on grieving, even still

A couple Sundays ago marked eight months without my dad. These have been long months, filled even still with daily tears and moments of anguish as I navigate life as a twenty-something without one of the two most important people in my life.

I miss my dad every single day, probably because so many things are happening that I wish he could be here for. I wish he could meet my boyfriend or give me advice when I find lost baby birds on my runs. I wish that I could show him my art and tell him about the business I built during my unemployed quarantine days, the days that I spent mourning him and all of the things about him I loved. I miss when I would come home to see him and he would give me money for a pedicure and extra paper towels so I wouldn’t ever have to buy my own. Every single day there are things I wish I could tell him, people I wish he could meet, dreams I wish he could be there for.

And truthfully, in these days I’ve been missing those first months of grief, as absurd as that sounds. Not for the pain, but for the simplicity. In those days, I had three daily goals: eat food, drink water, and spend time with Jesus. And I honestly rarely got all three done in the same day LOLZ. I got out of bed and counted it as a victory. I slowed down and focused on feeding my body and my soul as I grieved a very deep loss. There was no rush, and so much grace.

And yet these days I’m still feeling deep moments of grief, except now they’re coupled with the dizzying pace of life. I have to fight for slow moments for my soul, grace for my still-weeping heart. I’m living full speed ahead as I still struggle to find my footing. I’m moving things into my childhood home, running a business (which is currently a whole bunch of behind the scenes work), visiting Nashville, working at Honest, and going on trips.

And yet, in these months I keep revisiting the idea of God as my refuge. Ruth was a woman who found refuge under the wings of God, who trusted Him and followed Him after losing her beloved, her husband. She was a woman who left her family and their pagan gods to unite herself with the God of Jacob, the Lord of her mother-in-law. And if you look in the Psalms, it repeatedly speaks of the Lord as our refuge in times of trouble. The Bible tells us over and over again that God delights to be our refuge, that He delivers those that find refuge under His mighty wings.

“The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.”

Psalm 37:39-40

This is huge because this takes away our works-minded faith and frees us to come to Jesus in our weakest, when our souls feel frail and our days feel impossible. It doesn’t say that God delivers us because we’re “good people” or because we, in some way, have done something for Him. No!! It says that He delivers us and helps those that run to Him and find shelter underneath His wings. He’s a God that longs to comfort us, to be the shelter where we run, the cave where we abide amidst the heavy rains of suffering and strain.

I think the hard thing about this, though, is that a lot of us don’t know what it means that God is our refuge. We don’t know what it really looks like to find our safety in Him alone, or understand how to find the comfort offered in Christ. And that’s what I’ve been struggling with and working through in these months of busyness and grief and whatnot. I’ve been wrestling with what it looks like to be comforted by Someone I can’t hug.

And what I’ve found is that the comfort of Christ is found in a combination of things… First, it’s found in His promises. When searching for the comfort of the Lord, His Word is always the best place to run. His Word is where our hearts can be filled with the promises that comfort us, and consistent time in the Word sets a rhythm of speaking truth to our mourning and saddened souls. His Word is what keeps our hearts from dwelling in the lies that drag us down or cause us to despair.

But for me, setting my heart on the promises of God is the easy part. The difficult part comes with the next step, where we learn that our Lord is also our confidant. Because when we know the truth, we can then tell Jesus our feelings and worries and doubts while believing in His promises that He hears us when we call to Him, is present with us in our troubles, and is a safe place to run. When we’ve reminded our hearts of the dependability of God and His love for us, we can unload the weight of our souls, knowing that He is fully capable, and even glad, to carry our burdens. We can say to the Lord, “I don’t understand,” or “this has deeply wounded me,” knowing that our questions and hurts are welcome, and that the weight of the world can be put at the feet of our Lord who cares for us and longs to shoulder our burdens Himself and carry us like lambs, close to His heart.

But the last, and probably my favorite, way I’ve learned to be comforted by the Lord is looking throughout my day for what I call “kisses from Jesus.” These are things that happen throughout my days, in big and small ways, that remind me that God is with me and that He deeply cares for me. They can be answered prayers or encouraging interactions with customers at Honest or seeing a certain kind of flower or puppy or anything else that I adore that no one but Jesus really knows about. These are things that remind my heart that I am not forgotten or overlooked, even if they’re as small and simple as a hug from a friend or a spare moment to paint in a busy day. And maybe these moments aren’t so much gifts for only me as they are enjoying the wonderful things that God’s made and having the heart to remember that even when life is dark and painful and scary, that God is still the same God that was kind and creative enough to create really fluffy puppies and Icelandic poppies and tiny lil baby toes. And that same God really, really cares about our pain. So much so that He loved us enough to give His only Son to leave heaven and be here with us in our pain and make a way for us to be with Him in a place where tears are no more and His presence lights the world around us. And that, to me, is the most comforting thing of all.

So, if you’re like me, really seeking the Lord’s comfort in a really difficult season of continued anguish, I just want to encourage you that the Lord truly is a safe place to run. He is a refuge in our time of need, a shelter from the storm, a cove in the midst of chaos, and not overwhelmed with our grief the way that we tend to be. You are not alone or uncared for, and you always have the promises of God and His faithful presence. So, let’s set our hearts on our Great Comforter and grieve with the hope that Christ died to give us.

All my love,

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