The scenes of that day are seared in my mind. Six years and one month ago, I sat at my sister’s bedside and watched her gasp her last breath. Until that moment I had held on to a tiny remnant of faith for a miracle. After all, I believed that God could move mountains, and God could respond to our prayers for healing and life.
As I painfully grieved her death, I wasn’t aware that I was also grieving the loss of something else—my trust in God. It took years to get there but eventually I found myself in a spiritual winter. Cold and barren, yes, but this winter’s worst characteristic was its fog. Doubt, uncertainty, confusion, and discouragement were clouding everything about my life that once was obvious and clear. The hurt in the world and my own circumstances of grief and loss proved God’s absence more than anything. My mantra in my head was “Why?” I asked myself (and God) that question about virtually everything. Nothing made sense. Senseless violence. Senseless disease. Senseless pain. Senseless activity. Senseless numbing.
“Meaningless, meaningless. Everything is meaningless.” When I read those words from Ecclesiastes, I almost shouted, “Yes!” As I read that a window in my heart opened and I started to feel comfort where there was pain and bewilderment. I kept reading. . . “Light is sweet, and it pleases the eyes to see the sun. However many years a man may live, let him enjoy them all. But let him remember the days of darkness, for they will be many. Everything to come is meaningless.” Yes, I understood exactly the sentiment! I realized then that the cold absence of meaning I was experiencing was okay. It was a season of the heart. And from what I remembered seasons do end. For the first time in a long while I began to remember the sweet light of my youthful faith. Yes! I wanted that again. I longed for that.
My sense of purposelessness and doubt continued for a bit, but ironically this season devoid of meaning was actually crystallizing what was most important in my life. Love, family, beauty, gratitude. I slowly began to realize that if I looked for it, I could find evidence of God’s goodness in even the smallest ways. There was definitely much to be thankful for even in winter. The twinkles in the eyes of my children. A loving partner to share my yoke. Friends who practiced Christ’s love in incredible ways.
This winter is now springing. My question of “Why?” has now become a “When and where?” When will you sprout goodness and redemption from this horrible mess? Where will I make out the work of your hand? If I look for it I can see what God’s grace has grown despite and because of my sister’s death. It is true when it is said that even in death, God brings new life.