Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ (2 Cor. 12:8-9)
“Jim, if there is anyone who can survive and carry on after losing a child, it is you because of your strong faith in Jesus.”
I received many messages that contained some variation of the above words. Although I appreciated this support, I didn’t know how to hear it because I didn’t feel strong but weak and lost and dazed. I simply couldn’t accept that I would never again—at least in this life—see Anna, speak to her, battle wits with her, and hold her.
C.S. Lewis, in his book about how he coped with his wife’s early death, A Grief Observed, wrote, “You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you.”
Anna’s death forced me to ask myself—like my life and death depended upon it—what I really believed about Jesus, about eternal life, and about the hope that all those in Jesus will someday be reunited.
Although I wouldn’t say that I lost my faith during the dark time following Anna’s death, I can say that I had a hard time locating my faith, feeling it, drawing from it, and standing upon it.
My faith: In my early 20s, I went from being curious about Jesus to utterly sold out and committed to Him. I came to trust and accept and, in time, proclaim that without Him and His grace, I was a dead, lost, sad, bad, and broken man. Looking back on my life and all that I had been through, I knew that I couldn’t make sense of my life without Him.
The person who most helped me to cross over into these strong convictions was Jesus. I don’t quite know how to say this, but He simply felt more real than anyone or anything else. I felt His presence in worship, heard a whisper of His words in scripture, and got a glimpse of His care and direction when I prayed.
In sharing a little of my faith journey, I don’t mean to convey that I never struggled or questioned or doubted where Jesus is and how He impacts our lives—of course, I did. But what I do mean to convey is that a current of faith always sustained me during all the circumstances and challenges I was experiencing.
In the wasteland following Anna’s death, Paul’s words in today’s scripture— “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness”—kept circling around and poking at me. When I admitted and accepted that I had never been weaker, more lost, or needier, a small stream of grace began to trickle into my soul. Those intimations of comfort and support didn’t come from my own faith but from the faith of others. Even though I felt like I couldn’t lean into my own faith, the faith of others leaning into me began to touch my numb soul. Because just the right people at just the right time with just the right words or presence came to me—are still coming to me, I began to trust that they were sent and that the sender was Jesus.
Am I healed? No. Is everything all better? No. Am I pulled together? No. Am I finished with grieving my daughter’s death? Not during this life. But being strong enough—and honest enough—to admit that I wasn’t, strength began coming to me from the love and faith of others.
Although I always trusted Paul’s words to be true— “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness”—I now know them to be true. At the time when I most needed these words to be true, they were.
- What do Paul’s words mean to you?
- Have you ever felt like you had to be strong enough to admit that you were not? If so, what were the circumstances?
- Has anyone else’s faith ever helped you to find and claim your own? Have you ever leaned your faith into someone else’s life when they most needed it?