Find Strenght In God

As grieving parents, we must rely upon the strength that God provides in order to get us through this deep grief. Most cultural leaders tell us that in order to be successful, we need to trust in our own strength; that is, we need to “to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.” According to our cultural leaders, we ought to live by the credo penned by Ralph Waldo Emerson when he wrote, "Trust thyself, every heart vibrates to that iron string. Discontent is the want of self-reliance. It is infirmity of will." Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance. Similarly, 7-time Tour de France cycling champion Lance Armstrong lives by the mantra, “Live Strong. “ But I can't think of phrases and ways of life that are completely contradictory to how we, as grieving parents, ought to live life after the death of our child. Rather than a “Self-Reliance” or “Live Strong” mantra, our day-to-day mantra should be more like "Live Weak." To the extent that we used to rely on our own efforts, our own self-will, we can do it no longer. For me, the death of my child was, and continues to be, a demonstration that I am not, in any way, “the captain of my ship…and the master of my soul.” William Earnest Henley, Invictus.

During my son’s life, I pictured my future as being a good dad to my son. I envisioned helping him with his homework, fixing his broken bike, or talking him through important decisions. I thought I be the “fix-it” man for my son. But on that morning when my son went into his coma, I learned that I am absolutely powerless, on my own, to carry out my dream of being the “fix it” man. In that whirlwind of activity, all of my strength, my knowledge, my love for my son didn’t make a difference. After a half hour of failing to resuscitate my son on our living room floor, the paramedics moved our son out of our living room to the ambulance. So instead of helping my son with homework, broken toys, sports teams, relationships, school, job and life choices, I found myself doing the only thing I could—holding the door for my son’s now-lifeless body and the paramedics as they quickly left the house, never to return. And with them departed whatever sense of control, strength and self-reliance I had left.

My son’s death has caused me to believe, subjectively, what has always been objectively true—that I am an impotent little creature previously mistaken about my ability to affect change or accomplish goals. Ironically, the Bible teaches that this realization of powerless, this self-emptying of pride, is a good thing. In his famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made a number of bold, counter-intuitive claims. One of the most counter-intuitive was Jesus’ claim that those who experience grief, and enduring times of mourning, will eventually be blessed by God. Jesus taught, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God. Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted." Matthew 5:3-4. In this passage, Jesus is claiming that those of us who mourn will ultimately be blessed, because in our mourning we will turn from viewing ourselves as the source of strength to viewing God Himself as the source by whose strength is sufficient to meet not only the cause of their mourning, but for all of life.

Similarly, in his second letter to the Corinthian church, Paul notes how he pleaded with God, in prayer, to remove certain suffering from his life. Eventually, God made it clear to Paul that God was purposely choosing not to answer Paul’s prayer in order that, through Paul’s suffering and resulting weakness, God’s power might best be demonstrated. Of God’s response to his prayers for healing, Paul writes, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.

The Bible teaches that it is only when we rid ourselves of any sense of self-reliance that God will provide us with his strength. I cannot honestly claim to want suffering in my life, as Paul did. But I can attest to how God has used my weakness to showcase His own power. I have no other explanation as to how I can even keep a job, stay married, and be even remotely conversant at social functions. If it were up to me, if it were up to my own ability to “pull myself up by my own bootstraps,” I would have given up on life following my son’s death. But by breaking me of my self-reliance, God has demonstrated His power to me.

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