Special guest, Krissie Lain Garland
I have followed A Right Heart for over a year now. They entered into our shattered world after my husband suddenly took his life in January of 2019. A Right Heart ministered to me and continues to provide comfort and encouragement in my grief and in my journey towards understanding and healing.
My husband and I met in 2011 while both at Seminary studying in our graduate programs. He was a young man full of life, with a heart for Jesus. He was different than anyone I had known and I loved him almost immediately. Yet, loving him also meant loving him through the dark parts that a broken world brought his way. It was my honor as a wife, a sister in Christ and as a believer to carry these things—but it was challenging most days. He struggled with deep insecurities and mental illness; and was finally diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety in 2018. We served in churches for seven years as a pastor before this battle took him home. This added a whole other layer to his hiding and to his brutal fight to achieve a goal that seemed impossible.
So many questions have risen up since his death (and really the years before). They often rise like the waters in a flood. Sometimes, these questions have been slow to ascent and sometimes they drown me like I am in an ocean with no boundaries or resting place. When asked to write for this series on Job, I was honored. The book of Job has served as both a comfort and a guide in my grief. It has been a lamp that I often want to turn off in times of deep anguish, but also a guide to let me know how to keep pressing forward-- one step at a time. I’m not sure about you, but as I read Job (even after years of being a believer) I still hold a piece of incomprehension.
Why did God allow Job to endure so much?
Why did God not relieve him of his suffering sooner?
Why didn’t God just stop it?
I often relate to Job’s cry in Job 30:2- “I cry out to you, Oh God, but you do not answer; I stand up, but you only look at me.” Yet, as you read the entire book of Job, you observe a dance between God, Satan, Job, Job’s friends and most importantly between Job and God. These conversations are imperative in the big picture of Job’s life. You see the impact of the pain and sorrow, but you also see the beauty intertwined in these conversations between God and Job and in the answers he finds in the comfort of God’s presence and truth.
Some of my favorites are below:
Job 1:21: “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Job 3:20: “Why is light (continuously) given to him who suffers.”
Job 10:12: “You have granted me life and loving-kindness; your care has preserved my spirit. You have concealed in your heart; I know that this is within you.”
Job suffered, but he suffered in such a way that he continuously brought it back to faithfulness. He felt every inch of pain but his persevering faith allowed God’s favor to shine on him in the end. It wasn’t just the ending that shows us that God found favor in Job, it was in the process of how he suffered that continued to show us. So many people ask me “How do you suffer well when the pain seems too great?” I recently wrote a short blog post about “letting it hurt” and why feeling the pain and lamenting is an imperative part of the healing process. I think so often we continue to live in our heartaches, sufferings, and in our grief because we have no other choice—we must continue living our life though the pain we feel is unbearable at times. We must bear it and carry it forward. Yet, the answer to the question still remains, “How do we continue living through suffering and how do we keep going when our world seems to stop and everyone else’s continues going on?”
This is an answer that I am still living out in my brokenness and through the Holy Spirit at work within me. Just like Job didn’t have the exact answers then and didn’t have the full picture, I do not have them now. What I can only pray for is the faith of Job to keep searching and to keep trusting our Father (the same father of Job) in the midst of chaos and confusion.
How do we suffer well?
Today I want to share with you some things that have helped me continue living through my grief. First, I want to make it very clear that I have not arrived-- I still experience panic attacks and physical pain from the emotional pain of the things I’ve experienced. Suffering well is something I have not mastered yet, but I am striving to live in the midst of. As a professional Counselor, a believer, a mom, a widow, and a fractured human, I am still often at a loss of the right words to say that will provide solace and direction. I share these things with you acknowledging that my words aren’t always necessary and that intersession and the work of the Holy Spirit can provide the most powerful consolation.
Acknowledge the Truth
I have come to understand that there is no answer that is sufficient to our sufferings so long as we continue to focus on “things seen.” We are reminded of this throughout the book of Job. We have to set our mind on things “unseen.” If we continue to focus on our pain, sufferings, and problems, we will never be satisfied or find an answer that fulfills our longing heart. It is only by keeping our focus on God that we find true relief. We don’t find it by seeking after relief itself—but by seeking after Him. Relief is a byproduct of our knowledge of God, and of this world, and of our eternal reward. The sooner I grasped a hold of this truth, the sooner I began to heal. Some days I have to circle back around and remind myself of this truth.
Acknowledge Our Pain
God’s presence doesn’t change what happens to us. It doesn’t take away our pain but it hurries us to a hiding place in His arms and to knowing a love and a healing that we wouldn’t have understood otherwise. It helped me understand that the little strength I did possess needed to be replaced with an even greater strength that only the Lord could provide. There was a part of me that first needed to allow my humanness to be seen and lived out on a canvas for the display of his splendor. As Christians, hiding in our sorrows, seems to come natural. We do not want others to come to us or see us as Job’s “friends” did. We want to figure it out ourselves while painting on a brave face. However, showing our pain can be the greatest part of our healing because in our brokenness and humanness, God’s light can shine through and His glory can be seen in our lives. I continue to share in my personal sufferings because I see that there is freedom in acknowledging it, strength in depending on the Lord in it, and power in letting God use it.
Live out your Grief
Seasons of pain might feel pointless, but as believers, those might be the most valuable moments we spend here on this earth. We often can get lost in our grief and that’s okay. It’s okay to learn as we go—to stop, to question, to cry, to scream, to seek understanding, to be angry, to sit in the dampness of our own tears. When my husband took his life, I felt it all. There were days my face didn’t see daylight because my heart couldn’t handle that life kept moving forward. It was a full month to get myself dressed and out the door. But I kept going, knowing that one day I would be able to get out bed when I heard the sound of my kids’ laughter, and allow the sun to shine on my face again. I didn’t want to pass by this time of grief, because I wanted to heal and knew that heartache would be a big part of that and a big part of my growth. I would feel every ounce of it because it brought me closer to my Savior who would ultimately bring me to a place of living wholly again... a place where I could hold my kids and laugh... a place where I could pray with confidence... a place where I could go to work... a place where I could be a friend again. I still experience challenging days (of course) but living looks different than before and I can be beautifully rebuilt day by day through my grief and through my understanding of God’s role in it all.
Set goals. Keep living. Know that there is life beyond this season. Trust God to be faithful and his presence to be near. One day we will reap the harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).
Krissie Lain Garland
MMFT, LPC, CCTS