by Ann Hartmann
My beloved son, Jeremy, was in denial about his substance abuse problems and I was consumed with fixing him.
I tried tough love, tender mercy, and everything in-between, but he was a grown man and I had no control over his choices. Helplessly watching his struggle was a faith-growing season for me. I had to give up my illusion of being able to protect him. I had to let go and entrust him to God’s care.
During my struggle with Jeremy’s situation, I listened as other people testified about God delivering them – from circumstances far worse than Jeremy’s. I was sure God was going to give my precious son his own victory story to tell. That was my plan for Jeremy’s life, and I expected God to make it happen.
Jeremy was a hardworking, skilled electrician. By Thursday night, he had already put in a forty-one hour workweek. He decided to treat himself to dinner out. He said, “Mama, I’ll be home around nine or nine-thirty,” and walked out the door.
He had been living with me the last week because he had lost his apartment. I had been reluctant to let him move back in – maybe my help wouldn’t help – but I will forever treasure those seven days. They were a gift to me from God.
Only God knows the exact details, but at 3:30 A.M. on October 15, 2004, Jeremy’s Honda Accord was found wrapped around a telephone pole. Inside, he was dead at the tender age of 24. The test results on the police report registered his blood alcohol level at 0.18. Jeremy was the drunk driver that killed my son.
When I discovered that my worst fear had become reality, negative thoughts began flowing through my mind. I knew God was my only hope of surviving the flood of grief, but doubt was trying to kill my faith. I had to hang on to God’s word and fight against what I knew to be lies.
Lie: “God didn’t answer your prayers.” I don’t understand why God didn’t intervene as I had expected, but he didn’t – or at least that is how it appears from my human point of view. God sees the big picture – I can’t. I am an ant in comparison to God (Job 38-42). I wanted to see God work the miracle in Jeremy’s life, but maybe some miracles are too great for human eyes (I Corinthians 2:9).
Lie: “God doesn’t love you!” I can’t imagine loving anyone enough to sacrifice my son’s life for them, but that is how much God loves me (John 3:16). His unconditional love is beyond my capacity to understand, but I think he gives us children to help us catch a glimpse. Even when Jeremy’s behavior was hard to love, I still loved him and longed for him to let me help. A mother’s love can be very strong, but God’s love for us is stronger than anything we know.
Lie: “Jeremy’s life was wasted.” Jeremy’s friends shared stories about how he had been there for them. I don’t think Jeremy realized what a positive difference he made – but it was obvious at his funeral. God’s good plans for creating Jeremy have not been hindered by his physical death. God is not limited by the time and space we are confined in. He can take a tragedy and use it for good (Romans 8:28).
Lie: “You lost your son.” As much as I claimed him, Jeremy didn’t belong to me. He belongs to God. God graciously shared him with me, and I am thankful. I learned so much from having Jeremy in my life! The joy of having known him is far greater than the pain of losing him. And he’s not lost. God knows exactly where he is.
Lie: “If you were really God’s child, he wouldn’t let you suffer.” God never promised us an easy life, just that he would never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). God’s Son – who lived a perfect life and didn’t deserve to suffer – suffered. On our darkest days we can remember that Jesus hung on a cross for us. He feels all our pain and cries with us (John 11:35).
Lie: “You can’t get through this.” Losing a child is the greatest loss I have ever known. Without a doubt, I know I could never get through this on my own strength – but I haven’t had to. God gives me his strength (Philippians 4:13) and continually amazes me. He shines all the light I need for each step. He uses ordinary people and little things to comfort me. God is faithful to see us through any challenge we face (I Corinthians 10:13) and his grace is sufficient (II Corinthians 12:9).
Lie: “God failed you this time!” Without faith, I cannot have a relationship with God (Hebrews 11:6). Before Jeremy’s death, I asked God for more faith. I thought faith was a feeling, and I didn’t always feel it. Then I sensed God speaking to my heart, “I’ve already given you my faith – just use it.”
When Jeremy died, I was deeply disappointed with God – why had He allowed this? But I remembered his instruction about faith and decided to use it. Faith believes what cannot be seen (Hebrews 11:1). When I doubted my feelings instead of doubting God, God was able to change my feelings.
Can God be trusted – when everything seems wrong? Jeremy’s death makes no sense to me, but God doesn’t think the way I do (Isaiah 55:8-9).
In the Bible, God promised to make a great nation from Abraham and Sara – a childless couple. Joseph had been given the vision that he would rule Egypt, but he became a slave and prisoner. God led the Israelites straight to the Red Sea, where the Egyptians in hot pursuit could easily trap and kill them. God selected Paul, a man who was notorious for killing Christians, to be one of the top leaders of the church. None of these examples make sense, but each time God proved he was trustworthy.
God knows what he is doing and that’s all I need to know. It’s okay that I don’t have the answers. I’ve learned to surrender my will and have childlike faith. When I do, I’m blessed with a peace that can only come from God (Philippians 4:7). I choose to trust him.