an end to the curse. But we are still living under its effects. That passage in Romans continues:
"Against its will, all creation was subjected to God's curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God's children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us" (Romans 8:20-25).Notice that Paul does not say we wait eagerly to be taken away from this world to live forever in some ethereal heaven that is away from this earth, but that we wait eagerly for the new bodies he has promised us (8:23). We know that to be "away from the body" is to be "at home with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:8). This is what some theologians describe as "the intermediate state." This is our souls in the presence of God after we die as we await the resurrection when Christ returns to earth. Our final destination is not living as disembodied souls somewhere away from this earth without our redeemed bodies. Christ will return to this earth and will "bring with him those who have fallen asleep" (1 Thess. 4:14). We will return to this earth with Christ and be united with our resurrected, glorified bodies to reign on this renewed earth with Christ. This is what is described in Revelation 21:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, "Look, God's home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever."This is the story of the Bible coming full circle. This description of the future is the being restored to a garden-like paradise much like it was for Adam and Eve before they sinned, but even better.
One way understanding this has impacted me is that when people talk about our children having perfect bodies now in heaven, I know that isn't true. They will have bodies that are healed and whole when heaven comes down to earth and we live in what Revelation is describing here as the "new heaven and a new earth," but they don't have that yet. That will come at the resurrection. That is why we must focus our hopes toward resurrection. You will want to read all of 1 Corinthians 15 with this in mind, but here are a few key verses:
"Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back . . . Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever. Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory . . . our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever. But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies." (1 Corinthians 15:23, 42-43, 50-53)So think this through with me, perhaps letting go of the way we've always thought about the goal of life being to die and go to heaven somewhere away from here where we would live as spirits with God. God is going to give us new bodies, bodies like he had after he rose from the grave. And the goal of history, where the whole story of the Bible is heading, is that we will live with Christ and a cleansed, re-created earth in resurrected, glorified bodies.
So why am I going into all of this? Because if this is what is ahead for us, we are indestructible. We don't have to worry so much about protecting ourselves and our children in this life. We can give our lives away for the cause of the gospel (kingdom advancement). We can be willing to suffer and lose in this life because we are so confident that this future resurrection life will more than make up for everything we've endured and lost here. It gets us demanding less of this life and expecting more of the next. This is what Paul was talking about when he said:
Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don't look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)and why he also wrote:
Everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God's way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! (Philippians 3:7-11)Did you notice that he was not all about praying for his life and comfort to be protected but rather he said everything about a comfortable life here is worthless compared to becoming one with Christ and knowing Christ? This is kingdom agenda. And did you notice that he doesn't say that what he wants to experience is to go to heaven when he dies, but rather "the resurrection from the dead"? This is why preserving our current mortal bodies is not our highest priority.
If you're thinking that this is all new and why haven't you ever heard this or understood this, you need to know that that is exactly how I was only a few years ago. It is not that this is some newfound understanding of the Bible. It is the historic understanding of the Bible. But somehow in our modern Christian culture we have so focused on heaven when we die that we've lost this biblical perspective. But don't just take my word for it. Dig into your Bible. Look up every reference to resurrection in the New Testament and see if you see it for yourself. Don't read every reference to "eternal life" as meaning life away from here in heaven but full and unending life the way God always intended it to be when he first created us in a new garden, the renewed earth.
But also, let me go back to what I wrote on the pages in my book you are discussing and trying to make sense of. You should know that I would probably write the section you are asking about slightly differently today. I would not write, "It's our souls that he is most concerned about." I would say instead that God intends to redeem us body and soul. Being both body and soul is what makes us human. And Christ intends to redeem both. These current bodies of ours are going to die. Our souls will never die, but will be in the presence of Christ when we die and will be reunited one day with our resurrected bodies to live forever with Christ on the renewed earth.
But let me also say that what I wrote in the book has had its intended effect on you—to cause you to rethink the modern day church's obsession and over-emphasis on making the Christian life so much about praying for God's protection and preservation of our earthly bodies which is really more about using God to accomplish our agenda rather than joining him in his agenda. I'm trying to get readers to re-evaluate this settled assumption we have that God hovers around us to answer our prayers, which basically makes him our servant. Rather, God has an agenda he has invited us into that goes far beyond our small agendas for our own lives. He is about redeeming all of creation. When we truly believe that we can never really die because our souls are safe with God and our bodies will one day be resurrected in glory, it frees us to live life without so much fear and protectionism. We can live all-out for Christ, sharing the gospel even when it costs us, welcoming his pruning, sanctifying work in our lives confident that we have a glorious future with him. This confidence is what enables us to "grieve with hope"(1 Thess 4:13).
I hope I haven't confused more than clarified things for you. I would like to suggest some other resources that I think will be really helpful to you on these issues. To really figure this out requires that you become a student of God and of the Bible in a fresh and diligent way. But it's worth it. You will never grasp this just going to church.
Spend some time in 1 Corinthians 15, 2 Corinthians 4-5, and 1 Thessalonians 4. Sit down and read through the book of Philippians and imagine yourself asking Paul the questions you asked me about prayer and purpose and body and soul. Based on what you read there, what do you think he would say to you is important about life and death? What would you imagine him telling you to pray about. Maybe you could even make a list of those things as you read through the book as a whole. Here's some other resources for you that have been helpful to me:
John Piper 4-sermon series on what happens when you die.
John Piper on what is called "the intermediate state" which is the time with Christ after we die before our bodies are resurrected.
Randy Alcorn's webpage section of helpful answers to questions about heaven. If you have not read Randy Alcorn's book, Heaven, that would be very helpful.
This sermon by Kevin DeYoung is very clear and helpful: "Heaven is a Place on Earth."
Read this section on "Resurrection and Suffering" and "The Future of the Dance" in Tim Keller's book, The Reason for God.
Here's a John Piper sermon that might be helpful in regard to what I mean by God's "kingdom agenda" that is more important than our bodies.
People say I should write a book. Should I?
I think you are wise to wonder whether or not the process of writing would be helpful whether or not it is published commercially. But my experience is that though someone may start out writing saying that it is useful even if it is not of interest to a publisher, usually after putting all of the work into it, it is hard to let the dream that it be published die. And when the book is about loved ones who have died, we want to extend their lives and give meaning to their deaths by seeing their story in print, so when a publisher isn't interested, it can feel like another death, and certainly another deep disappointment, a sense that we have failed in extending their impact.
Sometimes people choose to self-publish, and that is easier and more economical now than ever. But it is a huge investment of energy and emotion and money, and if there is no built-in channel for building awareness and distribution beyond just people who know you or heard about your loss, usually people end up with lots of books in their garage and a sense of frustration that their dreams for God using their story in the lives of other people through a book has been a disappointment.
What I often suggest to people if they think they are interested in writing about their experience for the benefit of others is that they start with trying writing a magazine, newspaper, or website article. This is a good test of whether or not a person has something to say to readers beyond simply telling a story. It is also a good test of whether or not people outside the person's acquaintances are interested in what the writer has to say. Also, this can sometimes fulfill the need to tell the story.
A significant question is, "Are you a writer?" People who are writers by nature and talent should consider writing about their experience. Those who are not writers most likely should not. It only makes sense to get someone else to write your story if you are a celebrity who has the power of celebrity to sell a book.
But I think the biggest question is this: Is writing a book the only, the best, or the most natural way for you to be a good steward of this experience so that God might use it in the lives of others? It is for a few people. For others, there are other ways that are a far better fit with their personality, their strengths, and the opportunities presented to them.
One more thought. The key to whether or not you have a book in you is not whether or not you have a story. The key is whether you have insight on your experience that you can express in a compelling way. If you will look at my book, Holding on to Hope, you will find that it really has very little of my story. It is primarily a book about relating to God in the midst of suffering using my story to illustrate the points. Or if you've seen the book, A Grace Disguised you'll see the same thing—his story is there, but story is only a small part of what is being communicated. It is his insight and teaching points that are most significant.
There are lots of voices out there today who will say that there is power in simply telling your story. To an extent that is true. But our stories alone have little power to inspire or change lives. What is more important is figuring out how to use our stories to tell God's story.
How can we honor our daughter who died in our other daughter's upcoming wedding without making that the focus?
I wish I could say everything is going fine, but I can't. The pain is as strong and real as the day of the accident three years ago.
I think your ideas are so sweet and lovely for remembering your daughter in the wedding. It would seem to me that the only key in doing this "right" is that the bride is the one driving how this is done, and that while you daughter gets remembered, the bride senses that your primary emotions and energy that day are directed toward her—the one who deserves your full attention on that special day. She is the one who can be most blessed by your joy and focus on that day. The hard reality is that your daughter can't benefit from it. And you don't really want the conversation amongst those who attend to focus on that sadness but on the bride and groom's joy. That will be a special day to invest in the living who can benefit and enjoy your loving attention. I hope it will be a beautiful day of great joy. I know there will be someone missing and that takes away from every special family event. But I hope you can take in the joy and let the sorrow go on vacation for a day.
How long will I feel so grief stricken?
But not yet. I am quite sure there are many more tears inside that must be shed. Many questions to think through. This intense time can either lead you far away from God because you refuse to pour out those tears before him or because you are unwilling to dig into his word to find answers to your questions—or, it can lead you closer to him—so that at the other end of this grief journey you have a sense of peace and confidence in God's goodness. Oh, how I hope you will pursue God in your sorrow and that ultimately you will discover him beside you in a way you could not have known without the sorrow.
How do I get through the dark moments?
I don't think there are quick fixes in the Bible. This means we cannot always expect to open up the Bible and read a few verses in the hard places and expect to immediately feel better. If you have that expectation of the Bible, you will be disappointed again and again. To grasp the hope of the gospel we have to invest ourselves in saturating ourselves in God's Word and wrestling with it a bit, allowing it to challenge our deeply held expectations and understandings. The deeper we go in the Bible, the more understanding of truth we have under our belts to do battle with the lies and misbeliefs that add to our sorrow.
How do I deal with a new baby in the family when mine is gone?
My sister is expecting her first baby soon...a little boy. I am struggling so much right now with even seeing her. Of course I'm happy for her, but hearing her talk about baby showers and baby things makes me miss my son even more. I had given her so many of my son's things...stroller, car seat, high chair, toys. I thought it would make me feel better to one day see those things being used by a loved one. Now, I'm not so sure.
I am doing my best to give this situation to God, but I feel suffocated with it right now. (I guess I'm not doing such a hot job of giving it over!) Any advice?
How do you extend yourself? You make the first move toward the very people you feel awkward around who feel awkward around you. There is a little hurdle or barrier between you and every mom with a child you son's age and you can either wait for them to overcome it to reconnect with you, you can just be frustrated and angry that they don't seem willing to do this, or you can gather your courage, set aside a very natural desire to have these people focus on you and your sorrow, and enter into their worlds. This is about the most selfless thing you'll ever do. It will be hard. And it will be worth it in the form of normalized relationships.
Sometimes it is hard in conversations with groups of other moms or with another mom when they're talking about some problem they're dealing with and you think to yourself how much you would love to have that problem with your child. Or they're talking about something coming up that hits you in the gut because your child won't be a part of it. You have some choices in that situation. You can walk away to get away or in anger or hurt. You can bring up your loss and "top" anyone else's complaints. And when we do that, honestly it feels good for a minute—but not for long. I've discovered that there is something that feels better than that—to refuse to make the conversation about me, and my loss, and choose to turn the spotlight on someone else and listen. It doesn't get you sympathy in that moment, but you earn respect (even admiration) and your relationships normalize and heal. That's what you really want.
In regard to your sister's coming child, your choice is to stay away because it hurts, or enter in and be determined to be a blessing and find the joy in this rather than only marinate in how it reminds you of your loss. As you make an effort to be there and hold and enjoy your nephew, it will say to your sister that you want to love her son, and don't want her to be burdened with guilt that her arms are full while your are empty—that you do not want the world to forever walk on eggshells about your loss.
I'm not suggesting it won't hurt. But we have to decide that we are not always going to avoid doing the right thing because it may hurt. When we read that Jesus said to "weep with those who weep," we like that, and we want people to do that with us. But we must also embrace the second part -- rejoice with those who rejoice. We're not exempt from that part because we have sorrow in our lives. It is a high and hard calling—too hard if we are just walking in the flesh with no supernatural power inside. But if the Holy Spirit is inside, he provides power to do what doesn't come naturally, and beyond that, there is joy in it.
Can I heal without having another child?
I recently lost my son and the pain has been intense. I also have 4 other children. This season of my life has been the most challenging and yet the best with my relationship with the Lord.
My husband and I feel we are done having children and although I desire for more and also trust my husband and believe that is what is best. Did you struggle knowing you would not have any more children? Did it take a while to take a breath with what God was doing? I am surrounded by newborns at my church and so it's been hard to go...I do, and God has been good, but I am different.
So much of life seems like a struggle for contentment, which I suppose is really a battle to trust God. God, can I be content with the children you have given me? Can I be content in you and trust that you will not withhold anything good from me? That is the struggle, and surrender is what brings peace and joy.
Regarding church. I know it is so hard. And know that it is also very hard for those friends of yours whose arms are full while yours are empty. They feel guilty and awkward about it. So you can avoid them, or you can help everyone overcome that awkwardness by approaching them and taking joy in their children, letting them know they don't have to walk on eggshells around you and your hurt forever. Let this struggle too make you into a compassionate person, looking for the woman who is hurting and lonely at your church to reach out to her. Ultimately I have found that applying my pain toward caring for someone else who is hurting is what soothes it and gives it meaning and purpose.
Sharing your sorrow—
You are going to have to decide now to forgive those who say, "at least you have 4 children" and that having another will help you heal. Don't try to correct them. Just understand that they can't understand unless they've been there.
And of course you can heal without having another child. Absolutely. We never want to say to God that there is something we must have to be happy. We want to say to him—I take you at your Word when you say that your grace is sufficient, that it will be enough for me. I take you at your name, Jehovah Raphi, that you are the healer, and I invite your healing work in my life in and through my sorrow as you use it to refine me and refocus me on finding my satisfaction in you and your plan for me.
I feel like I need to write my daughter's story. Any advice?
I don't know if you have any advice or insights that could help us at this time.
It also concerns me that your children don't want you to do it. I think you would be wise to explore that more. Why is that? They are here with you and need you now, and I can't help but wonder if they might be wishing to have more of you focused on them now.
I don't mean to discourage you. But since you asked for my advice, I do want to give it to you straight. Obviously I know what it is like to have a story you want to tell and a desire for God to use my child's life and death for ministry purposes. But I respond as someone who has spent over twenty years in the publishing industry, well aware of what publishers are looking for, and what they reject. I also respond as a mom who regrets some of the energy poured into ministering through Hope and Gabriel that might better have been poured into loving Matt in ways that are meaningful to him.
I do wish you the best as you pray over how to invest yourself in loving your family and remembering yoru daughter—
Any of your books available in Spanish?
P.S. It is also available in German, Norwegian, Danish, Chinese, Korean, and Portuguese.
Should I feel obligated to pray in public?
Private prayer is important; it is essential. In fact, many people substitute public prayer for private prayer, because public prayer can be used to impress people with our spirituality, whereas we get little credit from others for private prayer. Private prayer plays an important role in our relationship with Christ, drawing us closer to him as we share what is on our hearts with him, confess our sin to him, and welcome him into our lives and concerns.
But because private prayer is essential and public prayer can sometimes be misused does not take away from the importance of public prayer. Jesus taught about private prayer (Matthew 6:6) and he prayed privately (Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16). But Jesus also taught about public prayer (Matthew 18:19-20, Mark 11:17) prayed publicly (Matthew 19:13, Luke 9:28, Luke 11:1, John 17). So using Jesus' teaching and example certainly does not justify limiting ourselves to private prayer.
But that doesn't mean you have to pray publicly, at least not now. You are right that you can participate in the prayer time by affirming in your heart and mind what the others are praying, and offering your prayers in your heart to God. And that will be meaningful for you and for God. But what will it add to your sisters in the prayer group?
So many times we operate in the body of Christ based on what makes us comfortable, and what meets our needs rather than putting the needs of others before our own. And while you never need to feel pressure to "perform" or simply "participate" in a public prayer time, you do need to consider how your participation or lack of participation affects others in the group. The writer of Hebrews told believers, "Consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Through praying together we encourage each other in looking to God for our needs and build up each other's faith. Praying together out loud binds us to each other in a spiritual rather than simply social way.
The other thing you need to consider carefully is what the real reasons are for your reluctance to pray out loud with a group. Are you uncomfortable with or intimidated by the tone of voice or types of phrases and expressions others use in the group? You don't have to use them. Be yourself. Is it that you fear your prayers will not sound as impressive or passionate or as knowledgeable about God as those of the others in the group? Are you more concerned about what the people in the prayer group will think about how you pray than you are about blessing them with the simplicity of your prayer and your joining them in prayer? If that's the case, is pride the real cause of your reluctance?
If your fear is that your prayer will reveal that you are young or not as studied in your walk with Christ, you should know that those who have walked with Christ a long time are especially blessed by the prayers of "less-experienced" believers. And I don't mean this in a condescending way. The genuine prayer of a young believer is a blessing to everyone who shares it.
Finally, what would it mean for your prayer group if everyone took your approach? It would make for a pretty awkward prayer meeting, wouldn't it? Maybe prayers would be prayed, but everyone would miss out on being encouraged by and directed by the prayers of others.
Prayer is simply talking to God and listening to God, developing and expressing our dependence on him. It is not a performance and it certainly isn't a recitation. Real prayer comes from the heart. And the very best prayer flows out of scripture. I would encourage you, before the next prayer meeting, to spend some time in the Bible and find a passage that is meaningful— maybe Ephesians 1:17-18 or Colossians 1:14-19, which express Paul's prayers for his brothers and sisters in Christ. Spend some time meditating on those verses and those prayers for others from the Bible. Then try writing out in your own normal-sounding words how you would pray for those things for the people in your group. Get comfortable with the heart of what you are really praying for aside from the scripture-sounding words. Pray them out loud by yourself so you get comfortable hearing yourself pray out loud. And next time your prayer group meets, enter in, offering a short and simple prayer for the others, blessing them by your participation and encouraging them by you're your participation and your scripture-focused, simple prayer.
Have you ever struggled with not having more children?
Every letting go in our lives is a crossroads where we either say to God, "I must have this to be happy, and if I can't have it, I will be resentful and discontent and embittered" or where we say, "I'm sad to let go of this, but letting go helps me to remember that you are really all I need to be happy. Anything else I insist I must have to be happy is, in reality, an idol. I believe that your Holy Spirit can work in me to generate contentment and joy and freedom as I entrust my whole life to you, welcoming what you give me and refusing to become bitter about what you take away."
Absolutely this is something to grieve, and our surrender of our dreams for life the way we want it to be is not instant or easy, but our aim is to welcome God's plan for our lives, trusting that it will be good, enough, that He will be enough for us.
How do you go on?
I encourage you to get a copy of my book, The One Year Book of Hope. I hear from a lot of people who find the daily devotions meet them where they are in their grief and help them move forward toward healing. I pray it might do so for you.
What can I do for my friends whose child is dying?
As you pray, don't limit your prayers to asking God to do a miracle to heal this child, but pray for God to work to keep this couple's marriage strong, and for the parents and grandparents to face death with faith in God's promises.
There is really nothing you can do or say that will take away this pain except to let them know that your heart is breaking with theirs. Then, mark your calendar and on the child's birthday and deathday. Remember to send a little note letting them know this child is not forgotten. Don't be afraid to say his name. Speak his name to them and tell them you have been thinking about him after he is gone.
You might also want to give them a copy of our book, When Your Family's Lost a Loved One later.
I think it may be even more difficult for parents to watch their child lose a child than for the parents. It was agonizing for our parents, so your awareness of their deep hurt, which will not go away quickly, will be a blessing to them.
How do I live day-to-day wondering if this will be my child's last day?
My question for you is how do we live day-to-day wondering if
this will be the last day? And how do I, when I think I can't go
another day watching him suffer, think about doing this for another
First, regarding living every day. As much as possible, when I had an idea of something I wanted to do with Hope or Gabe, or someone I wanted them to meet or spend time with, I just didn't put it off. I did some bold, and to some, perhaps, outrageous things in terms of parties and pictures and travel. And I don't regret any of it.
The challenging thing is that much of life is made up of ordinary stuff like making dinner and folding laundry and doing your taxes. You feel this tyranny of not wanting to waste any time on ordinary things. I think you have to just realize that having your son with you doing the "ordinary" things is really the essence of enjoying life. And don't be hard on yourself when you realize you haven't done anything "special" that day.
Take as much time as you can to just feel his skin next to yours, to just be quiet together and enjoy the simple pleasure of being together. Those are the times I long for when I miss Hope and Gabe.
In regard to how to do it long-term, when Hope was a few months
old I took her with us to a cub-scout event for my son. At that
point I was very unsure of how long she would live and how big
she would get. There was a family there with a severely handicapped
daughter. I went and sat down with the mom while she was feeding
baby food to her 11-year-old, knowing that she still changes her
diapers and never gets any response from her. And I asked her, "How
do you do this? And how do you keep doing it?"
I have no doubt that what Jesus said to Paul—"My grace is sufficient" —he says to you, and that he will give you the grace you need in the form and timing and quantity in which you need it.
Sharing your joy and your sorrow—
Yes, burying his little body is hard. I think the absolute hardest. It feels so wrong to walk away from that precious body you have cared for. I'm so sorry you have to do that.
In regard to the grief ahead, you are right that it takes time. But it takes more than that. Time, for some people, just causes their resentment and isolation and distance from God to grow. Time doesn't necessarily heal unless you invite God to do his healing work day by day during that time. It is the time invested in seeking to make sense of this in light of scripture, the time spent pouring out your questions and disappointment to God and asking him to touch you and heal you, time spent confronting your tyrannizing thoughts with scripture that brings healing.
I hope you will get a copy of my book, The One Year Book of Hope and begin your way working through it. It really represents the things I needed to understand and deal with in the months following Hope and Gabriel's death, and I think it might be helpful to you in the days ahead.
Sharing your sorrow—
How do I help my son answer the question, "Do you have any brothers or sisters?"
I am enjoying The One Year Book of Hope that I ordered recently. I read it every morning in my son's room and it has been so comforting and helpful. Thank you for working so faithfully on that so others could grow in the Lord in the midst of sorrow.
I know you are busy, but I have one question that has been on my heart for a while now. I know you can relate to this since you have a son who is still under your stewardship. Our son who just turned 6 continues to ask many questions about why did our baby have to die and why can't we be with him anymore, things like that. Well, I wonder, when people ask you or your son, if you have other children or if he has siblings, what do you say? I don't want to say he is an only child, because he has a brother. He is just not here on earth anymore. I have thought of many ways to phrase it, but wondered if you had something that was helpful in that area.
Again, thank you for paving this road for so many of us. Your
strength and faith and reliance on the grace of God are such an
Honestly, I'm not sure how Matt has or would answer the question about whether or not he has siblings. I think the best thing you could do for your son is 1. Don't make this an issue for him even though it's an issue for you. Kids mostly want to be normal—like everybody else. They don't want to go into any long awkward conversation. 2. However he answers this questions should meet with your obvious approval so he doesn't have to fear offending or hurting you with it. 3. If it does seem to be an issue, talking through various ways to answer and let him know that he may want to answer it one way today and another way tomorrow and that's okay. Help him by giving him some words: "You could say, 'I have a brother J, but he only lived a few months. Or if you don't want to have to explain that, and just want to say that you don't have any brother and sisters, that's okay too. We know it is hard to know how to answer that question. It's hard for dad, and me too. But however you want to handle that is okay with mom and dad."
This was harder for me earlier on than it is now. And no matter what, it is usually awkward, however, the person you are talking to takes his or her cue from you as to whether or not to let it become an awkward conversation. You can also generally control whether or not and how much you want to go into a discussion about your loss based on your tone and body language. If you'll likely never interact with them again and you don't want to go into it, then answer in a way that is truthful but maybe doesn't tell everything. When someone says to me, "How many children do you have?" and I don't really want to go there, I say, "We have Matt who is 18." I'm not giving them a number, and I'm not denying Hope and Gabe. If I'm open to talking more about it, I might say, "We have a son, Gabe, and a daughter, Hope, who lived just a short time, and we have a son, Matt who is 18." If I don't really want to talk about Hope and Gabe in that moment, I just go on from there talking about Matt, giving the signal that he is who I want to talk about and not dwell on my loss. But sometimes I want to tell them about Hope and Gabe and so I think I have ways of giving that signal.
About a year after Hope died I was in a group where everyone was going around introducing themselves and for some reason that day I didn't want to shape my image as "that girl whose baby died" and I didn't mention Hope. Afterward I went to my car and sobbed feeling that there I was, hoping that everyone else will not forget or erase her, and I just erased her from my history. And I decided that I wouldn't do that again to avoid awkwardness or defining myself.
I hope that helps. I know these days are very hard and full of tears—
Today a co-worker lost her son in a car wreck. How can we help?
Write down on your calendar what will be the one-month, two-month, six-month, one-year, anniversaries of his death. And determine to send a note, some flowers, something, anything, to let her know you remember and recognize that it is a hard day. When graduation or some other big milestone comes along, be sure to look for a way to include her and to recognize that her son is missing.
Continue to speak his name. Hearing your child's name is a balm. Something as simple as, "I thought about (name) today at the ballgame, and I so wish he was here to play with my stepson." Don't be afraid this will make her sad. She might cry. But you didn't make her sad. She was already sad and you let her release some of that sadness.
How do I deal with my father's deathday and Father's Day?
Also, I am a youth minister at a church currently. I am wondering how I tell my church that I do not want to go to church on Father's Day as I am unsure that I can even make it through that day let alone go to church on that day and sit through a Father's Day sermon.
Obviously you have a lot of fear and anticipation of these important days being very difficult for you. I think it is natural and even wise to anticipate that these will be difficult days and prepare for them.
There are two important things you need to embrace as you anticipate your birthday next year and Father's Day this year.
I hope that helps. It certainly doesn't fix the pain. But these are the things that have helped me on these hard days.
Did I have enough faith for my son to be healed?
We lost our 1 1/2 yr old in a drowning accident in our home. He spent 10 days on life support. They did numerous EEG's searching for any type of brain activity to no avail. We removed life support.
There have been definite times of struggle over whether I had enough faith. After the initial crying out to God, did I pray enough? Did I really believe he COULD heal him? Did the lady who came and prayed who saw him in a vision know something I didn't? Did I limit God?
At the time I read your book, I was really struggling with this because everywhere I turned people were singing God's praises because of something great he did in their familyhow he healed a little boy of a physical deformity (through surgery), how some premature twins had defied all doctors by how they had developed and leading mostly normal lives in good health. Then someone I knew had a drowning in their family and their son not only lived but you'd never know he drowned. All of this was kind of eating at me questioning my amount of faith and making me wish I could sing God's praises for the same reasons, not praising God because my son died. I read in your book how having faith wasn't believing that God would do whatever you wanted him to do but being willing to accept what He gives you. I knew when I read it that was true, and I thank you for reminding me of that, and helping me to return my focus to truth and not lies. It can still be a struggle, but I know that God is Good and I rest in that.
Believing God CAN heal your child is not the same thing as believing God WILL heal your child.
Blessings to you —
How do you approach daily Bible reading?
Then the devil comes with the normal excuse, "it's ok, you're busy, at least you read something!! God will understand."
Do you have a daily reading plan or diary? Do you read each book
of the bible starting chapter 1 to end of book? Do you concentrate
on each bible character? Any help, guidance, pointers, and weblinks,
etc will be greatly appreciated.
My best times come, however, when I choose a book of the Bible to work my way through, along with a pen and notebook. On a day, I might take a paragraph or even a few verses and then:
So I'll do it with you on the
passage I am on today:
What does it say?
What does it mean?
What are the implications for me?
Prayer: God, you deserve all my praise for who you are and what you've done. Thank you for your great mercy. Thank you that you are not stingy with it, that you don't make me work to earn it. You have extended it to me generously. And I need more today. So will you help me to rest in your great mercy today as I face my failures and inconsistencies? I love you for your mercy.
I wonder whom I need to show mercy to today that will give them a glimpse of you?
Thank you for giving me a new life. Why do I keep grabbing hold
of the old one and trying to live in the old way, when you've given
me a whole new start in a way of living that is powerful and overcoming
and the very definition of hope? Thank you for your promises of an
inheritance —I do believe the day is coming when I will enjoy in
full what you give me tastes of here and now. I will enjoy the richness
of your presence with me, the joy of being completely free of sin
and sorrow, an unfettered release to serve you like never before.
How I long for that day. Keep me focused on that inheritance, that
hope, so I can lessen my love for this world and the things it holds
out to me.
I hope this helps. A good study Bible (or a couple of different ones) with some study notes helps for when you come to those words and phrases that are hard to grasp. Sometimes you might go off on some references trying to figure something out. For example, these verses might prompt you to look up other verses that talk about "hope" or "inheritance" to seek out a clearer picture of what those important words mean.
The method is not nearly as important as the desire and the determination to do it when the desire fades. God will meet you in this place, I promise! He will speak to you through his word personally and powerfully.
Grace and peace to you in abundance (1 Peter 1:2)
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