Reflections in Suffering

Sharing honestly from the storm.

A Family of Fighters

A Family of Fighters

I wept with aching joy last year when I received mini boxing gloves from one of Eli’s uncles. “Little" and "Warrior" are embroidered on each hand, the nickname we gave our son because he regularly had his fists raised during ultrasounds. He did it so often that our...

Lamenting Now

Lamenting Now

“A church that goes on singing happy songs in the face of raw reality is doing something very different from what the Bible itself does.” - Walter Bruegemann Right now, in the midst of this global pandemic, the weight of isolation is increasing. The case count is...

Steadfastness

Steadfastness

James 1:2 is one of several verses that circulates in the face of suffering, one that's getting more airtime now as we respond to this pandemic. “Count it all joy, brothers, when you face trials of various kinds.” But we can easily misinterpret James’ words as a...

The Reason

The Reason

I will not grasp for the purpose in my son’s death. I will not try to find the meaning behind his passing. Though I’m confident that Christ’s glory and redemption will have the final word, it feels futile to ponder the particulars on this side of heaven. The eternal...

Bold Groaning

Bold Groaning

When Christians speak about suffering, Romans 8:28 often rises to the surface: “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” The pull towards this promise should come as no surprise. It’s a...

Rising Hope

Rising Hope

The classic hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness”, has been cherished by many since its composition. Its chorus is based on Lamentations 3:22-23, verses that resound with abrupt hope in the midst of alarming affliction. The same section of  Scripture has also earned the...

Buried

Buried

When someone in your family dies, you’re immediately confronted with a host of suffocating decisions to make. Choosing a burial place is one of them. Many of us have to navigate this at some point, either for ourselves or for our loved ones. But there’s a unique...

Nativity Sorrow

Nativity Sorrow

This is our second year stumbling through Christmas without our son. His ornaments and empty stocking hang in our home and convey our aching: we remember Eli proudly and we miss him terribly. The weight of grief is compounded by the reality that there’s not much space...

Gratitude and Grief

Gratitude and Grief

Last year, as we awaited our son’s birth and death, I refused to be thankful. I was able to recognize the good things God had given us in the storm, but I did not let my acknowledgment lead to appreciation. There were several reasons for my refusal. As a new father,...

Lyrics of Lament

Lyrics of Lament

Take note of the lyrical content of our worship–both classic hymns and modern songs–and you will see a trend. Our songs mostly make declarations. From old treasures like “Amazing Grace” to recent ones like “What A Beautiful Name”, the majority of what we sing is...

Giving Honor

Giving Honor

This Friday, November 8, will mark one year since our son was given and taken away. One year since his tiny, perfect feet marked this page. One year since our hearts and arms began to ache of immeasurable emptiness. Though we knew his loss was inevitable, death still...

He Sat Down

He Sat Down

“How have you been?” It was hard to tell at first if my friend was genuinely asking. We hadn’t seen each other in months, and these passing interactions don’t typically go beyond the surface. Grief makes it difficult to answer questions like this, especially as you...

Ask, Seek, Knock

Ask, Seek, Knock

Jesus graciously welcomes us: “Ask...seek...knock.”  But this unbelievable invitation has been my ongoing affliction. I took him up on his offer during the darkest days of my life. My son’s fatal condition had guaranteed that he would only live hours at best. So I...

A Grieving Home

A Grieving Home

“Home” is yet another thing dragged along in the ever-changing tides of grief. It’s as if our house has been groaning with us, having an identity crisis of its own. It still whispers softly of the terribly few memories we have with our son and screams loudly of the...

Sorrow on Sundays

Sorrow on Sundays

We hid behind our pastor as we rushed out of the sanctuary. Our weeping during the service prompted him to bring us to another room where we could cry and talk. We were in the middle of the darkest days of our lives, walking through our first pregnancy knowing that...

Lamentless Church

Lamentless Church

It’s generally accepted that the Psalms should help shape the worship of the church. When early Christian communities came together, singing “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” was an essential element of their gatherings (Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19). If this is true, then...

Inconsistency

Inconsistency

Grief evolves in subtle and arbitrary ways. What began as paralyzing intensity slowly subsides and becomes a subdued but constant presence. Sadness continues to weigh me down, but it no longer threatens to drown me at every moment. I now endure days, even weeks,...

Courageous Love

Courageous Love

This is the only picture we have from when my wife was pregnant with Eli - another reality that’s saturated with both grief and gratitude. We’re thankful for the photo but we are still devastated that this is the only one we have. Her water broke mere hours before the...

Present-tense Pain

Present-tense Pain

There are countless resources out there that offer help to those who are suffering. Many are written from an “out of the storm” perspective with a clarity that may not have been present during the initial intensity of the hardship. The author will look back into their...

Tear-filled Faith

Tear-filled Faith

It’s tempting to wipe our tears away quickly - if we even dare to let them fall in the first place. An array of reasons and misconceptions pressure us to believe that dry eyes are a virtue and that joy, hope, faith, and courage need to be tearless. So we suppress or...

How Are You?

How Are You?

“How are you?” It’s a common question, although we normally use it as a polite greeting with no expectation of an honest answer. Just the standard, “Good, how bout you?” is a sufficient reply. But when you’re grieving, very few things are simple - especially casual...

Longing

Longing

There’s an unbearable longing that can surface in the depths of grief. Despair can prevent you from seeing beyond the present darkness and leave you looking backward - the only place where light seems to be. As “sorrows like sea billows roll” you ache for the days...

A Fearful Thing

A Fearful Thing

“‘Tis a fearful thing to love what death can touch. A fearful thing to love, to hope, to dream, to be – to be, And oh, to lose. A thing for fools, this, And a holy thing, a holy thing to love. For your life has lived in me, your laugh once lifted me, your word was...

Holy Hatred

Holy Hatred

Grief has acquainted me with a particular anger I have never known before. I’m not talking about the short temper I sometimes have due to deep sadness on any given day. Or the agitation when someone says something hurtful about our loss. Or the confusion with God...

Unanswered Prayer

Unanswered Prayer

Many passages confirm that God hears the cries of the afflicted. But some trials can make it seem as though he’s not listening, echoing the haunting experience of Lamentations 3: “Though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer.” After finding out we were...

Sleepless

Sleepless

With three, simple words the psalmist captures what it can be like when your head hits the pillow as you suffer: “I lie awake” (Psalm 102:7). Grief doesn’t sleep - so neither do you. In the first couple of months following my son’s death, I had to distract myself in...

Death’s Sting

Death’s Sting

Countless voices sang in unison this past weekend to proclaim Christ’s victory over the grave. The Church defiantly looked death in the face and proclaimed through prayer and song, “Death is swallowed up in victory! O death, where is your victory? O death, where is...

Gethsemane

Gethsemane

I will never forget the unshackling power of these words: “Jesus knows what it’s like.” In the most agonizing moment of our lives, our dear friends reminded us that our Savior understands crippling sorrow. After learning our son’s fatal diagnosis, we had been...

Blessing

Blessing

“Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.” Psalm 127:3-4 The day we learned we would be having a son was the same day we found out he would be taken from us....

For Us, With Us

For Us, With Us

The week we learned we would lose our child, I ‘happened’ to be preparing a sermon on Romans 8:31-39. This passage is the culmination of one of the most cherished chapters in the Bible. It’s a dramatic crescendo of the beauties and riches of the gospel. However, there...

Praiseless Hope

Praiseless Hope

My tears dampened my Bible as I sat with some of our closest friends. Our study of Psalm 43 had slowed to silence as they gave me space to wrestle for words to communicate my pain. Simply being in this section of Scripture is what began the stirring. Psalms 42 and 43...

Lament is Love

Lament is Love

Losing my son has carved out a permanent cavity in my soul. Though time may soften the edges of my grief, part of me will forever be occupied by his absence. As I wade through the perpetual wake of Eli’s death - waiting for the Lord to heal - I refuse to hasten or...

Honest Worship

Honest Worship

At our son’s memorial service, Psalm 44 put bold words to our agony as we lamented his loss with family and friends. It was a rare moment of corporate worship as hundreds of voices cried out together: “Awake! Why are you sleeping LORD? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us...

Why?

Why?

Suffering can reduce your prayers down to one agonizing word: why. For months now, I have only been able to come before the Lord with questions like, “Why, God? Why did you take my son? Why are you putting my wife and I through such misery? Why didn’t you answer our...

Identity

Identity

“Are you the ones who lost a child?” The question stung with thoughtless curiosity, but I simply replied, “Yes.” Yes, we are the ones who lost a child. Yes, I am a father without his son. Who I am is now defined by who I no longer have. Some of Jesus’ closest friends...

Lamentations

Lamentations

It’s appropriate that Eli’s footprints fit in my Bible, in the empty space at the end of Lamentations. My son’s tiny, lifeless feet marked a page where God’s sovereignty and man’s suffering collide in poetic chaos. Lamentations is a book that is both foreign and...