Being born and dying are transitions into this world and out of it.
A transition I have experienced first hand during the birth of my three children. I have experienced the way a child begins to grow from conception, to finally making their escape from the womb. Making that transition from womb to world.
It is such a surreal experience. So spiritual, I remember how my pregnancies had left me in a state of awe at how intentional and amazing God is, to create such a process and a portal through me to bring life into this world.
I remember my last birthing experience in September 2017, when my youngest daughter Azariyah was born. We had a relaxed water birth, I can still hear the gospel music playing in the background, calm breathing and encouraging words from my husband, mum and sisters. “You can do it!”
“Well done, Bimbo. You are almost there,”
“You are doing such a great job”.
“One last push… you are almost there..”
With the last push, I let out a euphoric sigh. Upon hearing Azariyah cry, (which took a few minutes) just imagine my relief that the transition had been successful.
God is so Good!
The giver of life!
I’m so Blessed.
These were all my thoughts and feelings.
So you can imagine my distraught when exactly a year to this day I was standing in the woodlands burial grounds. Where I had chosen to bury my husband who was 31 years old at the time on Azariyah’s 1st birthday.
Again this was a surreal experience that unravelled my faith.
The giver of life, so why would he allow this gruesome death? (my husband died in a road traffic head-on collision with a truck)
Am I being punished?
Will I ever see my husband again?
These were now my thoughts and feelings.
I was perplexed how these contrasting feelings lived in the same place within me.
My faith journey to this point
I will give you some insight into my faith journey up to this point. I would identify as a Christian, I went to church regularly. I loved God, I was part of the choir/worship team in my church, I led children’s church, I prayed fervently for my 10-year marriage and took introducing my children to my faith seriously.
I had come from a complex family background. My parents had separated when I was 5 or 6 and this had really hurt me, but I also hated seeing my mum struggle. So I started talking to God about this from the age of 14 and I was determined and intentional to make my life and that of my children’s ‘clean and easy’, essentially different to mine.
I clung onto God for this and allowed this goal to form my values, goals and decisions. A summary of this was if I’m ‘good’ God will be good to me, or if I follow the rules good things will happen. (It came from a good place, but it feels slightly ‘religious’ to me now as I write this).
You can imagine my dismay to find that overnight I became a widow and a single parent. My family was broken and I was ANGRY! Behind that anger, was a deep deep hurt. I was disappointed that God would allow this to happen to me despite all our conversations over the years.
This was one of the few ways to break my heart, losing a spouse, my children not growing up with a father in the home and most of all me being a single parent and God knew that. I felt betrayed.
How could I trust God again?
In my grief, I now had to reconcile my faith, but not with any haste. I feel like God was so patient with me. I would ask these questions, then cry, then get angry like a broken record on repeat. I was stuck in a place where I had seen God being good and could testify of his goodness to me, but this wasn’t good, it didn’t feel good. How could I trust God again?
I wanted to turn my back and say God isn’t good, but I couldn’t. I had had so many testimonies of God’s goodness that I’ve told, retold and lived by. I simply couldn’t revoke those experiences, because they were good. I felt them, I experienced them, I lived them.
My heart needed to find an answer.
I was stuck, I spoke to God in the quiet, I cried, spent a lot of time alone and reflected, I had countless conversations with others. Some of these conversations were recorded in my young and widowed podcast which was birthed after the loss of my spouse.
I found revelation through reading some Bible scriptures, they helped me unpack the season I was in.
I soon realised that life is in seasons. Whether you ‘do’ all the right things, bad stuff can still happen.
“that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." Matthew 5:45
"We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time." Romans 8:22
I was relieved that I was not being punished. That life is full of the good and bad. That is the life experience, a mixed bag of joy and suffering. Something I wanted to be immune to. With a heavy heart, I decided to accept this. I remember saying to God:
“I’m not happy about this, but I don’t have anywhere else to go”.
I knew I couldn’t accept and move forward with my life alone, so I decided to put my confidence back in God. Since I couldn’t dispute or run away from God’s goodness, neither could I put my hope and trust in a person (because they can die). He became my safe place, a retreat where I could hide from the storm that’s raging within.
"He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings, you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart." Psalm 91:4
"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth is transformed and the mountains are toppled, though the earth is transformed, into the depths of the seas, though their waters roar and foam and the mountains quake in the surge. There is a river whose streams delight the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her; she will not be moved. God will help her when morning dawns. Nations rage, kingdoms crumble; the earth melts when He lifts His voice. The LORD of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress." Psalm 46:1-7
The LORD of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Joshua 1:9
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."
"Even 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." Psalm 23:4
I felt like God continued to answer my questions lovingly and so tenderly over the darkest days of that season. Each week I would receive my word for the week in relation to my questions through vivid dreams or specific words spoken or through friends and the children.
One evening my oldest son had a dream that he went on an adventure with his dad, while we were asleep, and saw our other loved ones that had passed away in this beautiful and magical place.
It was bright and fun and beautiful and he said “Daddy said he was OK.” This gave us so much comfort we have turned this into a book: My Sisters Are Not Good At Wrestling to help other bereaved children. It also helped us believe that my husband was fine where he is and God has our loved ones safe.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." Matthew 5:4
What that meant for me was even when the circumstance itself may not be good. God will work it together for our good. This was a pivotal mindset shift for me. This unpacking would cause me pain but would also provide some healing and succor.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
I really began to believe this. That all things work for my good, even when it’s bad, one way or the other, there will be something good in this for me. However big or small. I held onto this. Tightly.
How did my faith change?
It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart. Ecclesiastes 7:2
Grief caused me to begin to process the reality of life and death. My faith gave me a reason to move forward and begin to live fully.
I realised that I can trust God to be with me and good to me. Now this trust doesn’t mean everything is butterflies and rainbows. But I hang onto the fact that there will be a good thing in it for me. I wholeheartedly trust this now.
"The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18
I understand that there are seasons but that God is with us through all the seasons. Having faith in God does not bypass tough seasons but instead knowing that he is our refuge.
Unanswered prayers and disappointments are an opportunity to process past and present experiences and heal from them. And that can be done through prayer and conversations with God.
I am less religious and more authentic, I try to be more open to questions and to what God has for me, even when it looks different to what I want.
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19
I have experienced God in a new way and my faith is deep yet light. I am OK with conflicting and opposite feelings.Abi ShotadeTweet
I also have hope that I will see my loved ones again.
"Brothers and sisters, we want you to know about people who have died so that you won't mourn like others who don't have any hope. Since we believe that Jesus died and rose, so we also believe that God will bring with Him those who have died in Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14
This is an insight to how faith and grief through the lens of the scriptures have played out for me.
Can you share some of the bible verses that have been helpful to you in navigating grief? Please share them with us in the comment section below.