Editor’s note: Tim Challies’ book Seasons of Sorrow is one that we all need. It’s about the death of his precious son, Nick, and his rugged pursuit of God through love and loss. Enjoy this excerpt and forward to a friend in bereavement.
I miss my son today.
That goes without saying, I suppose, since I miss him every day. But on this day, the pain is particularly sharp, the ache especially deep. I miss my friend and brother; I miss my protégé́. I miss the son of my youth, the delight of my heart. I miss seeing him and hugging him. I miss teaching him and learning from him. I miss the sound of his voice and the cackle of his laugh. I miss having a son at all. I just plain miss my Nick.
The time between now and when he went to Heaven has passed so quickly, yet so slowly. It often feels like it was just yesterday that we received the phone call, just yesterday that we endured the funeral, just yesterday that we watched the casket being lowered into the cold, dark ground. But at the same time, it feels like it was a lifetime ago. We were different people back then, a different family with different desires, different assumptions, a different understanding of life and death and the God who is sovereign over it all.
And just as the time between now and when Nick went to Heaven has passed both quickly and slowly, I expect that the time between now and when I go to Heaven will pass both quickly and slowly. This life is a dash, a blip, a vapor, yet just as truly a slog, a marathon, a long and wearying pilgrimage. I have begun to notice that while the brevity of life is best seen in retrospect, it’s the slowness of life that tends to be felt in the moment. It may be brief as we look back on it, but it’s long as we live it.
And it feels long today.
It looks long today.
It looks long as I gaze into the future and see a road laid out before me that may well lead through months, years, and decades. It looks longer still as I consider the heavy burden of grief God has called me to carry. I am confident I can carry a great weight for a short distance but far less confident that I can carry it for many miles or many years. I just don’t know how I will bear up under this sorrow if I have to carry it all the way to the end.
My father was a landscaper, and he used to take me to work with him from time to time. I remember one day when he brought me with him to be an unskilled but low-cost source of manual labor. He showed me a skid of bricks that had been delivered to the end of a client’s driveway and then a walkway he was building to the front door. My job was to get the bricks from the first spot to the second. I remember gazing at that giant pile with despair. How could I, at twelve or thirteen years of age, possibly move what looked like a literal ton of bricks? I realized I would have to do it in the only way I could. Piece by piece, brick by brick, step by step, I carried each one to my father. He laid them as quickly as I could bring them to him until a perfect path led to the entrance of that beautiful home.
And just so, while God has called me to bear my grief for a lifetime, and to do so faithfully, He has not called me to bear the entire weight of it all at once. As the pile is made up of many bricks, a lifetime is made up of many days. The burden of a whole lifetime’s grief would be far too heavy to bear, and the challenge of a whole lifetime’s faithfulness far too daunting to consider. But the God who knows my frailty has broken down that assignment into little parts, little days, and has promised a grace that is sufficient for each one of them.
- My challenge for today is not to bear the grief of a lifetime or to be faithful to the end, but only to carry today’s grief and only to be faithful on this one little day that He has spread out before me.
And I am confident that by His grace I can carry out today’s assignment. I am confident that I can bear the burden of this day’s sorrow until night falls and my eyes close in rest. I am confident that I can be faithful in today’s calling for as long as the day lasts. I don’t need to think about tomorrow or next week or next year. I don’t need the strength to carry the burdens of any other day or the resolve to remain faithful through any other circumstance. My God-given task began this morning and extends only until tonight. Then, when I awake again tomorrow with the dawning of a new day, I will awaken to new blessings, new strength, and new grace that will allow me to be strong and faithful through that day as well.
And in just that way — brick by brick, step by step, day by day — He will lead me, He will keep me, He will enable me to be strong and faithful in all that He calls me to. And as I serve my Father in the assignment He has given me, I know that each brick, each step, each day, is bringing me a little bit closer to the entrance of that great home He is preparing for me.
Excerpted with permission from Seasons of Sorrow by by Tim Challies, copyright Tim Challies.
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In your bereavement, does today feel too long? That is very understandable. Are you trying to carry too much grief today? God has grace enough for today for you. Lean on Him. ~ Devotionals Daily