Grief, Guilt and God’s Goodness
Discovering God’s comfort through a lifetime of grief
By Bethany Lockett – BSF Editorial Assistant
After decades of grief and pain, Sandy Stubbs finally felt ready to share her story. During last year’s BSF Share Day, Sandy walked to the microphone, took a deep breath, and gestured to the road behind the church where her class gathered.
“You know that (traffic) light up there?” she began. “That light was put there because of my child’s death.”
As she recounted her sorrow, Sandy also reflected on God’s abounding love as He continued to give her peace and hope in her darkest moments.
But, as she would soon learn, her story was not over. God would miraculously extend His comfort once again. This time, through an unknown connection to a listening BSFer.
Walking with grief
Forty-six years earlier, Sandy woke up in the intensive care unit at a local hospital. Unable to move and in immense pain, Sandy sobbed.
Earlier that day, while driving with her 5-year-old son, David, Sandy’s car was struck by a drunken driver. When she regained consciousness after the accident, she was told that a nurse had already taken her son to the hospital. She assumed he was mostly unharmed.
In the ambulance, Sandy kept herself awake by imagining doctors rolling her past her young, scared child in the hospital. She planned to tell him everything was going to be all right.
But when they arrived, Sandy discovered that her son had been taken to a different hospital and his injuries were extensive.
David died later that night.
Days later, as she lay in her hospital bed, Sandy wondered, “What kind of world is this if cruel people are allowed to live and little David, who could not even make an angry face … this innocent child … had been taken? How can there be a God?”
Through her pain, Sandy cried out to God. All she could manage was to say “God if you’re real and if you’re there, help!”
She described a sudden feeling that a “10-gallon bucket of peace” was dumped on her head, covering her completely and providing instant comfort. After this experience, Sandy and her husband, David, accepted the gospel and clung to the comfort that they would see their son again in Heaven.
After Sandy recovered, she and her husband had three more children. They celebrated birthdays, Christmases, and school graduations. Life seemed hopeful.
But their journey of grief was not over.
As Sandy’s daughter grew into a young adult, she began to abuse drugs. Sandy prayed persistently and shared her faith.
Tragically, Sandy’s daughter died at the age of 21.
The couple was devastated. Once again, they found themselves mourning the loss of a beloved child.
As Sandy and her husband sorted through their daughter’s belongings, they discovered a journal with a small cross. The journal included Scripture, a plan of salvation and these simple words:
“If you think it’s funny that I have this cross, know this … I belong to Jesus.”
Once again, Sandy experienced God’s gracious comfort that she would see her child again.
Living with guilt
Although she held to this hope, Sandy continued to be overwhelmed by guilt and grief. She felt like a failure as a mother. She even called herself a “50 percenter,” because in her mind she had only been able to keep half of her children alive.
Although she had never spoken about her feelings to anyone else, Sandy shared her struggle with a dear friend. Together, they prayed for Sandy’s freedom from guilt.
“That night when I went to bed, I was awakened by this thought; I know it came from God. It was, ‘Sandy, what do you want for your children? What is your heart’s desire for your children?’”
“And I said, ‘God, I want them to worship you and serve you. I want their lives to glorify you.’ It was like He spoke to me and said, ‘Well, 50 percent of them are here with me right now, in person, glorifying me. It’s the other two you’ve got to worry about.’”
Sandy realized she was a 50 percenter — she’d just been focusing on the wrong 50 percent!
Reborn in grace
As Sandy stood before her BSF class less than a year ago, sharing her story, she talked not only about losing her son and mourning her daughter. She also shared about God’s enduring faithfulness and her deliverance from guilt.
Finally, Sandy felt free.
But her story was still not over.
As she collected her belongings, a fellow BSFer approached.
The woman asked, “Did anyone ever tell you that a nurse picked up your son and took him to the hospital?”
Sandy recounted how the hope of David’s survival had kept her alive in those moments.
Locking eyes, the woman said, “I am that nurse.”
For the first time, Sandy learned that 46 years ago this woman had driven by the accident and stopped to respond. She was not only a nurse, but the head of her trauma department. A bystander with a connection to the city government ordered a police escort to the hospital at the nurse’s request. David arrived at the hospital before Sandy was transported from the scene of the accident.
“God in His mercy gave my child absolutely the best care on his way to Heaven,” Sandy said. “There I was, still in the car, and my child was already being cared for.”
“I’m telling you God has given me every opportunity to be comforted. I mean He has [been there] in the strife and heartache and trouble and trial. How can anyone doubt a God who sends a police escort to the hospital?”
“God is good. He is pure good.”
Through our own suffering, we can relate to the pain of sin and death in this life. We grieve losses, experience doubt, struggle with guilt, and wonder whether God is really good after all. Even as we recount Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension in Matthew 26-28, we so often identify with the sorrow and suffering of the crucifixion and lose sight of the victory of Christ’s resurrection.
But, like Sandy, we trust that God is listening to our cries for help. In our moments of sorrow, we know the story is not complete. Will you allow God to bring you unexpected comfort today? Will you ask him to be present with you in your darkest moments?
“God is good. He is pure good.”
Bethany Lockett is an editorial assistant at Bible Study Fellowship Headquarters. She is a third generation BSF-er and native Texan. She joined BSF after graduating from Wheaton College where she studied spiritual discipleship in a digital world.
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