We have six children: three boys and three girls. Our middle daughter was a problem child in our home and was very difficult for us. We prayed. We worked with her. We did everything we could.
One day, as I was speaking in the Asheville, North Carolina area, I received a phone call from my younger daughter.
She said, “Come home as soon as you can.”
I asked, “Why—what’s happened?”
She answered, “I’ll tell you when you get here.”
I responded, “No, tell me now.”
“My sister has committed suicide.”
We’ve never experienced anything in life like the loss of a child. The loss of a child that way. I drove home immediately to Charlotte. I don’t know how I got home through all the tears. Some of the family was already there, and we had to console them. We also had to make funeral arrangements; and while we were making the arrangements, our phone was ringing a lot.
The phone calls increased, and we were getting calls from people such as Ravi Zacharias and John Ankerberg and other well-known Christians from around the country. They all gave us words of encouragement, and they were all helpful. Almost everybody said “We are praying for you”; and, “Please know we are sorrowing with you,” and so forth.
However, one caller, John Ankerberg, hit all the nails on the head. I don’t know if he was formally trained or just naturally said it. Perhaps God gave him the words. In a two-minute phone call John said the four most encouraging things that could be said to somebody going through a situation such as ours. The fourth thing, you would never guess in a million years.
“I love you.”
“I’m praying for you.”
“I grieve with you.”
“It’s not your fault.”
His last statement hit me like a ton of bricks. I thought, “What if I had done this or that? What if I had been a better father? What if I had been a better husband? What if I had spent more time with my daughter?” What if . . . what if . . ., and soon I was “what-iffing” myself to death. I said to myself, “Well, wait a minute”—we already have one person dead here. But they’re going to have two people dead if I keep on this path.”
I wasn’t there. I wouldn’t have done it. I wouldn’t have encouraged her to do it. I would have stopped it if I could have; but I couldn’t. It was out of my control. God’s in control; I’m not. But the words “It’s not your fault” just rang in my ears.
I was laying guilt on myself that was unnecessary. I had guilt that was untrue. I didn’t kill the person. I don’t encourage
that. I don’t encourage that to happen to anyone. But it happened, and God reached down and began to encourage me. I talked to another Christian who had lost his wife, and his words were encouraging too. “I love you; I’m praying for you; I’m sympathizing with you; it’s not your fault” were the four statements that encouraged me.
We have just released a new Bible Study based on Jeff Bumgardner and Dr. Stephen Cutchins new book. Green Hearts: God’s Goodness in the Worst of Times. This study is a reflection of grief and is response to the tragic loss of Jeff Bumgardner’s 10-year old daughter Ella.
These lessons are available on Amazon, as well as a part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.
Lesson #1 — Grief
Lesson #2 — Pain
Lesson #3 — Questions
Lesson #4 — Answers
Lesson #5 — Surprises
Lesson #6 — Grace
Lesson #7 — Faith