By: Betsy O’Callaghan
What do we do when someone we love dies? How can we walk through the fire and pain that comes from the loss of that person who held such a huge place in our hearts? One thing I am becoming aware of is how very much God loves us. He knows what is coming in our lives, and He works, even ahead of time to prepare His children for tragedy and loss.
Last August I woke up in the middle of the night and felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to get up and write an article on suffering. I took notes of what I was hearing and even found scriptures which spoke of God’s love and comfort. The next day as I was reading what I had written I felt like it was not something I could write about authentically because I had never really experienced any deep suffering. At that time, even in the midst of the pandemic, there was much to celebrate. My middle daughter, Kellie, was getting married, and it was a joyous time. Two weeks after her wedding and a month after God had inspired me to write about suffering, tragedy struck. My younger brother, Brian, who I was very close to, a husband and father of three, my parents only son, died unexpectedly in his sleep. I had never been so shocked and devastated and seeing his wife and children and my parents suffering was unbearable. The pain was something I had never felt before. It took a few weeks before I came across the article on suffering that I had been inspired to write. Even now I am blown away when I think of the depth of God’s love and tender care for me. How He gave me the encouragement and strength of His promises when I was able to receive it, ahead of time, so I could have it ready when I felt unable to hear His voice or feel His presence.
“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
Deuteronomy 31:8 NLT
Mustard seed and fingertips.
This is my first point: God’s love is with us in our suffering.
In the midst of our pain we may lose sight and awareness of God’s loving presence with us. But rest assured, He never loses sight of us. He holds the future, and He knows the valleys we will walk through, and He goes before us to prepare for what we will need.
My second point is: God is with us in each moment and wants us to focus on today.
Like the old saying, “take it one day at a time.” In grief it is easy to get caught up in the past and dwell on the “what ifs”, or the “I wishes”. Also, we can lose ourselves in fearing the future, “How am I going to go on without this person?” God is a very present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1) His grace is our sufficiency and His joy and delight in us, His kids, is our strength. When we take our focus out of the present moment, we lose sight and awareness of God’s
presence. He gives us grace in each moment, not for the future fears, and not to change the past, that is why it says:
“Brothers and sisters, I know that I still have a long way to go. But there is one thing I do: I forget what is in the past and try as hard as I can to reach the goal before me.” Philippians 3:13 ERV
Also, Jesus told us “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Matthew 6:33 NLT
The third point is: relinquish your desire to control or understand and trust God.
One of the things that I am coming to understand is that God allows suffering in our lives to train us and strengthen us in our believing and trusting in Him. His love for us never changes, even if we can’t feel it or are doubting. His faithful love endures forever.
To be honest throughout my life I have always felt that I had God’s love and favor on me. After Brian died, I was so sad I told my husband that I felt like I had lost God’s favor, and that His Presence was no longer with me. Kevin reassured me and reminded me of all the things God was doing, even in that moment.
As I reflected on what God had inspired me to write, I found this statement, “We have His favor even when we suffer. He wants us to grow in our believing through our suffering, and His promises and His Spirit are with us through the fire.”
But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the One who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name, you are Mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
In conclusion, if you are grieving the loss of a loved one or a tough circumstance in your life. Remember: God’s love is with you. Stay mindful and focused on what is happening today and God’s grace in each moment. And let go of your need for control and your need to make sense of your pain and trust in God and His promises to save you through the fire.
“Yet when holy lovers of God cry out to Him with all their hearts, the Lord will hear them and come to rescue them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to all whose hearts are crushed by pain, and He is always ready to restore the repentant one.
Even when bad things happen to the good and godly ones, the Lord will save them and not let them be defeated by what they face.”
***Betsy O’Callaghan, M.H.S. is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who has been practicing in the Tampa Bay area for 20 years. Betsy completed her undergraduate work at Auburn University and completed her master’s degree at the University of Florida. Betsy is married to Kevin, a dentist in Seminole. The O’Callaghan’s have three children: Ashleigh, Kellie, and Carli. Betsy feels blessed that she is able to use her gifts to help those who come to see her grow in their relationship with Christ and receive God’s healing and direction in their lives through Biblical Counseling.