Finding God in my grief
I will never forget the night when my brother complained that he couldn’t feel half of his body. We called the ambulance, and he was taken to the hospital. As we heard the words “Tested positive for cancer…” I felt like I was in a movie scene, where everything turned into slow motion around me. Nine months later we lost our brother. He was 22 years old, and my sister and I were just 16. It was one of the most painfully formative events of my life.
Let’s back up.
After Will’s diagnosis, the doctors assured us that it was a type of cancer that could be beaten. My brother began the journey of fighting cancer through various treatments. All the while we watched him get worse and worse, until eight months later, we were told that there was nothing left to try. All we could do was to wait and keep him comfortable. On May 19, 2005, I received a phone call from my dad at seven in the morning. He told me to get dressed because we were going to the hospital to say goodbye to my brother. My sister and I got in the car with Dad and we drove to the hospital in silence. Once we got to Will’s room, we had about thirty minutes to say our goodbyes. It felt like two minutes. One by one, my mother, father, sister and I said goodbye, that we loved him with all of our hearts and that we would see him again one day soon. Watching the life depart from his body was the single most painful thing I have ever experienced in my life.
Where was God all this time?
Where was God all this time? What was God doing during those nine months of pain, stress, sleepless nights and my many, many tears? I grew up in Catch The Fire, a healing and miracles church, but I didn’t see any miracles for my brother. He loved God like few people I know, and yet he wasn’t healed.
If you’ve ever lost someone, you might know these questions very well. To be really honest with you, I can’t give you the answers. I wish I could, but even after a few years, I can’t. What I can tell you though is that God encountered me; He used the pain and loss to reshape what I value, and it has allowed me to see God and other people through a softer, gentler lens. I can tell you, almost twelve years later, that there is nothing that could ever happen in my life that would cause me to walk away from God. Trust me, I’ve been there.
The two months following May 19 was a time of numbness for me. I didn’t cry once! I felt nothing and I didn’t talk about it to anyone. I actually signed up for a high school summer co-op to keep myself busy. I worked ten-hour days and did my best to keep God, and anyone else, out of my heart. I could feel that God wanted in, but I refused to give Him my heart. It wasn’t until Youth Camp at the end of the summer when I finally gave in. My Youth Pastor invited everyone at the morning chapel session to let go of anger and allow God back into our hearts… and finally, I began to grieve. I don’t know how long I cried on that cement floor for or who was around me but I grieved three months worth then and there. And in that moment I experienced the comfort and peace from God that I had been longing for almost an entire year.
Nowhere does Scripture say that suffering indicates weak faith. What scripture does say is that we are never alone: God is good and is for us, He works for the good of those who love Him, His grace is sufficient for us, there is hope for those who suffer, and He restores us. Out of everyone who has ever lived, Jesus understands suffering. So why not let the one person into our hearts who really gets it?
As for my questions, I am leaving them for when I meet God face to face.
And as for praying for healing and miracles for others, I will always pray with faith to see God heal them.
I don’t understand it all, but I can never deny the love and comfort that God has given me. That’s what I press into each day, and what God longs for you to experience as well.
If you’ve experienced a significant loss, and are grieving, here are a few pointers:
- Don’t numb yourself. It’s okay to feel it. It’s scary, but feeling the sadness, and feeling the emptiness is okay, and it helps us heal. Take your time.
- Let people into your grief, even if it is just sitting in silence with a dear friend. Don’t go through it alone.
- Eventually, take courage to let God back into your heart by simply asking Him to fill you. He always comes, and He always brings hope.
John 16:33 says “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Some of you may have walked through some incredible painful things already in your life. God’s promise to you is that He has overcome the whole world, and you can take courage and have peace in Him. We want to help you find that peace.
My husband Jojo Rogato and I are the youth pastors at Catch The Fire Airport, Toronto. May I encourage you to We are on this courageous journey together and we are looking forward to sharing it with you!