I wrote this article three weeks ago, Nana went Home two weeks ago, and Pap-Pop passed away exactly one year ago… to the day. As someone who loves and remembers dates/details, when I was assigned the May 12th article at incourage.me, I was confident it wasn’t a coincidence. And then I tried to write day after day, night after night, but each word put up a fight. In the end, I wrote about grief and gratitude and hope and loss. I knew I’d need these words and thought, after 2020 and 2021, you might too.
I’m not okay right now, but I will be, and God is nothing less than faithful.
I planted my heels firmly into the ground and with both my hands and my voice shaking, read a prayer to close my grandfather’s funeral service.
The words about worry, fear, and loss were written a month into sheltering-in-place, and as strange as it might seem, I prayed over that prayer before I wrote it out. With so much up in the air, with losses growing and normal disappearing, I asked God to guide my hands as I typed, to speak through the pixels of a computer screen, and to bring comfort no matter what the world looked like when it was published a few weeks later.
I couldn’t have known that before the words were shared online, they would be read in a cemetery. With the wind blowing and tears falling and God watching, I held the prayer in my hands, printed on a folded piece of paper, and gave the words back to the One who always knew.
My black dress is packed in a carry-on again.
Eleven months have passed and by the time you read this article, my grandmother will be Home finally and forever. Grief and gratitude are holding hands once again, mixed together in a way that simply can’t be separated.
When I reflect on the last year and a half, I’m struck by how much we’ve individually and collectively grieved. The details differ, but loss colors every single one of our stories.
A few months ago, I made a permission slip for a friend experiencing a big change. Before writing in her name, I posted it on Instagram. The “permission to be sad” note is one of my most shared posts — ever — which tells me there are so very many of us learning to hold hope and loss together these days.
And yet the more I write about this tension, the more replies I receive asking me to choose joy and move on or urging me not to lose my faith. By and large, we are a culture that is uncomfortable with grief — our own as well as the grief of another. I get it, grief is messy. But grief and hope are not mutually exclusive. One does not cancel the other out.
In fact, when I think of those who have walked through difficult times with hope instead of pretending all was okay, it bolsters my faith. Because how else can we say that, but Jesus? There’s something strikingly beautiful and outrageously compelling in someone who says “I’m not okay right now, but I will be, and God is nothing less than faithful.”
Please hear me: my heart is not to ignore or diminish happy moments or answered prayers. Yes, joy is our birthright, but let’s not miss it: Jesus knew resurrection was literally minutes away, and yet He still wept with His friends. He knew the page would turn, that loss would never have the last word, but He was present in the pain.
Perhaps when we’re so busy being “fine” as we try to hold it all together, we steal a little bit of glory from the Man of Sorrows who is literally holding us together.
Friend, please don’t tie a bow on brokenness and call it a day. Hurt is not something to hurry through and grief is not something you need to get over. You don’t need to sweep sorrow under the rug or rush to find beauty in the broken places. You can be sad without shame or a timetable.
It’s okay to not be okay right now. It’s okay to acknowledge what was or wasn’t or will never be, to say that yes, seasons come and seasons go and this will not last forever, but for now the storm is still raging.
Our comfort doesn’t come from the promise of calm waters but from the promised presence of the One who rides it out with us.
Jesus is no stranger to storms, and though He could, He doesn’t always walk on the waves. Sometimes He says, “Peace, be still” to the waters that rise and sometimes He says those very words to our overwhelmed hearts. Jesus never shows up with a tidy bow to rush us through to the other side, never dismisses our pain by saying, “Just choose joy,” never grows weary of how long we’ve struggled to stay afloat.
No, Jesus just gets in the boat.
One day, there’ll be no need for a black dress. One day, every grave will be a garden. One day, we’ll build altars in the ruins as we sing songs of praise to the God who redeems and restores all, the One who even now is making all things new. But for now, let’s just pass the tissues. Let’s learn to say, “I’m not okay right now, but I will be, and God is nothing less than faithful.”
You don’t have to hold it together. There is One who is holding you, who comes close and stays with and will carry you through. Our friend Jesus is familiar with waves.