In Remembrance

Years after Donna Davis’s son was murdered, she’s learned to carry her grief together with her joy in God’s abiding love.



The bell rings and children file into a classroom at a domestic abuse shelter in downtown Philadelphia. Donna Davis greets each kid and marks attendance, checking the list of families staying there. The names change regularly as women come and go from the program.

Once all the students are seated, Donna begins the lesson with a question: “How are you feeling today?” It’s not something they’re used to being asked.

One older kid raises his hand. “Ms. Donna, I’m feeling crazy!”

The Davis family, from left: Brandon, Donna, Shannon, and Clarence.

“OK, alright, let’s talk about that.” Donna listens as the child opens up about missing his father. These kids have little opportunity to explore their emotions so openly. Donna may have only a few days with each one, so she insists on wasting no time in order to have as much of a positive impact in their lives as possible.

A mother herself, Donna empathizes with the women who seek safe haven. Most of them never imagined their lives turning out this way, she says. Even if women won’t leave an abusive relationship for their own sake, they have their children to think about. Donna knows that mothers will go to extreme lengths to keep their kids safe.

But there are times when safety is out of a mother’s control. An act of violence transformed Donna’s own family more than 15 years ago: the day her son Ricky was killed.

In the middle of the night, Brandon Davis lay awake in bed, unable to sleep. It was 2004, only a year after his brother’s murder. Often, amid the turmoil of intense emotions, fear so filled his mind that he could think of little else. What am I going to do without him? he thought. Ricky always knew what to say—he had a way of making everything seem so simple. Brandon would be finishing college soon but felt directionless. Each day, the stress of life increased just enough for Brandon to feel like a twig bending under immense weight. But now he had a sense that the breaking point loomed. Brandon knew Donna was concerned about his emotional state, and he wanted to be the ideal son.

Donna Davis attends a Bible study.

In a fevered prayer, Brandon cried out, “God, if You could just let me see Ricky one last time, somehow … Please, help me.” Though he grew up in church, Brandon had never put much thought into his relationship with Christ. But he cast his whole heart into this prayer.

That night, he had the most lucid dream of his life. In it, Ricky climbed the steps to Brandon’s attic bedroom, as he’d done countless times. Brandon jumped out of bed and ran to his brother, squeezing him like a vise. Ricky laughed and teased his little brother, telling him to knock it off.

“I woke up the next day, and it felt like a thousand pounds lifted off me,” Brandon said. “It was probably the biggest moment I could ever have, because it gave me a newfound energy.” Within months, Brandon started a nonprofit foundation dedicated to assisting young entrepreneurs. To date, he has helped hundreds of young Philadelphians realize their dreams.

Just a few days after Ricky’s funeral, Shannon Davis stormed into the cemetery office. “Where’s his marker? There’s nothing there!”

While her parents Donna and Clarence still reeled from the death of their son, Shannon took it upon herself to tend to her brother’s gravesite. When the woman at the counter asked what was wrong, Shannon pointed out that there was nothing to distinguish Ricky’s grave from the others. The woman handed her a temporary plaque—something to place while waiting for the actual tombstone to come in—but it was blank.

Brandon Davis visits an area where he helps entrepreneurs.

Shannon fumed. She grabbed a marker and wrote out his full name: Clarence Rick Davis III. He would be remembered. She couldn’t let herself imagine a future where people forgot Ricky. Everyone in the neighborhood thought of this outgoing, popular boy as helpful. Though he hadn’t pursue college like his sister, he was gifted with his hands and an extremely knowledgeable mechanic.

With the help of her fiancé Chris, Shannon had taken care of all the funeral arrangements. She also became more heavily involved in the lives of Ricky’s three small children. But it all became too much. Stress fractures emerged in her relationship with Chris, fights erupting with little apparent reason. It would be years before Shannon realized, with the help of a therapist, that she battles bipolar disorder—a condition possibly present since youth but almost certainly inflamed by the loss of her brother.

Shannon remembers the moment she decided to take her own life. Though a dedicated follower of Jesus, she couldn’t find the solace that she’d once experienced in spiritual disciplines. Knowing the stigma attached to suicide, Shannon considered crashing her car in some spectacular way that would be seen as an accident.

As she drove, contemplating the wreck, a song came on the radio: “The Battle Is Not Yours” by Yolanda Adams. In the live version, the artist speaks directly to the audience, reminding them, “There’s no sadness Jesus can’t feel / And there is no sorrow that He cannot heal.” Shannon pulled the car over and began to wail, giving her despair and anger to the Lord.

A view of Philadelphia City Hall down South Broad Street.

When Donna looks back at photos of herself from a year after Ricky’s death, she’s struck by how gaunt she appears: dark circles under her eyes, weight lost from grief—like a zombie on the television show The Walking Dead, she says.

During that time, she would regularly examine the things Ricky left behind. She remembers holding his shirt tight to her face and taking deep breaths, inhaling the scent of her missing son. For a brief flash, he wasn’t absent from the world. But the scent was fading.

Donna found herself with more time on her hands. She’d quit her job eight months after Ricky’s death, on what would have been his 24th birthday. Meaning had been sapped from everything she once cared about. “I was willing myself to die,” Donna says. “I was getting up, doing the bare necessities. In my heart, I just wanted to be wherever he was. I wanted to drift away—not commit suicide, but just drift off.”

When she couldn’t sleep, Donna would go downstairs and turn on the radio. She’d dial through the stations, hoping to find something, anything, to distract her from her thoughts. Then one day, a familiar voice came through the static. It was Charles Stanley.

The Davis family at home, reminiscing together.

Though she was already a longtime listener of In Touch with Dr. Charles Stanley, Donna didn’t immediately expect that his messages could help ease the grief of losing a child to murder. But Dr. Stanley reminded her that God—above anyone else—understands that kind of pain. She thought of God’s Son hanging on a cross, punished for something He didn’t do.

Though Donna didn’t always approve of the company Ricky kept, she felt it was important people knew he wasn’t to blame for his own death. Ricky was shot while being robbed by someone he knew. The guilty party was sentenced to life in prison.

Yet that brought only partial solace. Donna still needed something, and she wasn’t quite sure what. She returned to the notes and letters Ricky had given her throughout the years. Inside a Mother’s Day card, he’d written that he felt inspired to share with her John 16. In the chapter, Jesus comforts His disciples in preparation for His eventual death. Donna had read this message before but without really noticing that detail. Opening her Bible, she was struck by verse 22: “Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.”

For Donna, it was as if Ricky had sent a message into the future, a word of comfort for just the right moment. Thoughts of Shannon and Brandon and the three grandchildren flooded her heart. They still need me.

Always carrying a burden for children, Donna decided to go back to school at an age when many people are starting to wind down their professional careers. She received a master’s degree in education, then began a teaching job that led to her eventual recruitment for the shelter where she now works. Donna understands that though her grief may never fully recede, there are people in her life, and her city, who can benefit from the love in her heart.

It’s a warm summer Sunday afternoon, and Donna and her husband Clarence prepare their house for a weekly family get-together. Now that the children have grown up and moved out, these gatherings are an opportunity to share what’s happening in their lives. Though he’s been gone 16 years, Ricky increasingly plays a part in the conversation as the Davises heal. Perhaps it’s about the many times he fixed a neighbor’s car. Or when he said he would help his little brother set up a recording studio in the attic because Brandon had aspirations for a music career. Or about how much Ricky adored his young children, the oldest of whom is now heading to college.

Donna sits back and takes it all in. On the wall above them, there’s a large frame bearing dozens of family photos taken throughout the years—snapshots of her marriage to Clarence, the children as toddlers, class pictures. Once it could have been taken as a sign of happier times. But today it’s a testament to resilience, a reminder that God’s love speaks gently to us in our deepest places of grief.

Photography by Ben Rollins

The Ministry Of Lament

What many churches lack, our culture desperately needs.


As a child, I understood that being a Christian meant being involved in compassion work. My parents consistently created avenues for me and my siblings to engage in the wider world: volunteering in classrooms for people with severe disabilities; serving Thanksgiving dinners at homeless shelters; creating and running summer programs in a Native village off the coast of Alaska; starting a music venue at our church for high schoolers to play and listen to Christian punk rock; and for people with nowhere else to go, randomly having them live with us for weeks, months, or sometimes years at a time.

These experiences, coupled with the myriads of missionary biographies I read, changed how I viewed the world and my role in it. The formula, in my young mind, became rather simple: Go out into the world to preach the gospel, become immersed in the lives of the people and their problems, and do everything you can to help.

Lament allows us to draw near to God and articulate both our deepest griefs and our flickering hopes.

Perhaps, at first blush, there is nothing terribly wrong with this formula. But the limitations of such a framework become increasingly clear once we find ourselves immersed in problems too big to be easily solved, recognizing that there are policies and systemic realities we’ve all had a hand in, either directly or through complicity (or silence). It’s when we’re overwhelmed by a broken world and our own inability to fix it that despair, judgment, and even apathy can set in for even the most well-intentioned souls.

Some problems will never be fixed through positive thinking or sheer grit. Instead, there are unjust realities that need to be voiced, within the safety of a loving community and relationship, and there are systems and policies that need to be confessed and repented of. Lament allows us to draw near to God and articulate both our deepest griefs and our flickering hopes. And this is precisely what the Christian church can and must offer to a world that is drowning in violence, suffering, and despair.


I can remember the first time I started to feel overwhelmed at the problems facing my refugee friends. I had volunteered through a resettlement agency to be a mentor for a recently arrived Somali Bantu family. I was 19 years old but knew I could be useful and help them. Armed with English worksheets, I soon discovered no one in the family could speak English, or even read. Slowly it became apparent that both the mother and the father in the family had issues with memory retention and learning new information (signs of trauma, I would find out much later in life). Whatever English conversation we practiced one week would be completely forgotten in a few days. What I thought would be a quick and fun learning process turned into a reminder of failure, week after week.

I had engaged in charity work but was unprepared for the circumstances, systems, and policies that lead to deep brokenness and inequality.

I started to notice more signs of how hard life was for my new friends: the various bills piling up on the countertops, including the thousands of dollars this family owed for their flights to the United States; the phone calls, interrupting the afternoons in the apartment, from fast-talking hucksters claiming to be the bank, offering free money, and trying to scam my friends out of their newly minted Social Security numbers; the cockroach infestations ignored by landlords; schools that didn’t have the resources or training to help children from non-literate, rural, and traumatized backgrounds. Or perhaps I became truly overwhelmed when I realized this family received resettlement assistance for only eight months, at which point they were expected to be fully functioning members of society, no matter what barriers they might face—like racism, classism, and little to no understanding of non-Western cultures in the public sector.

My faith started to flounder. I had engaged in charity work—trying to help this family—but was unprepared for the circumstances, systems, and policies that lead to deep brokenness and inequality. Did God see what was happening to my friends? Did He even care?


These questions, while frightening, are not new to God. If one is alive and paying attention, questions regarding divine sovereignty in response to evil, suffering, injustice, and death will naturally be raised. Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann refers to these kinds of questions as pressing forth into the pain of God, which is a rich biblical tradition, evident in the work of the prophets as well as in the psalms (40 percent of which are classified as lament).

John Swinton, author of Raging With Compassion, writes that “lament is … a very particular form of prayer that is not content with soothing platitudes or images of a God who will listen only to voices that appease and compliment. Lament takes the brokenness of human experience into the heart of God and demands that God answer.” It encourages authentic engagement with God, which is a prerequisite to actually being in relationship with Him. And it has a purpose, says Swinton. Ultimately, lament exists to give voice to suffering and to reconcile us to the love of God.

Brueggemann, in his book The Prophetic Imagination, spends considerable time articulating how the values of the world exist to make people numb to the realities of the world. We can see this in our own culture’s obsession with accruing material possessions and outrunning death, living in the perpetual now. But Brueggemann writes that “the riddle and insight of biblical faith is the awareness that only anguish leads to life, only grieving leads to joy, and only embraced endings permit new beginnings.” Or as Jesus declared in the Sermon on the Mount, it is those who mourn who will one day be comforted. People who run away from mourning are also running away from the spiritual benefits of lament.


Jeremiah, Nehemiah, David, and Jesus Himself all had what Brueggemann calls the ministry of “articulated grief.” But lament not only soothed suffering communities with honesty and an ultimate hopefulness in the work of God; it also served as a way to invite people to confess and repent. For people involved in compassion work, this is a vital understanding.

Lisa Sharon Harper, author of The Very Good Gospel, told me the meaning of the word compassion is to be “moved from the bowels” or to feel the suffering of another in the depths of your being. She desires to see Christians move from charity and compassion work (individuals and communities giving out of their abundance) and towards community development and even justice work, where oppressive systems and policies are changed. Instead of handing out sandwiches to hungry folks twice a week, what if a church helped start a food co-op in the community? This kind of approach requires relationship, listening, asking questions about the conditions that create hunger and food scarcity, and then changing those systems. Inherent in this type of work is the desire for justice, which can often look like privileged communities recognizing how they have been complicit or even profited from inequality.

Nehemiah is an example of this. He fasts and weeps from seeing what caused the walls to come down—the breaking of God’s covenants and laws, including exploiting the people and designing laws to restrict who could enter God’s presence. Explaining how that led Nehemiah to confession and public lament, Harper draws parallels to our time: “We are seeing how our sin causes the brokenness out there. We see how we actually believe in meritocracy, that God loves some more than others, and we see how we have made two-tiered structures of hierarchy.” This fundamental breakdown—the lies we believe about ourselves, others, and God—is actually what causes the need for charity. So whenever we engage in helping others less fortunate than ourselves, we have an opportunity to lament and mourn the breakdowns that got us there.


  1. Engage in compassion work with an eye for systemic factors. Does your church have a food ministry? A Thanksgiving food box program? What are ways you can start to become aware of and involved in reshaping the policies and systems that create a lack of access or resources for food?
  2. Pray. Prayer walk your neighborhood or parts of the city where you see the need for resurrection. Practice listening, paying attention, and sharing your laments and hopes with God.

The Bible is certainly full of these kinds of writings—which look at suffering and the complexity of the human condition—but it seems as if current Western culture has lost the art of lament. As Dr. Soong-Chan Rah writes in his book Prophetic Lament, the West has developed a theology of triumphalism that is echoed in our worship and our liturgies. Of the top 100 Christian worship songs from 2012, only five could be classified as lament. Walter Brueggemann explains the disconnect this way: “The ‘have-nots’ develop a theology of suffering and survival. The ‘haves’ develop a theology of celebration.”

For people involved in justice or compassion work, this is an important dichotomy to recognize. If we have been raised to view God as blessing and taking care of those He loves, what happens when people suffer—when they experience trauma, or war, or famine, or systems of poverty that will never allow them to escape?

In my case, this put an end to my own prosperity gospel and the neat formulas I had created for how God worked in the world (which, no surprise, tended to benefit people who looked and thought and lived just as I did). When my life slowly became entangled with the lives of people who’d suffered globally and continued to suffer in my own country due to disparity and inequality, I woke up and started to change. I listened to stories and saw hardships with my own eyes. Ultimately, I came to believe in a God who is sovereign and who sees and suffers with us. In the process, parts of the Bible that had previously meant nothing to me (which were written by and for a people who were suffering) started to unveil riches of comfort to me personally.

My Christian theology gave me a framework for compassionate involvement, but it didn’t equip me to deal with the suffering I opened myself up to when I engaged in compassion work. And this is what lament in the Bible does. It gives language for the suffering that people experience. It encourages authentic engagement with God. It invites us to both listen to suffering communities and engage in confession and repentance. And lastly, it reveals the ways we try to numb ourselves to the realities of the world.

I still see my Somali Bantu refugee friends regularly. It has been over a decade, and life is still hard for them in the U.S.—compounded by the traumas of the past and the barriers in the present. But every day I see signs of hope. The young woman learning to read, checking out novels from the library; shared meals made with love and compassion; people making progress one step at a time. I try sometimes to tell them how they have changed my faith, how it is through them and their suffering that I truly discovered who Jesus is. But perhaps they will never know. The lament they brought to me matured my faith. It allowed me to identify ways in which we are connected to each other, and ways we fail each other. But most importantly, it allowed me to hope in a God who will redeem us all, and who in the meantime is asking me to seek and act for justice whenever I can.


Illustration by Eleni Debo

Our Grief, Let’s Care For Those Who Hurt

Our grief

November 7, 2019 rduncanheart

With Veterans Day approaching, we know that many have experienced loss that is sudden! Their family and close friends have experienced grief! They were known and loved as they made a huge impact, giving their life for the freedom we experience. We can be so thankful that they cared not only for us, but for their country. Let us care for those who hurt!

Our hearts hurt when we know we may lose someone soon, that means a lot to us. Then they pass away and we go through stages of grief. At times, loss is completely unexpected such as an accident or due to a sudden health situation like a heart attack, stroke, SUDEP (Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy). Then there is suicide that leaves us in shock and we don’t understand at all what happened and why. This is becoming more common as more people are struggling with mental health issues.

Take this fainted heart
Take these tainted hands
Wash me in your love
Come like grace again

Even when my strength is lost
I’ll praise you
Even when I have no song
I’ll praise you
Even when it’s hard to find the words
Louder then I’ll sing your praise

I will only sing your praise

Take this mountain weight
Take these ocean tears
Hold me through the trial
Come like hope again


Sometimes though, we go through grief when there is no sickness or death, but because of separation from someone we love. We miss that person. We simply don’t understand. It hurts so much. Other reasons for grief and loss are: (

  • Divorce or Relationship breakup
  • Loss of health
  • Losing a job
  • Loss of financial stability
  • A miscarriage
  • Retirement
  • Death of a pet
  • Loss of a cherished dream
  • A loved one’s serious illness
  • Loss of a friendship
  • Loss of safety after a trauma
  • Selling the family home

The five stages of grief are denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. People grieve differently. They don’t have the same order in which they grieve. This loss, grief can cause difficulty for us physically also. It can be very difficult for us to sleep, eat or think as we normally are able to.

When we have hope in knowing someone we love has eternal life, we grieve, but we don’t grieve as others do. We have an assurance that we will see them again in eternity. It really hurts though when we are not sure of their standing before God.

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.


As this Veterans Day approaches, let’s pray for peace for those who grieve for friends and family lost to those who protect us and our liberties.

Our Grief – Let’s Care For Those Who Hurt

This Sunday at Church: Be ready to weep with those who weep

September 8, 2019 by SLIMJIM

This Sunday at Church I want to encourage you to do the following:  Be ready to weep with those who weep.

This passage stood out to me.  Hear Romans 12:15: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”  That second half really spoke to me.  Weep with those weep.  Its a call to love and be compassionate and care.  To care is not easy but we are called to care to the point we are weeping with those weeping.

Do you know anyone who is weeping in your church?  If you do already know, reach out to him or her.  Reach out with a listening ear; reach out ready with tissues ready for your running nose and tears.

Maybe there’s not someone you readily can identify who is going through struggles in his or her life and are quietly weeping.  Pray for God to guide you this Sunday to someone who is.  Keep an eye and ear out.  Ask questions.  You be surprise at how many people in the Church are going through things; things you don’t even know about until you ask how are you.

Some might think it is unmanly to cry.  Yet our Savior Jesus cried.  I’ve been around a lot of men in the military and ministry.  Can I tell you a secret?  I’ve seen men cry more in the military and ministry than anywhere else.  I’m talking about manly men and tough guys.  It’s not unmanly cry.  It’s godly and man-like to weep with others who are hurting and weeping.  God has given you eyes.  Eyes to see.  To look around you and notice those who are hurting in the church.  He’s also given you tears.  Tears to wash your eyes, yes.  But sometimes what you see others go through you wash your eyes, not to forget but to bathe your prayers with sincerity towards God.

Does weeping with those weep remain applicable towards those who are not Christians (or are not yet Christians)?  While the verse in Romans 12:15 contextually is referring to weeping with believers, I still think the answer is “Yes!”  Sometimes the seeds we plant of God’s Word about the Good News of Jesus Christ is watered by our tears before God causes it to grow.

When Trauma on the Field Creates Trauma in the Home

After their son suffered a devastating brain injury playing football, Pat and Tammy McLeod saw their marriage put to the test.


When Trauma on the Field Creates Trauma in the Home

The family and friends of Zach McLeod gathered at a church in Boston for a solemn ceremony entitled “A Time to Mourn.” They watched a video of his life from birth until the devastating accident he suffered at age 16. Zach had been a gifted athlete, student leader, and beloved friend. His mother spoke of how much she missed hearing Zach’s prayers, thoughts, and dreams. Guests wrote down what they missed most about the young man they had known—the young man they would never see again.

Then, later that day, the same group reconvened. This time they celebrated a new life and watched a video showing milestones of progress. Who were they celebrating? Zach McLeod. In fact, Zach himself attended this ceremony, called “A Time to Dance.” He was elated to see so many friends and family members, to see and to hear their affirmations of what they appreciated about him.

If this sounds like a confusing day, not to mention an emotional whipsaw, welcome to the world of “ambiguous loss.” And welcome to Hit Hard: One Family’s Journey of Letting Go of What Was—and Learning to Live Well with What Is, a powerful new book by Zach’s parents, Pat and Tammy McLeod. Hit Hard deals with the messy contradictions of a life where suffering and joy are not strangers but siblings that share the same house.

The Language of Loss

Pat and Tammy were attending a ministry meeting when they received a nightmarish phone call. Their son Zach had sustained a catastrophic head injury in a high school football game. Zach survived, but today he speaks with great difficulty and requires 24/7 care. Pat and Tammy had to come to grips with the complex realities of taking care of him while parenting their other three children and juggling their careers in ministry. They both serve as chaplains for Cru, an interdenominational Christian ministry, at Harvard University. Tammy is also the director of College Ministry at Park Street Church in Boston.

The McLeods wrestled for a way to understand what they were experiencing. Alternating as authors, Pat and Tammy write about the same events from different points of view. Having and not having their son in the way they once did put them on what felt like opposing sides. Pat focused on the “have” part of that reality, while Tammy gravitated toward the “have not” end. As a result, they struggled to connect with one another in their grief. This book is as much about how a marriage survives in the wake of a crisis as it is about the ongoing trauma.

Because Hit Hard is so honest, it is also raw, intense, and messy. It is emotionally difficult and uncomfortable to read. The book takes readers through a series of traumatic events and explores how Pat and Tammy process each of them and the relational challenges that ensue. The details of their loss are heart-wrenching: Tammy gets cancer, and Zach sustains a second brain injury. For people who have endured trauma (or are enduring it still), the details of their journey may reopen wounds before providing hope.

The McLeods could not find language for what they were experiencing, which only deepened their sense of loss and isolation from their community and from one another. Their friends were unsure what to say. Should they share their joy that Zach had survived? Or grieve with them for the loss of the life that was?

Countless books and articles on grieving failed to speak to the McLeods’ circumstances. Finally they found a book by family therapist Pauline Boss called Ambiguous Loss: Learning to Live with Unresolved Grief. Putting a name to their experience was powerful. The words “ambiguous loss” validated their pain. They were not alone in their pain; it had a category of its own and was shared by others.

Boss describes two kinds of ambiguous loss. One is when the physical body is absent yet the person is psychologically present in the mind of the loved one. Examples of this include those missing because of war, natural disasters, kidnapping, adoption, or divorce. The other kind of loss happens when a person is bodily present but is not the same cognitively or emotionally. Examples of this kind of loss include people affected by Alzheimer’s, addiction, mental illness, or debilitating brain injury.

Boss wrote that to pursue closure is a fruitless endeavor. Fixing the ambiguity is often impossible. The goal then becomes how to live well with the ambiguous loss and increase tolerance for it. Tammy writes, “The secret to living well with ambiguous loss requires living well with both having and not having someone the way you once had them.” The McLeods needed to learn how to hold two opposing ideas in their minds at the same time. The Zach they had known was gone. A new Zach survived. They celebrated his survival but mourned what had happened to him.

Finding out that their grief had a name somehow changed things for the McLeods. It not only authenticated their pain but also clarified the source of the tension in their marriage. They realized their marital challenges had not been rooted in one spouse being right and the other being wrong. It was the ambiguity of the loss. Giving a name to their grief did not remove the debris, but it did throw light on the scene, so that they were less frequently tripping over things or bumping into each other in the dark.

Redeemed Ambiguity

In the beginning of the book, Tammy laments all of the things her son could never do again. He would never play football or sing with her, a hobby they enjoyed together. A scene at the end of the book illustrates how Tammy has made peace with their reality. Two hulking football players are holding Zach up as the three of them step onto the playing field. Zach is dressed in the team uniform, but he isn’t playing. His gait is not as smooth and his posture not as straight as the other players. But Zach is a leader in his own way. He sets an example by showing up and rising from every hard hit of life. He plays a motivational presence on the field and in the community.

Hit Hard can help those struggling with all kinds of grief, but especially those experiencing loss that has no clear end. Tammy felt understood when she read Boss’s words that living with continuous uncertainty and loss “is the most stressful kind of loss people can face.” The book can also help those who want to support someone experiencing a loss that feels complex, contradictory, and elusive. And lastly, it may assist marriages or other relationships in tension due to differences in how people process grief.

As Pat writes, “Ambiguous loss will probably always remain part of our family’s legacy. It will move in and out of the forefront, but never completely disappear. Like mountain hikers, we’re learning how to cinch our backpack straps tighter, adjust the weight so it doesn’t rub on already stressed spots, and keep climbing….Today we live in that redeemed ambiguity—incredible suffering and incredible love in the same messy world.”

Joyce Koo Dalrymple is a wife and mother, a minister of discipleship and women, and a former attorney.

AUDIO Grief Is Inevitable. It Doesn’t Have to Be Inevitably Lonely

Season two of Living and Effective explores the isolating, inescapable nature of grief.


Listen here

Job’s grief over his family, health, and livelihood feels relatable to so many of us. Psychologist Diane Langberg says that while the death of a loved one is the most poignant loss we can experience, grief is ever-present: “Death meets us around many corners in life.”

In this article, John Graeber offers a look at Job’s inner-life, one that is strikingly similar to our own. For more on grief, loss, and our response to it, check out season two of Living and Effective, available in full now. – CT Creative Studio

“The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21, CSB)

You cast me into my grave, but for 140 years, Lord, you have refused to draw the last breath from my lungs. Instead, you have left me a broken shell, a creature wandering landscapes stripped as bare as my heart; gullies awash in sudden storms threaten to drown me. I would welcome the reprieve.

I waited for you to reassemble the pieces of my shattered life, but you would not. I’ve now realized that these shards have become my life, and I exist only along their broken edges, in the empty spaces that cannot be restored. After all, that which you have torn down, none can rebuild.

You took everything I loved, and tore out the foundations from underneath me. You left me adrift, cast upon a merciless sea, where my anguish lay in wait for quiet moments, to curl forth and drag me into the depths. Can you, Lord, holy and complete, understand what it is not to be whole?

In my despair you conjured a tempest like the priest of a lesser god, and from it you questioned my grief. You put this love inside me. Am I not made in your image? Did you not consider what would happen when you breathed your divine spirit into earthly clay? Can you understand the chaos of holding such torment in so weak a vessel? How could one so powerful know the brokenness of a heart burdened with sorrow it was never meant to bear?

For years my soul has lain in ruins around me. Children again you have given to me. But you did not restore those whom you took, and their loss has darkened all of my days. Their absence ever near, ready to overwhelm. Did you know when you allowed this evil that I would be forever altered?

Even in moments of rest, I know the storm will return. The winds will howl and the sea will churn, the hail will pour forth from the sky and beat me into the dust. The lightning will cleave me in two and yet I will live.

Why haven’t you taken my life also? Do you consider it a mercy? I’m still here not because I am strong, but simply because my body does not die.

When my grief was fresh, and the fires of my torment burned fierce and hot, I was told to curse you and die, but I had received good at your hand. Should I not accept the evil that also comes? For you are the Lord my God.

You laid the foundations of the earth.

You store up snow and hail in the great storehouses of heaven.

You give the horse his might and clothe his neck with a mane.

You bind the chains of the Pleiades and loose the cords of Orion.

You could have spared me by your hand, but you did not.

You are the source of my affliction, and your terrors are arrayed against me, but there is no judge to arbitrate between us.

Do you understand that I would have left you? That your name should never have again passed over my lips for as long as I drew breath? But with your hand, you would not let me turn my face from you.

In my many years you have revealed yourself to me, and I am no longer deceived. I understand the true nature of the Lord, and I have seen the depths of the Almighty.

And “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the end he will stand on the dust. Even after my skin has been destroyed, yet I will see God in my flesh. I will see him myself; my eyes will look at him, and not as a stranger” (Job 19:25-27, CSB).

Living and Effective is produced by CT Creative Studio in partnership with the Christian Standard Bible .

John B. Graeber is a writer living in Chattanooga, TN, with work at Curator Magazine, The Blue Mountain Review, Ekstasis Magazine, Glide Magazine, and Fathom Magazine, and featured poetry on Chattanooga’s local NPR affiliate. He is also co-founder of Tributaries, a literary newsletter that explores the inspiration behind great writing. Follow him on Twitter

VIDEO Surviving the Death of a Loved One

By: Redeemed on Purpose

Surviving the Death of a Loved One

I am sorry for the loss of your loved one. Losing someone is a pain completely unimaginable. Surviving the death of a loved one can even seem impossible. My hope is that as you continue reading, you will see a light at the end of this dark tunnel and that light is Jesus. That may not be something you want to hear, but I can tell you first hand that it is the best thing to hear.

Several years ago on June 10th, my first husband died after having a motorcycle accident. Our marriage had just been restored 1 year prior from a 9 month separation. Life was perfect as I knew it. I was now left alone to raise our little boy. I didn’t know how I was going to manage paying all of the bills and taking care of our son, maintaining our house and yard, and working full-time.

Bitterness with God could’ve set in but instead I pressed into Him. I also witnessed how different members of the family grieved, how some had peace who sought comfort in the Lord, and others no hope who tried to do it on their own. I would like to help you walk through this healing journey. It is possible to live a happy life again.

  1. Why can’t God end all of the pain and suffering in this world?

The answer is… He can, and He will. Jesus did not create this world to have pain and suffering. In the Garden of Eden, there was no death or suffering. Since the fall, pain and evil has been allowed into this world by mankind. The good news is Jesus is coming back to restore everything. He loves us and does not want to see us suffering.

There have been times when I was grieving that I would wish Jesus would come back right now, so all of the suffering in the world could end. The Holy Spirit convicted me quickly. If Jesus comes back now, there is no hope left for those who do not believe in Him to go to heaven. The more time we have here, the more time we have to minister and help save as many souls as possible. He is graceful and will come back at the perfect time.

Apologist Ravi Zacharias answers tough questions about God and Christianity. For more on this question, please watch this video of Ravi Zacharias. You can also view it at the end of this post.  

2. How do I find peace while I am suffering the loss of a family member?

It is possible to find peace in the pain. I would spend my nights crying in pain from not having my husband, but I would cling onto God. In the flesh, I would try to stay up all night cleaning to wear myself out and be tired, but that didn’t help me. I would play worship music as I tried to sleep and just cry, and cry, and cry again to Jesus. There was a supernatural comfort that would come over me. Many nights I would have TBN playing on the TV. When I would wake up in the middle of the night, I would hear a word from God that would settle my spirit. As I worshipped Him in tears, I could literally feel His love and peace upon me.

3. What can I do now?

surviving the death of a loved oneI recommend gathering with a group of believers who can love and support you. Having a church family to encourage you, uplift you, and give you a shoulder to cry on is healing in itself. You can also join a support group such a GriefShare.

Do not hold in your feelings. Focus on God’s promises. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LordAs the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV

Your family member would want you to continue living life to the fullest, not to survive but to thrive, to love others, to truly know the love of Jesus.

Fast forward years later, God absolutely provided for me. I became a Registered Nurse with all of my tuition paid for. God used family, friends, and even random people to bless my son and I. My relationship with God and faith grew even deeper. I am now married to the most amazing man that I have always dreamed of, and my son has the dad he had always prayed for. My life is better than I could have even imagined or planned. God is so faithful. 

Who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:4

My husband’s books are also great resources to help you see God in all of your trials, and that there is purpose in the pain. Please comment below with any other encouraging tips for someone else who is also walking through this journey.