I recently received a letter from Ada, my 13-year-old sponsored girl in Honduras. Compassion had sent me a note letting me know that her father had passed away. This letter was the first Ada had written since that time.
My father has died.
Then Ada said something I didn’t know:
Now both of my parents have died.
My heart sank.
I live with my brothers and our grandmother now.
We are thankful that our parents are home with Jesus, but we miss them. My brothers and my grandmother and me, all of us, we miss them so very much. I have an uncle who looks like my dad. Whenever we see him, we remember how much we miss my dad.
Strange how some things don’t get lost in translation. Not at all. A broken heart rarely does.
I don’t know what it’s like to lose a parent. I’m blessed that both of mine are still alive and that they choose to be a part of my life. But I do know what it’s like to lose someone you love.
My first experience with the tragedy of the death of someone I deeply loved happened when I was thirteen. It rocked my world, and in so many ways, it shaped and continues to shape me.
So my heart breaks for Ada, a beautiful teenage girl whom I have never met, save through an exchange of letters brokenly translated from Spanish to English and back again. It breaks not because I know her pain, but because I know the pain of a shattered heart.
I know that God can use this experience to draw her closer to Himself. I know He can make something beautiful from a broken world that has been forged together with the fire of His presence.
I also know there is an enemy who would like to use this moment to destroy her. And as Ada’s sponsor, I need to do my part to help make sure that doesn’t happen.
Since receiving her letter, I’ve been praying for Ada a lot. I have also been digging through Scriptures that contain an outpouring of grief from the human soul. The words I keep coming back to are the uncensored and unashamed cries contained in Psalm 77:
I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me. When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands and my soul refused to be comforted….
You kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak. I thought about the former days, the years of long ago; I remembered my songs in the night. My heart mused and my spirit inquired:
“Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”
And then, after unloading the grief in his heart, the psalmist says this:
I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds. Your ways, O God, are holy.
Never one for covering up his emotions, the writer of this song asks the questions that are burning in his heart. Questions about who God is, his love, his faithfulness, his compassion – in essence, God’s very character.
But then he remembers. He remembers the works and miracles of years gone by. And he remembers: God is good. Tragedy comes. It rocks our world. But God is still good. He is still here. He is still holy. He will still redeem our lives.
And so I pick up a pen to write to Ada and offer what little encouragement I can. I kneel down to pray words of peace over her life. I shed tears over the pain I can feel encompassing her fragile heart.
And I thank God that tragedy will not have the last word in Ada’s life. I trust Him for that.