My father’s suicide catapulted me into a time of deep grief, a time when I questioned all I thought I knew about God while clinging to him daily for the strength to get through the pain. In those first shock-filled days after I heard the news that my father had hung himself in the basement of our home, my heart would scream: “NO, NO, don’t think about it! It hurts too much!”

After the funeral, when I left to return to university, I felt so alone and overwhelmed. Whenever I had time to think, I would think of Dad and cry.

Questions and doubts started to fill my mind:

I had become a Christian a few years earlier. The thought that Jesus had died for me so I could be forgiven and enter into a personal relationship with him had filled me with surprise. I could know God? He could be closer to me than a brother? Of course I wanted to know him! Of course I wanted to be forgiven! And when, at 16, I invited him to come into my life and forgive me and change me, he had done so, filling my heart with a sense of his presence.

But now, for the first time, God had really disappointed me. And I felt that I had deeply disappointed him, too. You see, my father and I had spent time together just a few days before he died, and he had asked me questions about God I couldn’t answer. Then he had asked me to transfer back to the university at home so I could be near him and I had refused to do so. Now, I wondered if he would still be alive if I had done what he wanted, and I was tormented by a deep sense of guilt.

God had really disappointed me. I felt that I had deeply disappointed him, too.

Thankfully, God put a very special person on my path who would help me work through my guilt and my questions by meeting with me weekly for the next two years. She pointed me to books and resources that really helped me grow in my faith during that time of doubt. The first time we met, she shared that the Christian life was impossible to live, and if we tried to live it by our own strength, we would end up frustrated. Only Christ could live the life he called us to, and he wanted to live through me; but to do so, he needed me to surrender my life fully to him and trust him daily for the strength to obey. I was certainly frustrated. I was certainly aware of my sin and my weakness; and so I did surrender my life to him, inviting him to fill me with his Spirit.

And I believe that it is his Spirit who gave me the perseverance and the strength to keep coming daily to God with my pain and my questions so that he could comfort me and speak to my heart.

During the next months, I spent about an hour or two a day with God, sometimes with tears streaming down my face. He showed through the Psalms that I could say anything to him, ask him anything, be absolutely real with him; and so I brought my doubts about his existence and his attributes to him. And he answered my questions in a very interesting way: he showed me Jesus.

I asked:

As I look back on that time, I realize that my grief was a gaping wound at first. It overwhelmed me. It filled my thoughts and my heart. But as I continued to take it to God, over and over and over again, he took that wound and slowly healed it so that it became just a tender spot. I am still amazed by his ability to take the worst possible things and change them around so that good comes out of them. But it is what he does when we invite him to do so. He gives “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy from mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” (Isaiah 61:3).

article updated August, 2019

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Photo Credit: Brooke Cagle