“Oh death, where is your sting? My resurrected King has rendered you defeated!” -Forever, by Kari Jobe
I remember the first time I tried to sing those words at my daughter Luca’s memorial service on March 7, choking and gasping for breath as if I’d swallowed poison, yet fighting to declare truth with what little strength I had left.
Two days after she lay lifeless in my arms, I was determined to make a sound in the midst of my pain that could never be made again—a sound of powerful adoration to push back the darkness that threatened to destroy me. A sound bright with life as the lies hovered close, longing to take ground in my heart.
As I picked up my guitar, beginning to play exactly 9 months ago in front of friends and family as we celebrated her short life, I knew the words we had crafted in the song Forever were absolutely true—except I had just suffered tragic loss where life was torn from my arms by a cruel thief. And then, for quite a while, death kept stinging like a million knives slashing slowly at my heart, all while forcing me to continue breathing.
And though I could barely whisper the words under the weight of a mountain of pain, I kept singing, and singing, and singing lyrics I didn’t have the capacity to believe, yet knowing they would someday feel true:
Oh death, where is your sting? My resurrected King has rendered you defeated!
Last night as I went to bed, I knew death might come knocking twice in my world—once with my husband’s Grandmother Sue whose deadly cocktail of pnemonia and cancer threatened to snuff out life at any moment; and then my beautiful friends Chris & Alyssa Quilala of Jesus Culture whose sweet baby boy’s heart stopped beating in her womb at 35 weeks.
In our Western Christian culture, it seems (at times) that crumbling under the landslide of death makes you weak, or indicates signs of a heart lacking in faith. People put on smiles and declare verses to you like James 1:2 about considering the trial pure joy, or Romans 8:28 about God working it for good. And though these verses are entirely true, in the wake of tragic loss, many times I just wanted to say…..Can you please wait a hot minute before my pain makes you so uncomfortable that you’re trying to pull me out of it?
Why would Jesus have ever sent us a Comforter if He never expected us to mourn?
So friends, as you watch those around you grieve, let me offer some advice. Learn to grieve with them. Learn what true grieving really looks like. Learn to be like the Comforter. Crawl down into the pain with those you love, simply putting your arm around them, and please take this in the nicest way possible…..keep your mouth shut as much as you can, being comfortable with silence and sobs. Don’t try to have all the answers. Don’t spout out verses, even though they may be true. As someone is crying, just be a shoulder to cry on, adding the phrase, “I’m just so sorry,” as something more than sufficient for the moment.
In the moments of tragic loss, please don’t try to silver-line someone’s cloud. Just sit with them in the rain—possibly sharing your umbrella and letting them soak your chest with tears.
As we gear up for our first healing gathering at the Gold Monarch Healing Center next week, I’ve been compiling a list of worship songs I’ll lead for our group of 5 incredible broken hearts from all over the country. And this year after Luca Gold died in my arms, as the Comforter has been close, family has been steady, and friends have held me up, I can’t wait to pick up my guitar and lead a declaration that I was barely able to sing just 9 months ago. However, because I kept singing this song in faith, even as death stung like a hundred thousand spears, this song is now my anthem, its melody is now my decree, and I not only feel it in my bones—with tears of sorrow still falling down my cheeks—I believe it in the heart that Jesus is continuing to make whole.
“Oh death, where is your sting? My resurrected King has rendered you defeated!”