I don’t know that there is any greater loss than that of losing a child. This week, as part of our Satan Thought He Had Me: Stories of Redemption That Will Give You Hope series, I have the honor of sharing with you a friend who deeply inspires me. She is not only a brilliant writer, but the most faith-filled woman I know. Her story will remind you that hope is alive and that Jesus will always hold you.
Discovering Hope in Jesus After Losing a Child
I still remember the day I took my teenage son to buy his back-to-school shoes for his first day of high school. Nervous for him to attend a public high school after a lifetime in Christian schools, I desperately wanted him to fit in. I didn’t want his peers to think he had less than they did. And so, on that shoe-shopping day, I probably spent more than my single-mom budget could afford on a new pair of red and black Nike’s.
My son only wore those Nike’s for three weeks. Not because he outgrew them. Not because he decided he didn’t like them. But because his life tragically ended in an ATV accident on Labor Day weekend, seven years ago.
It’s a proven fact that intense grief, such as from losing a child, dramatically affects the brain, altering the ability to recall and process information. And while I can attest that is absolutely true, there is no clearer picture in my mind, even all these years later, than those red and black Nike shoes.
I remember holding onto the scuffed sneakers in the ambulance, still on my son’s feet, as the paramedics worked for nearly an hour to revive him. I remember focusing on the stitching of the shoes, trying to get my breathing under control as I became lightheaded from hyperventilating. I remember the shoelaces being wet from the tears that wouldn’t stop as I prayed desperately for God to save my son.
In that ambulance, I remember thinking how foolish I was that it somehow mattered which brand of shoes he wore. Or how popular he was. Or how many friends he had. Or how well he fit in. All that mattered was his faith in what God had done for him.
Moments later, that very faith became sight and God welcomed Joe home.
I had a lot of plans for what my life would look like as I got older. But losing a child was not one of them. I couldn’t make sense of it. Had God even heard me? Were my prayers useless? Didn’t God know how much I loved my son? How could I lose a child on top of everything else I had walked through? Where was God when I needed Him?
As I watched the ambulance drive away with my son’s body, all seemed lost. It seemed as if death had won. And in my anger at what God seemingly did not do to answer my prayers, I am certain Satan rejoiced.
Perhaps it wasn’t too dissimilar to the rejoicing he did at another death 2,000 years ago when the Savior of the world hung on a cross.
All must have seemed lost to the disciples and to those who loved Jesus, especially his mother Mary. Perhaps they wondered where God was. Perhaps they wondered if their prayers were heard. Perhaps, they too, thought that death had won. And as Jesus’ body was taken away and placed in the tomb, I have no doubt Satan rejoiced.
The weeks following my son’s death were a blur.
I stumbled through each day in a fog of grief, where simply eating and sleeping were difficult chores. But as the fog began to lift, the anger and questions set in.
“Why him, God?”
“Why didn’t you spare his life?”
“Couldn’t there have been a different way?”
As I cried out to my Father, He began to reveal to me that He did understand the pain and suffering of my grief.
You see, losing a child was not foreign to God. But while I did everything I could to save my child, God did not do the same for His. God willingly chose to turn His back on His only Son. Even when Jesus cried out to Him on the cross, His Father was silent. Not because He didn’t hear. Not because He didn’t care. But because there was no other way. He loved us too much to be without us. Broken, sinful, ungrateful….us.
Satan might have claimed victory on that Good Friday.
Until Sunday came.
And as we know, dear friends, that Sunday changed everything.
That Easter Sunday meant death was no more. It meant victory for the believer. It meant life eternal in heaven. It meant no more good-byes. And for me, it meant losing a child wasn’t forever.
Surviving the loss of a child
People have often wondered how I’ve survived these years without my son. I have no magic formula, no easy 10-step program. There have been difficult days with many tears. There have been days of anger. Doubt. Fear. Loneliness. Heart-crushing grief. And to be sure, there were moments when Satan thought he had me. But each time, God’s Word pulled me closer.
When I felt I couldn’t go another step or survive another second without my son, I was reminded that “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” ~ Psalm 73:26
When the tears just couldn’t stop as I mourned my son, I was reminded that “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort … comforts us in all our troubles …” ~ 2 Corinthians 1:3
When I felt the loneliness of an empty bed across the hall where my son and I used to do our nightly devotions, I was reminded that “…the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” ~ Deuteronomy 31:6b
When I held my son’s ashes in my arms as I said my final goodbyes, I was reminded that Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die…” ~ John 11:25
I cling more tightly to every promise of God than I ever did to those red and white Nike’s on that horrible Monday in September. The shoes were temporary. But God’s promises are forever.
For You as You Face Your Trials
Friends, I don’t know what trial you are facing, or have faced. It might be big or small. It might have happened years ago or perhaps you are walking through the fire at this very moment. Satan may be doing his absolute best to pull you away from the God who loves you more than anything in this world. Who loves you so much, He sacrificed His Son for you. Who has never once failed to keep His promises. Who has and is and will hold on to you through whatever it is you face.
Satan might try to get a grip on you. But Jesus will hold you tighter.
About the Author: Liane Henkell
Liane is the author of the blog, “Toilet on the Sidewalk”. She is currently working on self-publishing a devotional book with the same name, which focuses on finding hope in unexpected circumstances. After teaching for 20 years in Lutheran schools, Liane now works for Garuna Ministries as a content developer, supporting Christian schools in Cambodia. Together with her husband Jim, a ministry executive for churches in the Pacific Southwest, they share three children here on earth: Noah, Reagan, and Ella. Joseph currently resides with his Heavenly Father.
To get to know Liane better, connect with her on Instagram.
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Friend, if you are human, you either have, are, or will face trials. As Christians, we are not promised lives free of pain. But we are promised to never go through the pain alone. God is with us and if we hold tight to Him, we can make it through whatever we face.
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