Unanswered prayers…oh how they wound us. Especially when those prayers are for our children. And when a child dies, a lifetime of unanswered prayers fall flat in the desert. Dried up and shriveled. Wasted breath, perhaps? Lost forever.
The agony of those first days and moments after child loss are naturally accompanied by these sad, dark thoughts. When the guests go home and the leftovers are frozen; when the flowers die and the cards stop coming – the gloomy thoughts are all-consuming. It takes effort to breath, much less to take captive my thoughts and bring them under the authority of Christ.
But if I listen closely with the tiniest effort…when I draw near…God whispers new promises. New thoughts. A different perspective that defies anything earthly which can only be explained by the supernatural, omnipresent Love of a Heavenly Father.
Soon after Bryce died and before I started asking God for anything more than my next breath, I started hearing a still, small voice. It didn’t make sense to me at first, and it didn’t seem to match what the present circumstances were.
“What if all your prayers for Bryce have been answered?”
God’s voice in the form of a question. In the darkest moments, this is the question I kept hearing. And I kept pushing it down thinking it didn’t make sense because my prayers WERE NOT answered.
Nineteen years, 6 months and 23 days’ worth of prayers for Bryce’s health and a long life; for a godly wife and children; for a career he loves. Unanswered prayers. Lord, I’m so confused, why do I keep having this thought?
Another thing that happens when you lose a loved one, especially a child I would guess, is that you immediately want to know more about Heaven. Where is Bryce? Without a doubt, he has not just vanished. He is definitely somewhere. But where? And what is it like?
I’ve studied Heaven before, but suddenly what I knew wasn’t enough. I needed more. I had to put my hands on it, touch it, hold it – what is Heaven? Within a few days after Bryce’s funeral, I devoured two wonderful books about Heaven and revisited one of my favorite sermon series from Gateway Church. I wanted to swallow them whole!
I’m sharing the links here for my new friends who are also grieving the loss of a child.
“Heaven – Paradise Found” sermon series by Brady Boyd, Gateway Church
According to the Bible, this irresistible urge to know more about Heaven is not a new emotion.
“He has set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11
We all long for Heaven, only realizing it a fraction of the time. The discontent and discouragement we have here is an inherent part of our genetics put there by a God who wants us to long for Him. To long for Heaven. I love the word “eternity”. The word implies there is much more than what I see. And it promises I haven’t seen the end of Bryce.
C.S. Lewis said: “There are second things, and there is a first thing. If we seek after second things, we lose both first and second things. But if we seek after the first thing, second things are thrown in for free.”
What I began to uncover in those quiet, sad moments is that Heaven is a first thing. THE first thing. Seek FIRST the Kingdom of God. I incredibly began to come across every note scribbled in my Bible claiming Heaven for Bryce. His name is written many times throughout the pages of scripture, highlighted, underlined and dated – all evidence of a mother’s petition before God to remember His promise when that sweet boy gave his life to Jesus years ago.
I joyfully began to comprehend what the small voice was telling me. The prayers I prayed for the second things might not have been answered. But the ever important prayers for God’s promises and Heaven had indeed been answered. Every place in my Bible with Bryce’s name and a date, I’ve since gone back and added July 30, 2016, the day the promise was fulfilled. Some pages also envelop tiny pieces of dried funeral flowers, so very precious to me.
Other than Bryce walking through the front door, I can’t think of anything else that could bring the comfort and peace that this realization brought me.
Yes, I would bring Bryce back if I could, perhaps selfishly.
No, I do not think it was God’s will for Bryce to die at 19. This is not supposed to make sense and it never will.
And yes, the grief and sadness seems to be getting worse instead of better. I’m told that’s normal.
BUT God put eternity in our hearts for a reason. Nothing on earth can satisfy, not truly. It is noble to pursue the second things. God gives good things and wants us to ask for them. But when we live life praying only for second things (including healing or blessing) we are putting ourselves at the center of the gospel instead of God.
A life lived pursuing only the second things will bring disappointment. This I know. He doesn’t answer every prayer.
Today I’m thankful for the prayers that have been answered. I’ll spend the rest of my life being sad that Bryce isn’t here swimming in the river, going to school, getting married, having kids. But I’ll also never let myself forget that my most sacred prayers for him were indeed answered.
As the mother weeps, the Father reminds her – your prayers are answered. That makes me love God even more.