Anyone who has ever experienced a devastating loss knows that there is nothing more debilitating, more heartwrenching, and more painful. I don’t mean losing a game if you’re an athlete, or losing your keys and being locked out of the house. I’m talking about a great loss; the loss of a parent, a sibling, a spouse, a best friend or, in my case, a child. I mean the type of loss that feels like someone just punched you in the gut and knocked every bit of air out of you; the kind that hurts so much you’re not convinced that you can fall asleep at night, or worse, that you will wake up the next morning.
I’ve been there. The night after we found out our son, Caleb, had gone home to be with the Lord, I remember going upstairs to get into the bed. My heart hurt so much, I didn’t know if I would be able to fall asleep that night. Even more difficult, I wasn’t convinced I would wake up the next morning. I got into the bed and prayed one prayer: “Lord, please let me go to sleep tonight, and let me wake up in the morning. And Lord, please give me peace.”
I know what you’re thinking: “Not Rasheeda. The one who has great faith, who trusts God in everything. Proverbs 3:5-6 is her favorite scripture, after all.” Well, you see, that’s the thing about life. Sometimes you get dealt with a dose of reality that causes you to sink or swim. I wasn’t sinking, but I didn’t feel like I was swimming, either. I was just there. I didn’t know how to explain what I was feeling, though. I just knew that, well, “I just can’t.”
“I just can’t” meant so many things to me. I just can’t talk about it. I just can’t explain how I feel. I just can’t get out of bed today. I just can’t leave the house. I just can’t stop crying. I just can’t be around people. I just can’t talk to anyone, even if it’s small talk. I. JUST. CAN’T.
Can’t was never in my vocabulary. Philippians 4:13 tells me that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. What do you mean you can’t? You can, and you will. You have to. Right?
Eventually. But in that moment, for that period of time, I couldn’t. And I learned that it was okay. It was okay to be weak. It was okay to hurt. It was okay to feel like everyone around you was either pregnant or just had a baby. It was even okay to be upset that a teenager was having a healthy child, but you didn’t. Your child was gone. It was okay to be angry, disappointed and all around upset. And it was okay to allow yourself to work through those emotions.
But you know what else I learned? I learned that, eventually, I would stop saying, “I just can’t.” I learned to name my emotions. I learned to share my story. I learned that, in my greatest moments of pain and weakness, I did not lose faith; in fact, I gained it, because I had just enough presence of mind to call out the simplest prayer and ask God to help me. And He did.
Since that time, my prayer in times of loss either for myself or others is always the same: May God strengthen you, encourage you and give you peace that passes all understanding. May He carry you until you’re strong enough to stand, may He hold you until you’re strong enough to walk, and may He be beside you when you’re strong enough to run again.
Even when we “just can’t,” God can. And He will.