Ever lived an impossible day when you wished you could run away? How about an impossible week or month? How about an impossible year? Those of us who grieve, live in or have lived through the inescapable darkness of sadness. I learned this darkness first hand when I lost my firstborn to suicide over ten years ago.
Long, long before our time, there was a prophet of God who ran when he faced what looked like an impossible task. His name was Jonah, and his fascinating story is found in the Old Testament. It’s a gripping story that was perfect for my imagination when I first heard it as a kid. I was captivated by the prophet who dared defy God and ended up doing time in the belly of a mammoth fish. More about the fish in a later story. First, let’s explore the running part.
As one of God’s prophets, Jonah had likely completed missions before, but he was about to refuse one. Refuse God? How does a puny human dare do that? It does not appear in the story that Jonah answered God, but he made a decision not to obey nonetheless. God, who knows everything and cannot be fooled, knew what His prophet was plotting, but He did not interfere. Instead, He allowed the situation to play out in real time.
Act One of Jonah’s story unfolds as God directs him to the enemy territory of Nineveh. Probably fearful for his own safety, Jonah heads for the harbor and boards a ship headed in the opposite direction from Nineveh. It is obvious to the reader that he does not intend to obey orders, as he works a plan to get as far away from God’s commission as possible.
I did not run away physically from my situation, like Jonah did from his “mission impossible” assignment, but I wanted to run away emotionally. Run from the agony and shock that engulfed me. Run from the relentless, clawing fingers of emotional pain. Run from the choking fog, my constant companion. Run from the voices screaming in my head, you could have prevented this so why didn’t you? It was later, after lots of time on the hamster wheel of brutal guilt and blame, that God helped me understand who was behind the negative guilt messages assaulting my brain. They are never from my God who loves me. Instead, they are always from the enemy who hates me. Always.
How could I continue to live? How could life be worth living without my firstborn child in it? Many such questions flooded my mind in the beginning months of my grief journey. I was to learn that it takes time to sort out the emotions and feelings that come after loss, and in time, I was able to embrace the loved ones in my life who still needed me. Finally, I came to grips with the truth that I was not responsible for my child’s death. That horrific decision was his alone (no doubt coerced by the enemy of souls).
You may be wondering, what does a grief journey, in the here and now, have to do with Jonah’s story of long ago? The correlation, for me, is this: just as Jonah thought he could hide from God, and God wouldn’t notice, I “hid” from life after my son died. I can’t remember how long I avoided mixing with people, but I do remember that I was still in deep grief when I heard a voice give me a “mission impossible” assignment.
I was alone in the house that day when I heard a voice speak in my head. I was both startled and surprised . . . is that You, God? God had never spoken to me before, but somehow I assumed the Voice was His. What the Voice said stunned me to my toes.
You want me to do what? The Voice did not repeat the assignment. It simply said, “I want you to reach out to help others in similar pain.” I could not believe my ears. If I heard God correctly, He was asking me, this broken-hearted, broken-down mom, who was still stuck in the mire of her own throbbing pain, to reach out and lend my shattered heart to help others in similar sorrow. I panicked at the very thought! How could a weakling, such as I, help anyone? I pretended not to hear.
Avoidance was something I was familiar with. Like Jonah, “I ran” from the assignment. I thought, God can pick on somebody else better suited. I have enough pain on my plate to deal with, and quite frankly, I could use a little help from someone who is surviving her own suicide grief journey! What I did not understand, at the time, was that God had the exact same idea in mind, and help was on the way. When I finally relented to follow His plan by reaching out to help others in grief, I found that every contact, every word written helps me along my healing journey as well.
We are never alone. No matter what, God is always there to comfort us, as He has said, “I will never leave you; I will always be by your side.” Hebrews 13:5b
Scripture from The Voice (VOICE)