My child died. God is good?

Sunday at church a song was sung that has been stuck in my head ever since.  I say “it was sung” instead of “we sang,” because both Scott and I found ourselves unable to sing it.  We were not familiar with the song so we were particularly attentive to the words.  It repeatedly said about God, “You are good, good” followed by repeatedly saying “You’re never gonna let me down.”  After several choruses of “you’re never gonna let me down” I leaned over to Scott to ask him what exactly he thought it meant.  Perhaps the song is written by someone much younger than us and the meaning of that phrase has changed, but for us, “never gonna let me down” means I will never be disappointed.  Similarly, Macmillan Dictionary defines “let down” as “to make someone disappointed by not doing something that they are expecting you to do.”  In the songwriter’s defense, maybe he or she meant God will never forsake us, which is, of course, true.

As I’ve thought about those lyrics from that song I’ve been reminded of how we as believers frequently report good news and follow it by a euphoric exclamation of, “God is good!”  For years, long before Sarah’s departure, I’ve been bothered by stating the truth “God is good,” in the context of good things happening to us.  Linking good circumstances with a statement of God’s goodness seems to beg the questions, what if it had not been good news?  Would God still be good, then?  Certainly those good circumstances are blessings of God, but if they are the evidence of God’s goodness, what are the terrible circumstances evidence of?  I’ve often wished we instead reserved the statement “God is good” as a battlecry for the wounded rather than an “amen” to everything that goes our way.

The reality is God didn’t just let our family down.   Disappointing us or letting us down sounds far too mild.  Instead, in the blink of an eye He allowed our family to plummet into a deep, dark, unimaginably painful pit.  We had bathed our precious child in prayer, pleading for her safety.  I had wrestled with putting her on that bus that morning and had prayerfully gone through the process of entrusting her to Him and His providential care as I allowed her to walk up those steps.   I absolutely was hopefully expecting him to honor those prayers to keep her safe, and I was wretchedly, horribly, excruciatingly disappointed.

Our family identifies with Paul.  Our good God has allowed us to be afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down, and we bear “great sorrow and unceasing grief” in our hearts. (2 Cor. 4:8-9; Rom. 9:2).  Our good God absolutely allows His children to be let down, disappointed, wounded, broken, grieved, persecuted and even killed.  He told us in His Word that He would.  He repeatedly warns us we live in a fallen world, and that we have an enemy who has come to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).  He warns us that we will endure fiery trials (1 Peter 4:12).  And if that’s not clear enough, He tells us, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12).

His goodness is completely independent of our circumstances.  His goodness is not contingent on health, wealth or prosperity.  His goodness is not compromised by tribulation or suffering.  To the contrary, His goodness is most powerfully experienced and displayed when He, our mighty Deliverer, plunges into the pit with us (Psalm 40).  He is faithful to be there with us, as the mire of heartbreak and agony press in tight and we struggle to breathe, He upholds us by His righteous right hand (Isa. 41:10).  Though the waters rise, He will not allow us to be completely overtaken (Psalm 69).  In the midst of our pain and suffering His sustaining grace is poured out enabling us to persevere and testify, “we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed (2 Cor. 4:8-9).

Some have mocked our faith since the accident, presuming out of finite imagination that a good god would only allow good circumstances and would never allow us to be let down or disappointed in such a way as we have suffered.  Such a view fails to take into account the totality of scripture and the fact that this life is not the focus, it is but a flicker.  When we look with earthly eyes at the painful circumstances of this temporal life there seems no option but hopelessness and despair.  However, when we view the struggles of this life through the lens of scripture and eternality, God’s goodness is clearly revealed.  “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (1Pe 5:10 NASB).  “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.  For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”  (2 Cor. 4:16-18 NASB).

For most of us there will come a day when the mountain before us is not moved, the flood is not diverted or the flames are not quenched.  When that day comes we can persevere knowing that, though the path before us is unspeakably hard, we do not go alone.  Our good God was not absent or unaware the day Sarah died.  He did not abandon us or forsake us.  The mountain was not moved, the flood was not diverted and the flames were not quenched for our family on June 8th, 2017.  Even so, we still testify, shouting the battlecry of the wounded, “God is good!”

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37 thoughts on “My child died. God is good?

  1. I remember so clearly- it was a Sunday afternoon and “Hope”’s birthfather came to pick her up. Richard and I were devastated. And heartbroken. We went to church that night at Capshaw- I don’t remember the song but we were both compelled to lift our hands in worship, testifying to the goodness of the Lord. I still believe it’s one of the sweetest moments of surrender and worship we have ever experienced- when things are not at all the way we want them and yet we trust in Him. Much love to you friend.

  2. Thank you for sharing! The reality is we are all either in a storm, coming out of a storm, or heading into one. Levi Lusko who lost his 5 year old daughter to asthma said as Christians we are preparing for the trial we are not yet in. In God’s mysterious way, when we go through the storms, even though we can’t see we can somehow know He is with us.. Love and hugs and gratitude to you and your precious family and continued prayers..

  3. So we’ll expressed. May the God of all comfort wrap you and your family in His loving arms and comfort you as only He can this Christmas season. Praying for ya’ll.

  4. I heard this song for the first time 2wks ago in church and I couldn’t sing it either. Just about had a major meltdown right there in the pew. My heart was breaking all over again on different levels as I realized that I am so disappointed about my daughter not being here and I do feel let down. I thought the exact same thing, obviously whoever wrote this has not experienced some major life events and whoever choice the song for worship hasn’t either. After church I needed alone time with God to process this and some other things. Thank you for your blog. It spoke directly to my heart. ❤

    1. Liesl, I am so sorry it hurt your wounded heart so, I am lifting you up in prayer right this minute. I am thankful and encouraged to know God used the post to speak to your heart, thank you for sharing. Much love in Him – Karen

      1. Late, thank you so much for praying for me. It means so much. : )
        God spoke to me that day and again through your blog. I know my life here is but a tiny flicker when compared to eternity. I have found as many others have that after the death of a child or some other life changing event, I have learned deeper truths about God and who He is. I do trust Him through the pain and know He is there with me. Sometimes I get smacked upside the head though with things though like the word ‘disappoint’ in the song. I hadn’t realized that I was thinking that way. So, it was good for me to hear that and examine my heart and spend time with Him doing that. Reading your blog was further confirmation of what He wants me to know about Him. It’s just difficult at church or other settings because so many people don’t understand nor do I expect them to.
        Many blessings to you and your family! Liesl

  5. Thank you for expressing the treasure of
    a deep faith that knows Emmanuel—God With Us. God is Good even when we walk paths that break our hearts. May He continue to be your Sure Foundation as you wait to see Him face to face!
    We see HIM in YOU as you shout the battle cry in your pain and it encourages us to a deeper faith that is not dependent upon flames being quenched or mountains being moved.

  6. This is so very true. I’ve struggled with why God didn’t heal my son, he certainly had many opportunities. And scores upon scores of faithful believers prayed for my son’s healing. But still God did not heal him and instead we were right by his side as he took his last breaths from complications from his bone marrow transplant at the age of 18 years old. I don’t understand, and I’ve had those same moments in church. But I’m choosing to believe that God is still good, he didn’t want this pain upon us, and I will see my beloved son again. One day at a time.

    1. Nancy, I am so sorry you know the pain of separation from your child as well. I am in total agreement, the only way we make it is one day at a time, I have to constantly remind myself of this. Praising God with you now that we will certainly see our precious children again “in a little while.”

  7. As a worship leader for over 30 years, I’ve lived the dilemma you describe. By that I mean I have chosen and led songs only to find out later those songs evoked profound sadness in the hearts of worshipers. And those are just the ones I hear about. Certainly there are many more of which I’ve been unaware. Thank you for your perspective.

    1. Bob, I don’t envy your position. With so many music options what a weight of responsibility you have to ensure that every song is theologically sound and edifying to the body. Thankfully we were not wounded by the words, we just could not bring ourselves to sing them because they did not resonate as Truth (as we understood them). We love and appreciate our Minister of Music, as I’m certain the members of your church do you.

  8. If only you knew just how many people needed to read this. Advent is a season in which we more sharply see that things are not as they should be. One day. One day our good God will come again and make all things well. For now, we weep in our sorrow and loss; and trust God to be good, just like He promised, even when we don’t understand.

    1. Carolyn, I am very sorry that you bear the weight of sorrow and loss as well, but I am so thankful we also share the same Hope. Thank you for encouraging me by sharing that you think the post was beneficial.

  9. I’m sorry you’ve experienced mocking and judgment. This should not be. My heart breaks for your grief. This blog is helping many people. We love and pray for you all.

    1. Thanks so much. It did not hurt us that they mocked us. The ones who were mocking are not believers, we are sad for them and hope they will eventually understand the truth of the gospel. “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18

  10. I have followed your blog since June, and although I haven’t experienced the excruciating pain of losing a child, your words have ministered to me many times. Thank you for speaking the truth; it is oftentimes a rare thing, even among Christians. I, too, bristle when I hear those words “God is good” spoken in response to an answered prayer or happy outcome (good test results, job opportunity, etc.). The truth is, God is good because that is His character, not because of anything good that I may be experiencing at the moment. I remember several years ago in my Christian walk, I came to a place where I had to settle the issue once and for all in my heart and mind. And that is that circumstances aren’t always good, and people aren’t even always good, but God is good.
    Real, true faith, I believe, is trusting God even when I feel that He has let me down.
    Thank you again for sharing your heart and for speaking truth. I’m praying now for you, your husband, and your daughters.

  11. Thank you so much for expressing what I have felt many times. My experience was similar to Nancy’s, except with my daughter Kari-Lee it was cystic fibrosis and a double lung transplant and she was 25. There are quite a few choruses which don’t seem to acknowledge the whole of scripture perspective, just the “good” bits. Also many choruses where people are committing or offering themselves in ways they may not have actually thought through. One example which stood out to me after Kari died was “Oceans” by Hillsong (I’m an Aussie).
    “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders. Let me walk upon the waters. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander. And my faith will be made stronger. ”
    Beautiful. And yes my faith IS now stronger, yet I would never ever have chosen for my daughter to die to get here to my stronger faith.
    And I do think that many people believe the words of some choruses (and prayers for protection) mean that Christians are then “safe” in earthly terms. Sadly you and I now know that’s not true. It’s a different sort of safe. Eternally safe yes. Hard though sometimes to explain that to others.
    Anyway I’ve rambled enough, but thank you for sharing this perspective.

    1. Rhyl, Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I completely agree about the importance of words in songs. That verse in “Oceans” is one that strikes me very deeply as well, such a serious commitment/ request. I am lifting you up in prayer as I close out my day now, certain that you are missing your Kari-Lee as much as I am missing my Sarah. Your sister in the US – Karen ❤

  12. Love you sweet friend! So thankful for you and your family! Continuing to pray for you all and so many of out “Botswana team members and their families” who are continung to serve Him. Thank you for your ministry through your blog that is ministering to so many. We are overdo to get together.

  13. Karen, Your words of faith and strength are such a blessing…. Even though I have not suffered staggering loss as you have, I’m always aware and somewhat chagrined when I thank God and praise Him publicly for answered prayer. I’m torn between wanting to praise Him in the marketplace, and thinking of how that feels to those who do not feel so blessed. I recently stumbled across the phrase, “And, if not…” ~ the implication being that I will praise Him anyway, as you have done. I pray that His love will be evident in my life, that others may see His light in me, that it will cause them to want to know my Saviour.. I’m praying for you and your family as you walk this journey of sorrow, and am so thankful that you have chosen to share your innermost thoughts that others might be lifted up. You truly are serving Him in a mighty way, and I love you, my sister.

    1. Mrs. Davis, Thank you for your kind words. I love hearing accounts of answered prayer, and if you share with me I will praise Him with you! Like you alluded to, I am so thankful God is faithful to answer, even though sometimes it is not the answer we want. Thank you so very much for praying for us, we know the prayers of our brothers and sisters have been and continue to be vital in carrying us, we deeply appreciate each and every one. Much love in Him – Karen

  14. I cannot fathom that grief, I have not had to. Your blog is encouraging so many. This song perfectly encapsulates all you have said. X

    1. Yes!! I love this song, it is one of my very favorites right now, and I love Piper’s message in it. I’ve already listened to it at least 5 times today and sung it in my mind countless times. Thank you for sharing it. ❤

  15. I’m so sorry for your loss and I also know your journey as well. My son age 19, died March 28,2017.
    We sang “King of my heart” as one of the songs at his funeral. It was our proclamation to everyone, even at our darkest hour and our deepest pain, He is still, and will always be good.
    The first thing I posted on FB before anyone else knew he had passed away was, “I just want to let everyone know that God is still good!”

    He will never let me down, no matter how it seems or feels all around me. Why, because He is a good,good Father! Someone said all we can see is our past and present, but He sees the big picture and the future. So I have to trust Him. He knows what’s he’s doing, even when I don’t understand.
    *There have been songs in church, for me as well, that made me cry but I just wanted to share my story about this particular song.

    1. Reed, Thank you so much for sharing. I am so sorry you bear the pain of losing your son, but thankful we share the same faith in God through Christ Jesus! Isn’t it interesting how differently we hear the lyrics. The difference clearly lies in our understanding of the phrase “let down.” Regardless, I am glad to hear the song speaks to you and was a blessing to you during your son’s funeral. ❤

  16. Thank you for your transparency. I lift you and your family up in prayer for peace, especially this Christmas season.
    My little brother was murdered at age 21 over 11 years ago, and I watched my parents, who were not believers at the time, fall into despair, blaming everyone, including God for so everything. They ridiculed me for continuing to trust in and believe in a God who would “take” their son. Fast forward three years later when my husband died suddenly while I was pregnant with our 4th daughter- some of the most opposition I got in planning his funeral was in the music. I clearly remember standing, praising God through the service. This action of walking out my faith and acknowledging that God was still good brought my parents (and others) to a new revelation of God and led them to accept and build a relationship with Christ.
    Praising Him at all times, knowing that He works all things together for good, using what the enemy meant for harm to bring good… that was a huge thing that got me through that time.
    Sending your family love and strength now and in the future! ❤

  17. It’s been 1 year and 9 months since my first born left us at the age of 6 after a 2 year battle against neuroblastoma cancer. I had once believed that my faith was so strong, i had been tested before and never wavered but this devastated me. Your message is encouragement to me.

    1. Myra, I am so, so sorry you bear the pain of separation from your child as well, but so thankful God used the encouragement He gave me to encourage you as well. Lifting you up to Him right now, praying that His new mercies will be abundant and tangible for you today. Much love in Him – Karen

  18. My 23 year old son died suddenly on Christmas Day last year. I am still in the storm and wondering how to move beyond mere existing. God seems far away but faith says he is still there.

    1. Elizabeth, I am so very sorry. I wish I could say that the storm has passed for us, but I would be deceiving you. I can say that God has consistently been faithful to sustain us, even when He has seemed very far away and even silent in the darkness of the storm. Your words brought to mind Isaiah 50:10. The Lord really encouraged my heart through that verse last month (https://listeningtohim.com/2018/09/24/walking-in-darkness/). Praying for you right now that He will grant you His strength and His power to trust and rely on Him as you persevere through the darkness of this storm.

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