By Guy Delcambre, Crosswalk.com
Life was good, not in a moderate, acceptable way, but fully and truly. We were a young family stretching into dreams together and enjoying all the goodness that life delivered. God was good, all the time. One phone call changed my good life forever. And then, on the ordinariness of a Monday afternoon, after five days lingering in an ICU bed, my wife, the mother of our three little daughters, died with little indication of anything wrong. We were left with this life: a widower, and my daughters all under the age of 8 half-orphaned. The value of goodness hung with an emptier relativity.
After her sudden passing, while each day arrived overshadowed by grief and dimmer than before, the felt pressure to be okay mounted. The further from loss we traveled, the more grief stung as we hung stuck to the side of definitely not being okay. When the phone calls and messages of friends stopped so did the intermediate month or so to begin picking up the pieces and moving on to life normal again. I strung a smile across my face announcing to the world that I was, in fact, okay again and moving on with my life. This is the story of many who have dealt with loss that dislodges them from normality and the lasting grief thereafter. The harsh reality those who lose a loved one face is the expectation to be okay again in the blink of 6 to 12 months. Grief is a life long journey with a diverse topography of peaks and valleys. One thing is for sure: you are not just okay.
Unfortunately, this mindset of not being okay typically does not fit all that well within the Church, where God being good equals a theology void of suffering or wrong, never mind the psalmist crying confused in the wilderness or the Son of God hanging alone on the cross. After a few weeks, the meals and cards stop coming, a quiet reminder that our life needed to resume. A quiet judgment imposes when the grief process has lingered for too long. The unspoken, commonly held belief is that if you have enough faith, you should be “okay.” That correlation drawn between faith and being okay in the midst of life undone couldn’t be more incorrect.
As I walked through my grief, learning to be a single father to my daughters, I had to come to terms with the fact that I was not “okay.”
And that my not being “okay” was okay.
I learned that my grief and stumbling through each day proved to be no problem for God. In fact, there in the context of grief, I found God closer than ever before. In the stories of suffering littering Scripture, I discovered invitation to raw honesty with God.
Throughout God’s Word, we see examples of God being just fine with his children not being “okay.” In the Psalms, we see David crying out to God in despair time and time again. His prayers roll out in whispers, amidst tears, roaring through songs of confidence and victory and in desperate pleas, all in direct correspondence to whatever circumstance pushed in. Nothing in David’s words that indicate he was always well adjusted and “okay.”
You see, it’s not just okay to not be okay, it’s valuable. When life pitches us into the pits of despair, it’s there we experience the fullest of God’s grace sufficient for the most turbulent of times. When I am forced to admit that I cannot make it on my own and I am bankrupt of strength within myself, I am able to lean fully on our Savior’s sovereign ability to and determined willingness to save me.
There were many times in the months following my wife’s death when I was just barely existing, and times I thought grief would certainly overwhelm me. While my life and my emotions swirled in chaos, God lead me through each descending day thereby resetting hope and peace in place.
The realization of not having to rush past my grief – to be back to normal before I was ready – infused value in not being okay and granted the permission to grieve well. God not only sustained me through my grief, but also taught me new truths about His character that I may have never experienced otherwise.
If you’re facing overwhelming grief today – whether it’s from the loss of a loved one, an illness or some other hurdle life has thrown at you – give yourself the freedom to say, “I am not okay” and open every corner of your hurting heart to God’s amazing grace.
Guy Delcambre is the author of Earth and Sky, in which he shares his personal story of losing his wife, becoming a single father, and experiencing God’s grace in the darkest of circumstances. He is a speaker and writer, and served as a pastor in Abbeville, Louisiana and Denton, Texas before the death of his wife. Today, he writes for GuyDelcambre.com and DeeperStory.com, and has consulted on children’s grief curriculum. He is remarried, and lives in Dallas with his wife and three daughters.