Fear After Grief
I sat on the table of the surgical outpatient room. I already made it through the agonizing wake-up from anesthesia, and I was ready to retreat home. My cut-up body moaned quietly beneath the haze of Vicodin.
The report was good. The doctor said it. The nurse said it. My husband said it. Yet my heart feared to hope. I’d prayed for answers for weeks, and none had come. I’d been pulled along with remedy after remedy, only to come crashing down with another fever. Would this be the same?
In the coming weeks of my recovery from MRSA I found myself terrified–terrified to hope, and terrified even to grasp hold of the goodness the Lord had given me.
Since those days almost eleven years ago I’ve found a similar fear sneaking up after periods of deep difficulty and grief. In the midst of gratefulness, I also fear the answer I had prayed for–maybe you have too.
Maybe it’s been after a season of loneliness, where the community you longed for has been supplied, yet you find yourself terrified to enter into friendship lest it might go away again.
Maybe it’s after a dark season of miscarriage or infertility where you wept day and night for a baby to hold, and now that you grasp those little fingers you find yourself fearful to let go.
Maybe it’s after years of chronic pain, when a new diagnosis or a new treatment begins to bring relief, but you’re scared to hope your life could look any different.
Perhaps you’ve been walking through seasons of grief, as you mourn especially deep pain. The dark clouds have begun to shift, but you’re not sure if you can bear to greet the sun, lest you have to return to the dark.
It seems strange to fear the answer to the prayers we’ve cried out for so long, yet it happens. Sandwiched between gratitude our hearts burst with anxious questions. What if it happens again? What if they hurt me too? What if the pain returns? What if God takes it away? I don’t deserve this gift. What if grief comes crashing over me once again?
As I thought about the various times I’ve feared in such a way, I was reminded of the words of Jesus in Matthew, and of the character of our Father.
“Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:9-11
We have a good Father. We need not fear his gifts. With this in mind, I wrote the poem below.
If you find yourself fearful today–I’ve felt the same. And I hope you can join me in remembering our Father’s character. Though darkness sometimes lingers, and though it may even return, he will always provide food for his children. We can take and eat with assurance of who he is.
Snakes and Stones
I sit at the table
a meal spread before me
I see the bread, but I’m still holding my breath for it to become stone.
Because I’ve prayed for it for days, months, and years.
Its image filled my dreams
when my eyes shut to darkness.
Yet I’d wake to fill the aches in my stomach with unseen manna.
The thirst in my mouth quenched again by tear-filled prayers.
Now here it is.
I reach out my hand, and I’m scared to take it.
I fear I’ll break it.
Now all I can think is how I don’t deserve it.
I wasn’t faithful enough.
I doubted too much.
Except that’s not who You are.
That’s not how You act.
When your children ask for fish, you don’t give them a snake.
Because the snake is dead after all
You crushed him beneath your feet
when I was still doubting.
when I was still faithless.
You gave me bread that can never be taken
And manna that sustained me in each day of lack.
You gave me yourself,
Yesterday, today, and forever.
So I can take a bite of what’s now before me
And taste the sweetness of the gift
Even if it runs out.
Even when it runs out.
Because stones are never at your table,
And the snake doesn’t rule here anyway.