The road may be long, healing will not be quick. But then comes the encouragement to wait on God, listen to Him, and learn to trust Him again.
I think it is safe to say that for many people the death of a loved one represents a life ruined. That joyful, supportive relationship once enjoyed can be enjoyed no longer and the person left living feels bereft, cheated, alone.
Eric Liddell, the Olympic runner turned missionary who died in a Japanese POW camp in 1945, wrote that ‘God is not helpless among the ruins’ even when circumstances appear to wreck our lives and Gods plans. In her book, Mags Duggan unpacks this in a very transformative way.
Mags writes very honestly, as she faced the terminal diagnosis and then the death of her most beloved 23-year-old niece, Jenny. Using the book of Habakkuk, and her own experience, she takes the reader on a reflective journey to help face and walk through the most difficult of times.
This journey gives permission to lament, something too often missed in bereavement as people are expected to ‘move on’. I found it so helpful to write my own psalm of lament during a very difficult situation, telling God how I felt and questioning his purposes and plans, just as Habakkuk did.
There is the acknowledgement that the road ahead may be long and winding, that healing will not and cannot be quick. But then comes the encouragement to relinquish what might have been, wait on God, listen to Him, and learn to trust Him again.
It’s through this trust that we can see transformation in the darkest of times. It’s not just for people facing the loss of a loved one. I have recommended this book to a person going through a debilitating health issue, a parent whose child is struggling, a friend facing their singleness and another having to make a tough decision.
I’ve also recommended it to those who have a pastoral or member care role within church or mission settings, but it’s an equally valuable tool for those of us who want to be a true friend.
I’ll let Mags have the final word: “Walking with someone through the…ruined places of their lives is not for the faint-hearted - …It is for those who, in trusting dependence upon the Spirit of God, are willing to sit with the broken in the rubble of their dreams, the heartache of their losses and the devastation of their hope Sometimes we want to ease them out of their pain rather than stand with them in it. And when we do we violate the sometimes slow healing of the work of God in a person’s life and we dishonour their unique journey”.
Sarah Hay is HR and Member Care Manager, ECM Britain; Lecturer and Member Care Specialist, All Nations Christian College.
This article first appeared in the December 2020 edition of Vista Magazine.