It was early fall when I pushed my nearly empty shopping cart through my favorite superstore, grabbing a handful of groceries. I eyed the tiny, pumpkin-themed newborn clothes and the brightly colored board books, remembering days long gone when my boys were littles.

There I stood, with some coffee creamer and laundry detergent in the otherwise empty cart that somehow represented my empty heart. I wanted to scoop up all things tiny, curl up in the baby section and gently rock myself in the fetal position until someone called security. Nothing prepares a mama for the empty-nest season of life. And the superstore had no sympathy.

Ten months before, the new year had brought an unexpected move away from our two college-aged sons, and those tiny infant clothes brought fresh waves of sadness and sorrow, reminding me of grief I didn’t want to feel.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. I wasn’t ready to let them go. And no one had told me it would hurt this bad. That first night away in the hotel, I lay in bed bawling, begging God to please let us go home. To please put my family back together. My wailing exhausted me as I settled into sleep.

The year 2020 brought loss for many, and how hopeful we were to turn the calendar page to 2021, anticipating hope of new beginnings and healing. But many of us suffered even more heartache as days rolled into months.

I don’t do grief well. I do my best to avoid pain that threatens to swallow me whole if just one tear slips down my cheek. I want to bury it deep and look on the bright side of things. To consider the goodness of God in healthy checkups, daily provisions and warm beds. But if the goodness of God dwells only in those things, why are the most joyful people I know the ones who have suffered the greatest loss?

Could loss have something to teach me about His goodness, too, if only I am willing to pause and consider this grief that gathers in my chest?

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)

Blessed? The word “blessed” in our key verse means favored by God. Nothing about grief and loss makes me feel divinely favored. Instead, I wonder what I’ve done to deserve such pain.

And what about comfort? I pause and reflect on the nights I’ve surrendered to my tears, allowing grief to break me open and empty me out. I’m reminded it was then that God rushed in to fill me with more of Himself.

On those nights, He picked me up and swaddled me tightly as I wept and wailed. He sang over me in my darkness while I kicked and screamed like a colicky infant who refuses sleep.

But until we surrender to the struggle, relax into rest and settle into the sovereign way of God, we cannot heal. In my season of suffering, I didn’t know this yet.

Over time, my soul softened sooner during these bouts of grief, and it was then I began to experience God’s goodness and deep comfort.

When we give space to grief, it becomes the doorway to deeper fellowship with Him, an invitation into a most holy place saturated with His love, peace and compassion. Grief awakens a hunger for heaven, where all will be made right.

And maybe most beautifully of all, grief leads us to the heart of God, where we find not only His comfort and healing but His very presence.

Lord, thank You for Your favor and the gift of grief in times of loss. May we learn to seek Your presence more, knowing You will comfort us abundantly as we surrender to Your sovereignty. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.