By Teri Miller, This content first appeared on Crosswalk.com and is used here with permission. To view the original visit: https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/spiritual-life/how-can-i-hope-and-heal-when-my-friend-goes-to-heaven.html
It’s been a little over a month now since our friend Kenny passed away. We all miss him. He was in our lives for over 20 years. Ken, his wife Lisa, and their kids were regular attenders at our Christmas, birthday, and anniversary parties. We worshiped and served at church alongside each other.
My photo albums (yes, I’m old enough to have photo albums—lots of them) are peppered with pictures of their family and ours on mountaintops skiing, on bikes resting along a path, sitting around a camp fire singing songs of faith, and enjoying meals at all sorts of locations. Basically, the pictures are a representation of our life.
The life we did together.
Now he’s gone and we have to keep living.
We have to reconcile the fact that we prayed for his healing, believing the entire time for a miracle, all the while watching him physically fade away.
Photo Credit: Teri Miller
We are blessed with the opportunity to continue to love and support his widow, our friend, Lisa, but we don’t have answers for her. We can’t fix her broken heart or ours. Oh, how I wish we could, but that’s God’s job. A job He’s really good at.
For now, we will continue to love her and include her in our lives. We will continue to pray for her and her children’s hearts, and we will all strive to live with peace and joy like Ken would have wanted.
If you’ve lost someone close, you may be able to relate to my story, and you may be wondering exactly how you will be able to move forward with joy, peace, and strength. If that’s you, would you allow me to share with you three truths that are helping me to heal?
1. You don’t have to understand.
If you struggle with understanding God, you’re in good company. Abraham and Sarah loved and trusted God—until they didn’t. Not understanding God’s perfect plan, they took matters into their own hands and tried to help God provide an heir.
David ran from his king and friend, Saul, for years. He himself had been anointed king but did not get to live the life promised to him for a long time. David asked Saul, “Why are you chasing me? What have I done?” David had no idea why he had become his mentor’s enemy.
Sometimes, we don’t understand what God is doing either. But we do have a choice, just like Abraham, Sarah, and David. We get to choose to believe that God sees us, loves us, and is working all things together for our good. “Even death?” you might ask. Somehow, and in some way, “yes.”
Isaiah 55:8 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.” And, Romans 8:39 says, “Nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
We can trust Him, even when we don’t understand.
2. It’s okay to not be okay.
Lisa and I talk often about how she is feeling now that Ken is gone. Our conversations are a safe place to be honest. Understandably, sadness is the predominant emotion of the day, but words like confusion, regret, and anger also come up.
With both of us, any emotion is allowed, because we understand there are no bad emotions, only honest ones. We understand the value of recognizing our emotions, and on occasion, when there is time and we have the energy, we talk about what might be driving them.
You see, emotions are like the engine light in your car. They are there to tell you what’s going on “under the hood.” Allowing yourself to feel sad or lonely is important for healing to occur, and experiencing sadness doesn’t mean you’re not trusting in God. It just means you’re human.
Don’t forget, Jesus felt sadness too. He wept when He arrived at Lazarus’ tomb and He knew He would see him again—that same day.
Emotions are a funny thing: you can’t anticipate them. Recently, while driving, my husband and I came across a Doobie Brothers song on the radio, and the guitar riff in the intro brought us both to tears. We had both heard Kenny sing and play that song many times, and the emotions attached to those good times made us cry and then laugh. Moments like these are bitter sweet.
We cherish the memories and experience the pain of loss all at the same time.
Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” We don’t have to be brave or strong. We can just be. In that place of honesty we can find healing and rest for our souls.
Photo Credit: Teri Miller
3. This life is not the end.
Finally, and most importantly, we know that if we belong to Jesus, if we have believed in our heart and confessed with our lips He is Lord (Romans 10:9), we will go to heaven when we die. This brings me great comfort. For I understand that when I breathe my final breath, not only will I go home to see God, but I will also be reunited with my loved ones.
The Old Testament states in multiple places that those who die are reunited with their loved ones. Genesis 35:29 says, “Then he (Isaac) breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people, old and full of years.” And in Genesis 49:29 Jacob, Isaac’s son said, “Soon I will die and join my ancestors.”
While this doesn’t make me miss my sweet daddy or Ken (or others I’ve lost) any less, it brings comfort to my soul that this life is not the end. We will be reunited and there will be no more sickness—no more pain. There will only be God’s transforming peace, joy, and amazing love and His Presence to enjoy.
You may be thinking, “That’s great for you, but I don’t know if my loved one is in heaven.” While that may be true, none of us can judge another person’s heart. None of us know what truly happens before death.
What we do know is that God is good. His love for us is beyond our comprehension. He sent His only son to earth to reconcile us to Himself. The Bible says He desires that all would come to know Him (1 Timothy 2:4). It also says that He loves us so much and is intimately aware of our lives that He even knows how many hairs are on our head (Luke 12:7). We can trust that He makes every effort to reach—and display His love and grace to—all of us. So, we can have hope that we will see our people again.
I’m sorry you lost your friend. I wish I could hug your neck and make the pain go away. All I can do is write this article and say, “You’re not alone.”
It hurts and it will take time, but may I encourage you to do what always works for me in difficult times. Turn to God. Don’t turn away. Let Him comfort you and reveal Himself to you in the valley, even in the valley of the shadow of death.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23)
Teri Miller is a writer, speaker/teacher, and counselor in training. She is passionate about helping others find healing and freedom in Jesus. She is the author of Death of a Church Lady, Confessions of Hurt, Healing & Freedom. She is the mother of three amazing children and resides in Michigan with her handsome hubby of 30+ years. For more information regarding Teri’s book, ministry or to contact her, visit https://terimillerministries.com/
Photo Credit: GettyImages/ipopba