There is no way to describe how it feels to learn that your loved one has died. Everything changes in that moment. My life was forever changed on June 7, 2015. My wife and I were asleep when the phone rang. Our son, Dewayne, had had a seizure. Minutes later, unforgettable cries of grief echoed through the receiver and pierced my soul. Our son had died.
By 6:00 a.m., we were on the road, heading to Atlanta to be with our son’s family. Like many do when they’ve lost a loved one, Sue and I wrestled with the unanswerable question of “Why, God?” We couldn’t understand. Our son was making a difference in this world. Why would God take a godly man who loved the Lord with all his heart and served Him daily, and leave evil people to roam this earth? It just didn’t make sense. It was all I could do not to grow angry. But I knew that allowing bitterness to settle in my heart would bring nothing but destruction.
We had just turned onto the Florida Turnpike and I was doing my “why, God” thing, when the Spirit of God spoke these words to my heart: “My purpose for Dewayne is complete. I am taking him home.”Although these words didn’t take away my pain or bring my son back, they did bring some comfort as they confirmed what I already knew: God was in control. He knew everything that was going on; none of this had taken Him by surprise.
The next few days were a whirlwind. The funeral itself was an amazing celebration of Dewayne’s life. I’ll never forget when the first song began to play. It was such a powerful praise to God that I leapt to my feet, lifted my hands, and worshipped my Lord. The whole congregation stood with me, and together we honored God and the life of His precious child. There were at least two salvations as a result of that service.
After the whirlwind settled and we returned home, we were left to face our grief. Fortunately, God brought many amazing people into our lives to stand with us and hold us up. We are forever grateful.
The year that followed was difficult. Everywhere I looked, there were so many needs. My wife, my grandson, my daughter-in-law, my daughter…all grieving deeply. Dear friends, too, for whom Dewayne had been a spiritual mentor. It seemed everyone I knew was in pain.
Whether it was a lie of Satan or past experience, I don’t know, but I felt an urgent need to be strong for everyone. Like I needed to be their protector and the healer of their hearts. But no matter what I did, their pain remained. As did my own. I felt so helpless.
I kept saying, “I guess the only thing I can do is pray.” It became my motto until, one day, the Holy Spirit corrected me. “Don’t say only, Tom.” He reminded me that the most powerful thing anyone can ever do is pray. James 5:16 says, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”
So I prayed. And I prayed. And I’m still praying.
I began lifting up my loved ones to my all-knowing, all-powerful God, trusting Him to move on their behalf. I prayed specifically for their needs and trusted that God would be faithful to meet every one. I stood on God’s Word in faith and leaned on every experience I’d ever had with Him in the past. Remembering how abundantly sufficient He’d been at every crossroads of my life helped me move forward. He’s never failed me. Surely He wouldn’t fail me or my loved ones now.
One by one, I released my loved ones to God, and it was like the weight of the world lifted from my shoulders. Gradually, I realized that easing my loved ones’ pain or saving them from it wasn’t my role.It was God’s. Only He could heal, restore, and save. My responsibility was to hold them up, to remind them of truth, and to love them every step of the way.
And then, as I stepped out of His way and entrusted my family to God, an amazing thing happened. I was finally free to have God heal me. I had been so focused on the pain of others that I had buried my own grief. I had lost much. I had lost my best friend, my spiritual brother, and my precious son. I needed God to heal my broken heart, too.
Are you carrying a heavy burden of responsibility that isn’t yours to carry? Like me, are you lost in the midst of grief—your own and the grief of others? Don’t lose hope. You are not alone. God hears your prayers. He sees your pain, and He does care. Release your heart and those of your loved ones to Him, and let the Healer heal you.
Written by Thomas Gilmore