What A Friend’s Sad Journey Reveals About Faith

One of my favorite mental images of my friend Kim is the picture of her arriving at my recently purchased fixer-upper house, the one that used to smell like a warehouse full of dirty gym socks.

peony 3

When she arrived, the smell was gone because we had ripped up all the old, nasty carpet and doused the plywood underneath with bleach. But the old carpet nails and tacks had to be removed before new flooring could be installed, so Kim came, bearing knee pads and pliers, to help me with this project.

We crawled around the house, yanking and talking, until the job was done.

It reminds me of the time several months earlier, when I had arrived at her house with a bucket of gardening tools and a bunch of peony shoots, to work on another project. Just weeks before, her 16-year-old son Andrew had been killed in an automobile accident. The immense outpouring of love and concern from the community had lessened some, but the grief the family was experiencing had only just begun.

We dug holes and planted peonies and laughed at the little black dog her husband had just brought home. Later, we sat on the deck with Diet Cokes and I listened as she talked about Andrew, and her grown boys, and the things she used to find in their pants pockets when they were younger.

It’s odd what I remember about these conversations. They were sad, because she was sad, but I also remember laughing a lot, because her stories were just so funny.

It would have been impossible not to have been inspired by the strength Kim and her family displayed at Andrew’s memorial service. They were likely still in shock, but they were fiercely determined that every person present—and there were hundreds—knew Andrew loved Jesus and was with Him now.

But in the five years since, that has not been what has encouraged me—taught me, actually—about Kim and faith.

Sometimes, when people think of faith, what comes to mind are images of upraised hands, powerful testimonies and inspirational books. When those things aren’t present, people think faith is missing too.

But I don’t think it works like that.

What I have seen Kim doing, since Andrew’s death, is the hard, hard work of survival. And sometimes, that requires more faith than anything else.

She has read books about death and heaven. She has gone to retreats for grieving parents. She and her husband have trudged with Andrew’s three siblings through endless fields of sorrow. She has conjured up the courage to let her daughter start driving by herself. She has worked faithfully in our church’s special needs and preschool classrooms, giving tired parents a much-needed respite for a few short minutes each week.

She might not be in the sanctuary every Sunday, proclaiming God’s goodness in the great assembly. But she is in the building, working so others can worship.

Maybe 18 months after her world crashed in around her, Kim and I sat in a coffee shop, talking about what her faith looks like now. “I should be speaking at the Christmas tea,” she lamented, referring to an annual event our church has that always features a speaker with some kind of inspiring story.

Her words made me sad, because I understand the pressure she feels to some how “get over” her pain and move on with the “joy-filled Christian life.” It’s kind of expected in today’s insta-everything world. It’s kind of expected even in our churches, where too much pain and vulnerability for too long still make people uncomfortable.

Sometimes, I think, people stand up to testify—or write books, or whatever—before they are truly ready, before they really realize what has happened to them and how it will change them. Healing takes time, sometimes a great deal of time, and it cannot—it should not—be rushed.

No, Kim—and anyone else who can relate to these words. You should not be speaking at the Christmas Tea.

Not yet, anyway. Maybe not ever.

You should be doing exactly what you are doing. Helping friends with projects, no matter how tedious. Learning to cope with the deep, enduring sadness that is now part of your reality. Going about the tough business of living, all the while providing a compelling example of what the Apostle James might have meant when he said that faith without works is dead.

Actions speak louder than words, my friend. And no matter what you might feel on any given day, your actions show me that your faith is very much alive.

Lois Flowers

P.S. I’m linking up this week with Grace & Truth, Kelly Balarie at Purposeful Faith, Jennifer Dukes Lee at #TellHisStory and Holley Gerth at Coffee for Your Heart.

24 Responses to What A Friend’s Sad Journey Reveals About Faith

  1. Jen says:

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful testimony with us over at Grace and Truth last week, Lois! Everyday faith doesn’t sell books or impress audiences, but it definitely transforms lives – not just ours, but those around us, as well. Thank you for reminding us of that truth. 🙂
    Jen @ Being Confident of This

    • Lois Flowers says:

      You are absolutely right, Jen. My faith has definitely been strengthened by watching my friend’s faith in action. I’m so glad to have found Grace and Truth … what a great community of bloggers!

  2. Mary McCully says:

    Lois, how beautifully penned. We are beginning our bible study soon and one of the leaders lost her son in a tragic car accident late last year. We could see her pain as she told us at a leader’s meeting how she believed God was calling her to minister to women through His Word. You are so right about FAITH and how it is lived out and demonstrated. This is one of your best! Use it again in a venue where people need to hear that FAITH can be a silent action. Love You

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Mary, my heart goes out to the Bible study leader you wrote about … I’m glad you are there to hold her up with your prayers and presence. Thank you for your sweet words about this post. It holds a very dear place in my heart, too! I miss you!

  3. Christi Gee says:

    The pressure to move on and be “ok.” It is real and you describe it so poignantly. So often that’s the “right” answer at church. And if you can’t answer it correctly, go home until you can.

    But then there are churches who are learning how to help people grieve and casting such lightness into the dark.

    And then there are friends. Like you. Who sit and talk and listen and work beside. Who let their friend process and who don’t rush. You, sweet friend, are the best antidote to the world’s “get better sooner” mindset.

    It just takes one. One person who gets it and who lets you be yourself.

    I’m not surprised that you are one in a million when it comes to this. And that you are using your gift to inspires others to double the odds 🙂

    This was beautiful!

  4. Janet says:

    I am crying, Lois. I had to stop reading because the words were too blurred on my screen. Partly for the tragedy – I can’t imagine losing a child – but also for joy at the strength and the faith and the testimony of your friend – at the kindness in your recognition and how you walk alongside. I am learning this lesson, too – not in so tragic a way – but I find myself so wanting to shield my daughter, Sierra, from strong emotions, that I haven’t given her the space and grace to feel when she has strong emotions. I have seen her connection to God, and I need to trust Him to guide her. I hope I can do it with the same compassion and kindness you demonstrate. So glad I visited today.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Janet, I love how you write about your daughter on your blog. I’m mom to an intense feeler myself, so I can relate a bit to what you are saying about trusting God to guide through strong emotions. I’m so glad He is the perfect Father, even when we struggle in our role as parents. Blessings to you and Sierra today!

  5. Tiffany says:

    It’s amazing to watch the day to day endurance of faith beyond heartbreak. It’s such a testament to Gods ability to keep giving us what we need even when we don’t realize we need it…just to keep moving. My heart breaks for Kim, but what a special friendship you share in support and encouragement.

  6. Jessica Weatherford says:

    I must agree-what a beautifully written tribute. Thank you for sharing.

  7. My childhood best friend lost her baby to sids our senior year of high school. She recently posted (several years after) that the second year was the hardest. In the minds of people around her, she should have been over it. Over what, exactly, I’m not sure but it stands to reason that those who have experienced the deepest lost need us more long after. Thank you for being the friend she needed (and still needs) in those moments.

  8. Kristi says:

    How beautiful, Lois! You’ve released the chains of expectation, allowing the reader and those grieving to breath a deep breath of relief. It’s okay to take time, plant a few peonies, and sip a Diet Coke. After all, it’s God’s timing anyway, right? He’s our Comforter, not a Christmas tea or book. Truly loved this and shared on fb.

  9. Wendi Weekly says:

    what a small world, Lois. I didn’t know you knew Andrew’s family. I never got the chance to meet him – my daughter Peyton was dating him at the time of his passing and this was during a time when she was not in my life. She still carries him with her at all times and finally finding her way back to God~ a journey that has been long and hard. I am thankful for Andrew and his family for their influence in this. Could you let your friend Kim know that Peyton is back on the path and is getting to know Jesus again? Hugs and thanks my dear old friend.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Wow, it is a small world, Wendi! I’m so glad to hear that Peyton is finding her way back to Jesus, and I would be happy to pass your message on to Kim. Thanks for taking the time to share this connection to Andrew and his family. Hugs back to you!

  10. Linda Stoll says:

    Good Morning, Lois …

    And thank you for introducing us to Kim. Faith in the trenches. The hard kind. The real kind. The depth of faith we pray we’ll never have to live with.

    How blest she is to have you walk with her along the path. Sadly, most people are only willing to walk a few steps and then they run off ’cause it’s just too hard.

    A faithful friend is hard to find …

  11. Wow. What a beautiful tribute to your friend, and so much truth in what you say here. We do expect ourselves (and maybe others) to get over pain and move on sometimes, and we’re wrong. I lost a close friend in high school when he died suddenly, and his mother was never the same afterward, many years later. I remember hearing someone say she needed to “get a grip” so to speak, and I’ve never forgotten the way that bristled me (even before I became a mom). I think what you say here is so gracious, that she is doing the hard work of surviving, and I think that kind of work is incredibly BRAVE. Thanks for sharing this, Lois. #RaRaLinkup

  12. Beautifully written post! I am your linky neighbor at #Raralinkup

    I love this…
    “Healing takes time, sometimes a great deal of time, and it cannot—it should not—be rushed.”

    It took me 10 years to work on my book which covers over 30 years of life experiences… its releasing just next week… somethings just can’t be, shouldn’t be rushed…
    Blessings to you!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Danise, I can totally relate to the amount of time it takes to reflect and then write in a thoughtful, unrushed manner! Congratulations on the upcoming release of your book … that is a wonderful accomplishment!

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