A Guest Post by Samantha Carter.*
I’m sitting on the dry grass in front of the coop.
The green flecks of spring are beginning to grow though the dead fall grass still lingering.
Green life, reaching for the nourishment of spring sun.
Kristopher always loved watching the chickens for some reason.
Here, now, I’m reminded of him.
This summer it will be nine years.
Nine years without that crooked grin.
Without my tormentor chasing me through the house, beating me at Nintendo, and watching Looney Toons together.
Nine years without my big brother.
It’s the little things that remind me of him.
Nine Years Ago
It is the summer after my first year of university.
My mom and dad, little brother and I are all sitting around our kitchen table with a victim services worker and a police officer.
A tender piece of my heart dies as they explain what happened.
Though it should bring closure, hearing the officer confirm that they caught the two young men who took my brother’s life gives me little comfort.
He just celebrated his 30th birthday.
Yet these young men will be walking free before their 30th birthdays.
It isn’t fair.
My parents fall into what I can only describe as a zombie-like state.
My dad sits outside in a lawn chair. Alone. Staring for hours at the ground beneath his feet.
My mom moves slowly around the house. Expressionless. Doing dishes and laundry in a trance.
They are alive but grief keeps them from living.
Unable to process my brother’s death themselves, they offer no comfort or guidance to me or my younger brother (still only in elementary school).
His youth offers a kind of resilience I have somehow grown out of; grief did not enslave him like it did me.
I try different things to overcome my grief – to distract me.
Nothing works. Nothing I do is enough.
But after months of life in the pit, something beautiful happens.
I wait for the comfort of sleep to take me, but insomnia denies me relief.
Night after night, I am left alone with my thoughts.
Thoughts spiraling around my head so quickly I feel nauseous.
Why my brother? Why did he have to die the way he did?
Why does the “justice” served through the court system feel so dissatisfying?
What about me? My emptiness?
The courts can convict the killers, but they cannot bring back my brother.
But one night, a new thought parts through the turbulent waters.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”
The Lord? Really!
Where was “The Lord” when my brother was being attacked?
And how can I say that I shall not want, when I do want – I want my brother back.
“He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;”
That does sound pretty nice – green pastures and still waters. But how – how can He restore my broken soul?
“He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.”
I haven’t heard these words in years.
They must have been buried deep in my consciousness.
I was forced to memorize Psalm 23 the summer my parents sent me to Bible camp.
But why am I suddenly remembering it now?
“Yea, 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.”
Comfort. How I crave it.
But how can this God, the one from Bible camp so many years ago, really deliver the comfort I long for?
In anger, I try to force the unbeckoned words from my mind.
If God is so good, how can He allow such bad things to happen?
But the words fight back!
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;”
Maybe God is trying to tell me how I can have peace in the midst of my pain.
I am desperate for peace, comfort, hope.
My resolve to navigate life on my own weakens.
I begin to talk to God.
God, I’m angry.
God, I’m sad.
God, I’m alone.
As I empty myself before the God of Psalm 23, I realize there’s no harm in giving Him a chance.
Maybe He can comfort me. Maybe He can restore my soul.
What do I have to lose?
What grief taught me about God
1. God may allow us to experience grief and suffering in order to bring us closer to Him.
I experienced intense grief. Months of anguish over the loss of my brother. And God allowed it. Why?
In 2 Corinthians, Paul talks about the tormenting “thorn” (12:7) in his flesh. He describes the thorn as a “messenger of Satan” (v 7). Torment, from Satan – yikes, I’m thinking that this was a pretty painful experience for Paul.
Paul even asked (nay, pleaded) God to take away the thorn. God’s answer? “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (v9).
God said no. There’s a reason He allowed it.
You see, when we are weak, hurting, or grieving, we are in a state where we realize that we are helpless. We are not in control. It’s times like these when many of us turn to God and find His grace.
The power to persevere through “torment” as Paul describes it, is only possible though Christ. Paul ends by saying this:
“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
2. God can bring good things out of terrible situations.
Looking back, I see how God was able to use the tragedy of my brother’s death to save me. He allowed me to experience the grief. But He waited with open arms until I was ready to come to Him. To rush to the comfort of my Father’s arms.
He brought miraculous triumph, out of the worst of tragedies. A daughter comforted. A soul saved.
What better example of this is there, than the death of Jesus? He was whipped, mocked, beaten, stripped naked and nailed to a cross – if that’s not a terrible situation, then I don’t know what is. But God brought good from it.
In fact, I daresay it’s the greatness goodness we know. Through Christ’s sacrifice for us, we can experience salvation.
Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Jesus paid our wages for us. He bore the burden of the sin that separated us from our Holy Father. And now? We are able to have a direct relationship with God, and experience His gift of eternal life.
3. God keeps his promises.
I was promised healing, restoration, and comfort from my Father. And that is exactly what I received. We have a good Father, who keeps His promises to us.
However, sometimes He asks us to wait a little.
And sometimes He asks us to wait a lot. The Israelites waited a long, long, loooooooong time to see God’s promise to them fulfilled.
God made a covenant with Abraham (Genesis 17), told him that he would have many descendants, and that they would inherit the entire land of Canaan. But it didn’t happen overnight.
The Israelites were enslaved by the Egyptians for 430 years (Exodus 12:41), and wandered the wilderness for another 40 years after that (Numbers 14:34). I would consider that a long time.
We learn in the book of Joshua how the Israelites do eventually enter the promised land. Did God keep his promise? Yes He did! Even though it took many years.
If you are waiting for God to fulfill His promises to you, do not lose heart. He may ask us to wait, but He will always keep His promises.
All things work for good
I sit here now, drinking the spring air and watching my son chase the chickens.
We decided to name him Weston William Kristopher after his uncle.
He’s got the same mischievous and playful heart as my brother!
My brother may be gone, but he will never be forgotten.
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” -Romans 8:28
Samantha* is a Canadian country girl, farm wife, and crunchy mama. She loves the outdoors, whether it’s gardening, hiking, fishing, or just taking a nature walk with the kids through God’s creation. If she’s not outside, you can find her sitting with herbal tea and writing.
*Author’s name has been changed for privacy reasons.