In a perfect world, childhood is a time of joyful innocence, brimming with activity, warmth from your family, and wonder at all you’re learning and experiencing. Yes, my childhood included many of these things: a loving family, fun activities, sports, arts, crafts, vacations, church, school, friends, birthday parties, girl scouts, daddy-daughter-dances, mother-daughter teas.

But when my mom died, my world was shattered. It no longer mattered to me how good my life had been, or what I had learned at Vacation Bible School. I knew the “truth.”

My experience taught me God did not love me.

The loss I felt screamed in my ear that God was not good. And the pain I carried told me things would never, ever be good again.

I tried so hard to reconcile a good and loving God with the death of my mom. Deep down to my core I wanted to believe that God was real and loving. That my mom was in heaven, and not buried in the ground. I wanted to believe more than anything, but it felt as if there were a gulf separating me from God. A gulf of pain. Disappointment.

I turned inward with my feelings. Everyone was falling apart around me, so I resolved that no one would see me cry. If everything else shattered around me, I would remain stable. Steady. 

Only I wasn’t. 

My anger was so overwhelming, I could not manage it. I was mad at everyone. God. Why did He allow this to happen? My family. Why wasn’t I told more about what was happening around me? My friends. Why do they all have whole families when mine was torn apart? Didn’t they know how lucky they were to still have a mom?

I began doing the things my mom used to do – making sure my brother and sister were okay. That they had eaten dinner, done their homework. I did laundry. I cleaned. I did all I could to maintain order amidst the chaos churning all around me, and within my own soul.

I grew more and more bitter. 

What ten-year-old has to endure these things? Why is my life so hard compared to those around me? Why did this have to happen to me? Will things ever get better? Is the rest of my life going to feel like this? Will I ever feel joy again?

In the months after my mom’s death, I decided that either God wasn’t real—or He wasn’t good. Since I prayed for my mom to live, and she died, these seemed the only possible conclusions. Either way, I wanted to know. I wanted to know more about this God I didn’t even believe in. Months turned to years as I sat in this place of anger, pain, and brokenness. 

 And then something unexpected happened.

Without my praying, without my asking, without my even dreaming it could be so, God blessed me with another amazing mother.

A mother who sat with me for hours to talk about the loss I had experienced. A mother who would allow me to ask any question about God I wanted—or needed—to ask. A mother who took me to church, but let me make my faith my own. A mother who cooked for me. Cared for me. A mother who loved me unconditionally, as I had been loved before.

Without my even asking, God redeemed. Without even knowing it could be so, He restored to me what I had lost.

As I processed my grief with my new mom, I began to grow in a true knowledge of who God was. One summer my life-long best friend invited me to a church camp. Sitting in the crowded chapel, I listened stunned as the speaker walked us vividly through Jesus’ crucifixion. I had no idea that Jesus had suffered like this. The truth rang loud and clear in my heart: 

Jesus was familiar with suffering

The man continued, “It does not matter what has happened to you, God was with you. He wept when you wept.” This time, my faulty paradigm shattered. God wasn’t distant. He wasn’t bad. He didn’t hate me. He was intimately aware of my suffering. He wept, too, in fact. When I would scream into my pillow at night, when the tears wouldn’t stop flowing, when the hole in my heart threatened to undo me, Jesus was with me.

He cared. He loved me. He had, in fact, NEVER left my side.

Being reassured of God’s goodness, His mercy, His love—it changed my life. His gracious provision, His restoring what I lost, His mending my broken heart, these are all evidences that He is who He says He is. That He can do what He says He can do. He’s so much greater than our minds allow. He’s so much deeper, and purer, and richer than our mouths can articulate. He loves in such a way that no other love can come close. He blesses more richly than we can ask.

He’s a restorer of the broken. He loves you!

My new mom is like one of those stones the Israelites took up as they crossed the Jordan River; a symbol of God’s goodness. His faithfulness. His provision. His abundant, redeeming love. I can look back on my past and, instead of seeing a shattered life, a broken heart, I see the hand of a loving Father—restoring, redeeming, and healing.

Update: My mom and I are now in ministry together, working on resources to help brokenhearted kids. To see what we are up to, visit www.kathleenfucciministries.org