One of my favorite C. S. Lewis quotes about heaven is, "There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind." It took tragedy in my life to truly believe that. While I loved God before, I didn't thirst after him. The idol worship of a perfect family on earth interfered. God had to remove that idol from my life so I could hunger and thirst after only Him. I realize now it was a "mercy in disguise." I am comforted by the facts that "pain reminds this heart that this is not our home" and "the aching of this life is a revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy."
When we are in the midst of sorrow and despair, the enemy will attempt to fill our thoughts with lies. I once shared my frustrations questioning the effectiveness of prayer when seemingly none of my prayers were being answered. A wise friend reminded me who was putting those thoughts in my head, and that it wasn't God! Ever since then, any time I am tempted to listen to the lies of the enemy, I think back to her question: "Who is telling you that?" It is important to fill our minds with God's truth by reading His word. It tells a much different story!
"Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world." (Martin Luther) No truer statement could be made about what I hold so dear. When my world was crashing down, when everything I thought I ever wanted was fading away, when all hope seemed lost, God's word and music inspired by His children sustained me.
Although grief-stricken, angry, and full of questions, every morning without fail I met with God and asked Him to reveal Himself to me through His word. Naturally, I turned to the Old Testament, especially the Psalms, for comfort. And what comfort I found there! I found others who were grief-stricken. I found angry children of God! And I found believers who questioned what God was doing. But I also found the words "but" and "yet" - words used to introduce a contrast. After the psalmists had poured out their grief-stricken, angry, and questioning hearts to God, they turned around and said, "But I remember the works You have done. But I trust in Your unfailing love. But the Lord supported me." And, "Yet You are holy. Yet will I trust in Him. Yet I am confident I will see the Lord's goodness while I am here in the land of the living." The psalmists and others contrasted their current situations with the attributes of an unchanging and unfailing God.
Music, like the scriptures, shows me I am not alone in my grief, anger, or doubt. Others have traveled this same road. Their songs acknowledge my current feelings, but also remind me of the steadfastness of God. While I was in the midst of deep grief, a friend gave me a CD filled with such music and attached this explanatory note: "One beggar telling another where she found some bread." May the following song suggestions feed your hungry souls as well.
I look forward to heaven more now than I ever have before. I can’t wait for the time when “There will be a day with no more tears, no more pain, no more fears. There will be a day when the burdens of this place will be no more, and we’ll see Jesus face to face, but until that day we’ll hold on to You always.”
Blessed Be Your Name by Matt Redman
How He Loves Us by David Crowder
Love So High by Hillsong
Another updated version of a classic hymn "The Solid Rock" spoke to my heart as I chose to focus on the foundation of Jesus Christ. "When darkness seems to hide his face, I rest on his unchanging grace. In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil."
Cry Out to Jesus by Third Day
The Voice of Truth by Casting Crowns
Blessings by Laura Story
It Is Well by Kristine Demarco and Bethel Music
One of the lies the enemy told me is that surely God can't love me if He lets me experience such pain. To combat this thought, I had to purposefully fill my thoughts with reminders of God's love. I love the lines from this song that say, "When all of a sudden I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory, and I realize just how beautiful you are and how great your affections are for me." (The words "If His grace is an ocean, we're all sinking" get me every time!)
The stories behind the great hymns of the faith make them even more meaningful. Such is the case with "It Is Well With My Soul" written by Horatio Spafford. After many losses both personal (the death of a two-year old son) and financial, Horatio sent his wife and daughters ahead of him on a trip to Europe. The ship on which his family was traveling collided with another and all four daughters were lost at sea. On his voyage to join his wife following this traumatic event, Horatio Spafford penned the words to this famous hymn as his ship was crossing the very point where his daughters perished. While I love the original hymn, this updated version was on constant repeat following the death of my daughter. "Through it all, through it all my eyes are on You. Through it all, through it all it is well."
Welcome Home by Michael W. Smith
There Will Be a Day by Jeremy Camp
As you continue on your grief journey I pray as Paul did for the Ephesians in 1:19-20 “that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power (emphasis added) that raised Christ from the dead …” There is nothing God cannot do to help you.
Come As You Are by David Crowder
"Beauty Will Rise" by Stephen Curtis Chapman is an entire album that not only acknowledges everything I felt during my deep grief, but also reminds me of the faithfulness of the only God who can make beauty from ashes. Penned following the loss of his daughter, Maria, this album is "part lament, part praise, part grief, part hope, part wrestling, part pondering." When you "don't even want to breathe right now," these songs will speak to your heart and point you to the only One worth trusting. My personal favorites from this album are "Beauty Will Rise," "Faithful," "Questions," "God Is It True (Trust Me)," "I Will Trust You," and "Spring is Coming."
Cornerstone by Hillsong
This song causes buckets of tears of joy to my eyes! I love the visual of “angels gathered around, saying, ‘This is where you belong. Welcome home.’” The moment after my daughter, Laura, took her last breath on earth, she took her next breath in heaven where she is waiting to welcome ME home!
Every day is full of choices including what we listen to. I pray you take that great treasure of music and choose songs filled with truth that point you to the greatest treasure of all – Jesus Christ.
Following the Loss of a Child
Beauty Will Rise by Stephen Curtis Chapman
One thing I learned early on from the psalmists was to tell God how I was feeling - even if (especially when!) it wasn't pretty. The reality is He already knows! It is cathartic to be honest with God and get those emotions out in the open because, "There is grace and forgiveness, mercy and healing. He'll meet you wherever you are."
So great was my need for the truth of God’s love, I chose Ephesians 3:18 for the back of my daughter’s headstone: “May you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.” (NLT) How comforting to know that because God’s love is so great, death has been defeated!
Same Power by Jeremy Camp
When I attended my first conference for grieving mothers, the keynote speaker spoke on the passage from John 5:6 where Jesus asked the man lying by the Pool of Bethesda, "Do you want to get well?" I had never thought of healing as a choice we can make! We can choose to stay in our sorrow and despair, or we can choose to be made whole. As you begin to listen to these songs, I invite you to "Come out of sadness, from where ever you've been. Come broken-hearted let rescue begin."
Beth Redman's experiences after suffering three miscarriages in a row were part of the inspiration behind the song "Blessed Be Your Name" written by her husband, Matt Redman. The couple also wrote a book by the same name in which they state that worshiping God is a choice. As they said in the book, "When life is peaceful and painless, the choice to respond to God in thanksgiving and praise may not be such a hard one to make. But at other times in our lives, worship becomes a much gutsier decision." I love that! Worship during times of grief can truly be a gutsy decision. Maybe that's why Hebrews 13:15 describes it as a "sacrifice of praise"!