Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
“I’m not the first mother to lose a child and I won’t be the last.”
These words said to me, by one of my best friends just a few days after her 18month old son was buried.
I had flown in to the States from Peru, where we were missionaries at the time, for a child’s funeral. I arrived to a church body grieving and broken, asking deep questions of how a good God could allow such a senseless accident that would take his life, a life loved by a dear family walking closely with Him and serving faithfully in His work. I must have had 50 conversations that week, all asking the same things. And these were my own questions as well. God…why???
But my friend, the child’s mother, while not the picture of stoicism at all, honestly spoke truth that has stayed with me even these several years later. She was not the first mother to lose a child and she would not be the last, and while that in no way trivializes the trauma, it does speak to our tendency to think we are the only ones suffering a particular difficulty, tragedy, at a particular moment. And the truth is, there is nothing new under the sun. Everything that we have gone through or will go through, someone else in space and time has gone through as well and someone else will go through it in the future. And that comforts me.
None of us live under the illusion that life this side of Heaven is, well..heavenly. It is hard and frustrating and yes, even tragic at times. But God, who never said we would not face trials, but instead tells us how to encounter them (James 1), also comforts us in our times of difficulty and tragedy. He comforts us with His Spirit, and he comforts us, with…us- those of us who have walked that difficult and tragic path have the privilege of serving as comforters to those who are called to follow behind us. And while we wish no one would have to endure anything so hard, we know that it will happen. And so we wait, and keep ourselves available, seeking help for our own grief and struggle from those who have gone before us.
A year later, almost to the day, my mother called me in Peru. My brother had died in his sleep. It was hard to hear, hard to walk, but my friend had already been walking the path of grief, so I knew that while it was a difficult road, it was doable with the grace and comfort given by God through his Spirit and His people.
A few months after that, when we had moved back to the states, my friend and I were walking and she was telling me how she has had several women who have lost children seek her out to talk with. She told me, “This is not a ministry I would have asked for, but it is a ministry that I now have.”