Two lessons I learned rather quickly in the early days of Taylor’s death: 1) there is no escaping grief, and 2) there is no escaping God. After the funeral, I fled to my favorite place on earth—the beach—hoping to do both of those things. The funny, or should I say cruel, thing about grief is that it follows you wherever you go. The place I had once viewed as a respite had now become a place of mourning. Everywhere I went, I was surrounded by families and I kept remembering my loss. I cried at the prospect of never having that experience, and I was impossibly angry.
If you read my previous articles, you will remember it was during this trip that I swore off God. I recall standing in the shower, looking at my post-surgery, broken body wondering how a good God could allow something so evil. I just couldn’t wrap my brain around the intense suffering I was experiencing. I felt deceived…as if everything I had ever been taught or believed about God was a lie. And in true Mandy, all-or-nothing fashion, I cut Him off. In my thinking, it was much easier to make a clean break than to try and repair such a deep hurt. I mean, that could take years…and what if the outcome remained unchanged?
“That could take years…and what if the outcome remained unchanged?”
One morning before the sunrise, I sneaked out to the beach while Anyan slept. As I sat in the sand listening to the ginormous sound of waves crashing all around me, I found myself crying out instinctively: “WHY GOD!?? HOW COULD YOU LET THIS HAPPEN??!” In all honesty, I wasn’t expecting a response. I mean, other than those good old-fashioned conscience pricks every now and then, I was never one to claim that I actually heard from God. And at that moment, in the stillness of my mind and heart, came a thought…one so clear and uncontrived that I knew it wasn’t my own. She was never meant to live with you. She was always meant to live with me. I chose you to give her life.
I suddenly realized that Taylor’s death was not a surprise to God. What? That may seem somewhat obvious, but it blew my mind. He was aware from the beginning of time that she was going to be born and then die in four days. It was mapped out in the divine plan for my life. I mean, I just assumed that I was going to bring her home to the nursery and love her and raise her into adulthood. This whole tragic ordeal had blindsided me, and yet God always knew it was going to happen this way; after all, He is omniscient.
“God always knew it was going to happen this way.”
Furthermore, my reaction was no shock to God either. For some reason, I found comfort in this. Even though I didn’t understand what was going on, there was peace in the sovereignty of God—that He was still in control when circumstances seemed quite the opposite.
And so, I had a choice, a decision to make. Should I, like Jacob, wrestle with God? Should I struggle with Him to gain clarity or, even further, to persevere in my faith? Or should I consider the alternative: walking away from everything I had ever known, forever? To be honest, both options seemed daunting.
As I alluded to before, I was much like a child who threatened to run away after a fight with her parents. I had packed my suitcase and was headed up the driveway. The only problem was, I had no other place to go. As Simon Peter says in John 6:68, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” There was nothing I wanted more than to be reunited with Taylor for eternity. That I knew. Motivated by a desperate longing for my daughter, I reluctantly turned around and started “back home.”
“There was nothing I wanted more than to be reunited with Taylor for eternity.”
After we returned to Franklin—and once our relatives had left and the meals stopped coming and Anyan had resumed his clinical rotation—I was again left alone with my thoughts. My brain reeled, as I tried to make sense of everything that had just happened and the empty nursery at the end of the hallway.
A nagging idea crept into my mind, and it took my breath away. What if my God wasn’t really the one true God? Had I ever actually looked into that?? During this season of searching, for whatever reason, I never questioned whether God existed; rather I questioned the character of God and if He was who I thought He was. Consequently, this line of inquiry led me to consider whether I had been short-sighted in not exploring other faiths—perhaps ones that were more consistent with my notion of what God should be and how He should act.
“I revisited my established beliefs about Jesus to examine whether they held weight.”
This became a process all its own, and deserves its own article, but for the sake of flow in this article, I’ll summarize by noting that my research directed me right back to Jesus. I revisited my established beliefs about Jesus to examine whether they held weight. I now understand how and why 1 Thessalonians 5:21 instructs us to “test everything,” including our long-accepted truths and to “hold on to the good.” But what was I going to use as a litmus test? The only thing I knew to do was to open my Bible, but at that moment, I didn’t even know if it was an accurate or reliable source. Once again, I was back to square one.
Fortunately, I have a very well-read and patient pastor who recommended a book called The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? by F.F. Bruce. It opened a new world to me, as I began studying the historicity of Jesus and the Bible. I no longer had to blindly accept what I had been taught, but was now in possession of some of the necessary tools to decide for myself. And those tools uncovered what I found to be enough evidence to warrant digging deeper.
“Bible in hand, I began to reevaluate my former theology: the one whose goal was to ensure personal prosperity, comfort, and happiness.”
So, Bible in hand, I began to reevaluate my former theology: the one whose goal was to ensure personal prosperity, comfort, and happiness. I took a closer look at the verses I had memorized and what they actually “promised.” I also began to see a bigger picture of God’s will and purpose for humanity. Ironically, it was in the aftermath of personal tragedy and unanswered prayer that I found God and His will were much bigger than I had thought.