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God's Presence Through People

When we journey into and through grief, God can uniquely comfort us with his presence through the people he brings close.


God’s Presence Through People

By Carla Foote

Our summer trek to the Northwest has been extended in recent years, with my husband’s retirement and my ability to do some work from anywhere I can access the internet. We had planned time with family and long-time friends, and had some open spaces on our schedule as well.

A few days into our journey we got news that one of our siblings was in hospice care. This was not unexpected, but unfortunately, because of a fractured family relationship we were prohibited from visiting. This reminder of brokenness stung. And yet by God’s provision, we were with dear longtime friends when we heard this news. They were a safe place for us – and they didn’t push us to process before we were ready. God was present with us through our friends.

A few days later, as we were still processing sadness and broken relationships, we were with other dear friends. By then we were able to express more of our feelings and process further. Again, trusted friends were a safe place for us—we knew they would listen and encourage and pray. They came alongside and were present with us in our sadness. And God was present with us.

A week after we received the news of hospice care, we got a text that our relative had died peacefully. We had just started walking on a short trail called the “Ancient Groves Nature Trail.” We walked among trees that were alive before we were born, and will probably be still living after we are gone. We saw how even the trees that died and fell became nurse logs for the next generation of plants and trees (see the photo at the top of the blog). A peaceful place to contemplate life, death, and legacy, and go further on our journey of grief.

Again, in God’s rich provision, we were scheduled to be with yet other friends that very afternoon. They knew our relative and had some context for our situation. And again, they were a safe place for us to move from anticipating a death to knowing the certainty of death. We were able to receive from them. We also were able to listen and be present for some of their own difficult life experiences over the past few years. We lingered around their kitchen table and talked, listened, drank tea and nibbled on chocolate, and prayed. And we were all richer for the time spent together. We left their home, and that town, still knowing we had a journey of grief, but feeling deeply cared for and buoyed by God’s goodness and presence through people who cared.

Then we had a few peaceful days, just my husband and me. We were in a lovely spot and had no agenda other than being together, being silent when we needed to, and sharing our feelings together when we needed to. We enjoyed some healing time of unhurried days and God’s presence in the quiet.

The final part of these weeks was a week with our children and grandchildren. It was lively, fun chaos, to contrast the quiet days we had experienced. And we also felt care and love from our adult children in our grief journey. Together (once the kids were in bed) we remembered our relative and stories from visits in years past, and even stories from before our children were born. Together we remembered the value of our relative’s life and contribution to his community. And we talked about ways to honor his memory and care for each other in the grieving process. God richly provided for us in family who were present with us.

There were other important friends we spent time with, over-and-above those detailed here. As I reflected on our trip after coming home, I realized it was so much more about people and relationships than the particular places we visited (which were also lovely).

The journey isn’t over. We are just a few weeks along, and there will be more to process and understand in the coming days, months, and years. And in this season of life, there will be more loss along the way.

We experienced God’s presence through people who came alongside us in our hard places, and we are deeply grateful. We don’t have to grieve or face hard realities alone. And we are also renewed in our commitment to come alongside others in their hard places. We can’t fix anything for them, but we can be present and accompany and care. Most days, that’s really what we all need, God’s presence through his people.

Carla Foote is the Really blog manager. She also writes and edits for other clients through Fine Print Editorial. When she isn't at her computer working, she enjoys walking and gardening. She serves on the board of Magazine Training International, equipping Christian communicators around the world to share the Good News in their own context. Carla and her husband, Dave, make their home in Denver but they are both from Western Washington and they enjoy visiting the area and reconnecting with long-time friends and the water and trees.


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