It’s been a week since I last posted anything. So much has happened in that last week. I have thought about so much. God has revealed some things to my heart. By His grace, I have spoken to many about His truth and love. I have so much in my head that I want to say. Yet, the only thing that comes out with clarity is, “I miss my little girl.”
My heart just aches. I think about Susana all throughout my day. The first thing I often think about the second I open up my eyes in the morning is, “She’s gone.” Normally, I would be woken up by the sound of her pitter-patter feet coming from her bedroom to ours, the door opening up, and her crawling into bed with us, or her bursting through the door shouting, “Good morning Daddy!”. And now, I just wake up to my own deafening silence. Oh how my heart hurts.
Maria and I both have our moments of weeping throughout the day. Sometimes we weep together and other times we weep alone, yet even in our alone times, we are more together than ever in our weeping. Sometimes we weep and want to talk about Susana and what it is that we miss about her, and other times the moments are too sacred for words and we know it is best to just weep.
And even amidst this struggle, God is with us. He is teaching us. And He is using us for His glory to impact lives. And this is how it seems it will be for the rest of our lives. We have been crushed, but for a purpose, and that purpose is to bring Him glory by sharing the truth that He is sufficient, even in our greatest pain. He is sufficient.
And that’s what this past week has been like. We returned from Haiti on Monday. We have good friends in South Florida who had set up a gathering of people to come to their house on Friday evening where we would be there to share about our mission work in Haiti. Well, that gathering quickly outgrew their house and so they were given a church sanctuary to host the gathering since about a hundred people were planning on attending. That gathering also seemed to turn towards people hoping to hear not only about our mission work, but also about what God was doing in our lives through our trial of losing Susana. The gathering would not just include Christians who already knew of God’s great grace and sovereignty, but also those who were unaware of such a God. The gathering would not just include those who have never suffered tragedy or the loss of a child, but actually would have a couple attend who just lost a little girl two days earlier and desired to come to hear what we had to share about how God has ministered His truth and grace to our hearts. So, here was an opportunity to bring glory to God by sharing about our real struggle and pain and how a real God was bringing us through our grief for Hs glory.
The gathering was called, “An Evening with the Whittakers”. And an evening with the Whittakers is what they got. We’re not pretty these days. We’re very raw. We hurt more than ever. I did not run up to the podium that night…I crawled. The first thing I shared was that we were a mess. I shared how earlier that morning, Maria and I had a huge fight and that the central figure of the argument was Susana! Yes, my wife and I were fighting over issues pertaining to our precious daughter who was called home to heaven. It was very sad. But it was just the reality of the pain in our hearts that sometimes gets the best of us.
But I also shared about God’s incredible promises to those who trust in Him. I shared about His strength that comes to those who wait upon Him. I shared about how our struggles and pain here are nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed to us when we get to heaven. I shared about how God is truly all sufficient through any trials that we face. And I shared that this does not necessarily take away one single ounce of our pain, but rather that it just gives purpose and understanding to our pain. And in this understanding, we have the grace to grieve and the hope to know that His plan is greater, much greater, than our grief. And that is how we are able to say with great conviction, “Still, I will praise You.” After speaking, I picked up a guitar and led the gathering of people into Susana’s song, “Never Let Go” by Matt Redman. It was beautiful to see all the people lift up their hands (just like Susana and our family used to do) when we sang the lines, “Still, I will praise You. Still, I will praise You Lord.”
I was also invited to share the Sunday morning message at Christ Community Church in South Florida where our friends attend. So, it was a busy week of preparing messages to share while at the same time doing a lot of crying. This was not paradoxical at all, the fact that I was crying a lot while at the same time writing about God’s goodness, grace, love, and strength. No, our tears do not negate the truth of His goodness and grace. And our pain does not mean that we are not appropriating His grace and truth. We fully embrace such grace, but we are still human…and we hurt more than ever. But, our hope is not moved. We know He has a greater purpose to glorify His name and we also know that this is only temporary – that we will see our daughter again and live forever in heaven with her.
But we still vacillate between holding fast to such glorious truths and promises and experiencing the pain of missing our little girl more than words could ever convey. We are broken. And in that brokenness, He is being poured forth from us. It is such a hard way to live, but I believe that this is what He has chosen for us. And so, perhaps this is what our lives will look like from this day on – standing in front of hundreds of people with the message that Christ is sufficient, that He is all together glorious, and then balling our eyes out on the drive home. And that’s exactly what happened. After sharing on Friday with many, and then on Sunday with many more, during our drive heading back to Asheville, my heart was so sad and I was just balling. I couldn’t stop thinking about Susana and how much I miss her. And I thank the Lord for my wife who was able to hold my hand and quietly stand beside her grieving husband.
We arrived back home last night, and our hearts broke some more as we entered back into the house. Now, everything we saw reminded us of Susana. Even the bed that we sleep on is filled with both the greatest memories as well as the most painful memories of her last days with us. So, it was overwhelming. So much so, that I had to ask Maria if we could go into our room and just pray. Those were code words for, “Can we go into the other room so that I could ball my eyes out before God and with you by my side?” And that’s what I did.
And now, we prepare ourselves for the next step – getting ready to go back to Haiti and run our race of faith. There is a call that God has given us that we must follow no matter what. And we will go. And we will grieve. But we will go. And we continue to say, like Job, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” And we continue to pray that dangerous prayer, “Lord, use us for Your glory.” And we continue to cry out, “Lord, we want to know You.” And as I shared on Sunday morning, that knowing Jesus means not just the power of His resurrection, but also sharing in the fellowship of His sufferings. And yes, we will continue to pray that prayer…for He is worth it!
Still…I have so much to say…