A Light In Dark Places
by Mary Beth Chapman
No mom can come up with words to express the ripping pain of losing a child… and no words can do justice to the mysteries of God in the midst of tragedy.
When people ask how we are doing, the first thing I always say is, “I want Maria back. I want my son Will Franklin not to have this as a chapter in his story. I want my children to be healthy, my family secure. I don’t really care whose life has been touched or changed because of our loss!”
That is the heart of a mother who lost a daughter and is determined not to lose another child. I believe God can handle my heart, my questions, and my anger. It’s okay to want Maria back. It’s okay to be angry. The question is, what do I do with it all? What do I do with God? In the midst of such heartbreak, do I really believe that all things work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose?
The answer to that question has come at a great cost. It has been agonizing to choose to see God at work through the tears of losing my daughter. I have, however, experienced the kindness, sweetness, faithfulness, and redemptive heart of God. I believe none of my tears have been wasted.
So here I am, putting down these words one by one, because God has surprised me over the long days since Maria went to heaven. I have come face to face with evil and what part it plays in our lives, past, present, and future. I am realizing, though, that God is God, and He is purposeful in destroying what evil intends for harm. He is surprising me in good ways beyond what can be measured on this earth! I am living what I once only read in Genesis 50:20-21, where Joseph tells his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children… ”
Even in this free fall of pain, I’ve landed on a solid foundation and my faith has held… on most days. I have learned that God is good… always. Hope is real. I have found—even in the awful pain of tears and grief so intense you think it will kill you—that my family and I can do hard. We’ll never get over our loss, but we’re getting through it. And so I have prayed that our journey through the shadows of loss might be of some help to those who have experienced similar pain… that our stewardship of this story would comfort many.
But I need to be clear. [My story] isn’t just about the spring day when Steven and I lost our precious Maria Sue in a terrible accident. It’s about a story… a story God is writing. All along the way, He has changed my story in ways I didn’t like. I’ve had whole chapters added and deleted and strange plot twists that I never saw coming.
As long as I can remember, and throughout my twenty-five-year marriage to Steven, I’ve held on to certain expectations about life. But Jesus has always loved me enough to show me that even when I push my own ideas and expectations, He is there to guide me back to green pastures. He has shepherded me through the mountainous terrain of my stubbornness, shame, depression, and inadequacy and brought me gently back to the lushness of His love. He loves us enough to never let us go… even when it feels like He has.
It wasn’t like I wanted a life that was unreasonable or questionable. My plans had to do with a Christ-centered ministry, an easy marriage, a peaceful and orderly home, constructive growth rather than shattered dreams, protection rather than fires… all good things. Still, God has turned my life, my expectations, and even some of my dreams completely upside down so many times.
The truth is, I was born with a plan. I wanted life to be safe and predictable. My plan was to marry someone with a nice nine-to-five schedule and have a tidy, organized life—everything under control.
Absolutely none of that came true!
And if it had—if I had lived the life I thought I wanted—I know I wouldn’t have experienced the grace or the miracles of God in the ways that I have. What I’ve found is that it’s in the most unlikely times and places of hurt and chaos that God gives us a profound sense of His presence and the real light of His hope in the dark places.
Mary Beth Chapman with Ellen Vaughn, Choosing to SEE. (Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group) © 2010 “Used by permission.”