Last night I was reviewing 2018 by scrolling backward through Facebook pictures. It’s amazing what can happen in a year; weight comes and goes and comes again, hair color changes, vacations are taken, and sometimes devastating things happen. While reviewing my profile, I came across the missing persons poster of my daughter from February. I remembered afresh the confusing levels of grief my husband and I went through and the unexplainable peace we eventually came to during that experience.
Looking back: February 9, 2018
I was taken by surprise when we realized our teenage daughter was missing. For a school morning, it was too quiet in my daughters’ room. When I opened her door to see if she was awake, neither her nor her puppy were there. Upon further investigation we found her backpack, a few clothing items, and personal mementos also gone.
My husband called the police. An officer came to the home to get a physical description and any other helpful information we could give them. I went to work as soon as we finished speaking with the police officer. I didn’t know what else to do except continue on as usual. And I was sure she would be home before the end of the day. My day at the office began like any other day, then mid-afternoon when I still hadn’t received a single text from my daughter, I began to wonder if this was for real. My thoughts began to swirl, and a little bit of panic rose in my chest. Hoping she would already be home, I left work early. The house was just as we had left it that morning, quiet and undisturbed.
After 48 hours the police suggested we call missing persons to create an online bulletin. The organization designed a poster we could share on social media. The missing persons profile picture was shared 555 times from my post alone, and many more times from profiles who had shared from mine. But days passed, then a week passed, then another week began.
During the 14 days that she remained missing, Kirk and I had no idea of her whereabouts. The complete silence was emotionally draining at times. Our feelings ranged from anger, to sorrow, to regret, to worry, to mourning. Was she alive? Was she in grave danger? How would we move forward?
After 8 days of silence, we began to wonder if we would ever see her again. I frequently glanced at a notecard I kept nearby with Psalm 34:18 written on it, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit”. It was comforting to know God cared about my broken heart. Then something I did not expect, began to happen in me. The grief began to pendulum away from panic. My heart began to beat a little slower. Near the end of the two weeks I accepted there was nothing else I could do to change what was happening. I prayed for resolution. A deep unexplainable peace seeped into my soul. Unexplainable partly because it felt out of place in the experience. How was it possible to be feeling this when there had been no resolution?
I knew God was with us in the middle of our troubles. In my journal I found a note from early January where I had jotted down a verse my pastor had shared during a time at our staff lunch, Romans 15:13
I know it was not a coincidence that one month before my daughter ran away, I was focusing on a verse which would return to mind when I needed it most. God is hope. God is peace. I trusted him. And I began to overflow with peace and even joy when things weren’t good at all. Even when grief brought tears, even when questions had no answers, God, who is peace, was with us. Thankfully our daughter returned home on her own, after fourteen days. Her return would have its own challenges, but I knew whatever was ahead of us, God was right there in the middle of it all, with us. Jamie Rasmussen in his book How Joyful People Think, put it this way,
“Financial security, a good job, children who never wander from the faith, a fulfilling marriage, emotions that never turn to depression or anxiety, trouble-free neighbors, or a hassle-free church are all examples of the ‘good life’…. none of these things are guaranteed by God in this fallen world. He does not promise us any of them for a life well lived. But he does promise us his presence.”
Now December 16th, 9 days before Christmas 2018 I think about Emmanuel which means God with us. And that’s what Christmas is all about. God sent his son to earth when there was no peace on earth. God who is peace, God who is joy, sent his Son to be with us in the middle of our chaos, because he loved us.
Tina D. Stephens
Interested in further resources? Here are some recommended books and verses to help you on your journey:
How Joyful People Think, Jamie Rasmussen
Shattered Dreams, Dr. Larry Crabb
Psalms 34:17-18; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; Romans 15:13. (The youversion app is a great way to look these up on your phone, or use the Table of Contents in a Bible to find these verses).