Emptiness and Silent Joy

A friend gave me today this quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the pastor and martyr who stood up to Hitler. What he is saying here is exactly what I have been experiencing since the death of my daughter, Eva, in June. These thoughts are a precious blessing to me today. I think a lot of people would be helped with this understanding. Worth sharing. Bonhoeffer writes…

“There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so. One must simply hold out and endure it. At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled one remains connected to the other person through it. It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve — even in pain — the authentic relationship. Furthermore, the more beautiful and full the remembrances, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy. One bears what was lovely in the past not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain.”

[Bonhoeffer wrote this from his prison cell to Renate and Eberhard Bethge on Christmas Eve, 1943, fifteen months before his own death by execution. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, vol. 8, Letters and Papers from Prison (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2009), letter no. 89, page 238.]

13 thoughts on “Emptiness and Silent Joy”

  1. Mel, God’s blessing on you as you grieve the loss of your daughter. Thanks be to God for being our Lord filled with his mercy and grace.
    I love that quote from Bonhoeffer because it one that sustained me in losses.
    I will keep you in my prayers as you endure just for a little while.

  2. Dear Mel,
    In the helplessness of unfathomable grief, these words have also given me a perspective and an awareness that GOD, the Source of all Comfort, Healing, Peace and Provision works in all circumstances and we can TRUST HIM, and BE THANKFUL, and REST IN HIM. with a heart of joy and “understanding that surpasses knowledge”. I add my prayers to those of so many in the congregation for you and your family throughout this time and trial. Thank you for sharing so much from your heart, not only in these circumstances but in your ministry in the pulpit and in your writings.

    1. Dear Mel:

      Your writings and thoughts have been a great inspiration to me. Many times you have guided me to the wisdom and will of God for my life.
      I am from Venezuela, I do write but in Spanish and reading you have helped me in both ways, improving my writing in English and knowing my dear Savior and Lord Jesús in depth.
      I am really sorry for your daughter, I cannot imagine the pain in your heart. The only thing I would like to tell you is that your life has a beautiful and big impact in more lives that you can think, and your messages from your pain will confort many hearts.

      May God bless you and keep you in His hand.


  3. Mel, Thanks for continuing to share your journey as you grieve the loss of your beautiful daughter. Bonhoeffer’s advice is sound in that it’s naive to think that memories of Eva would be replaced by anything else but rather be sustained throughout your life. May God continue to walk with you through your grieving. Cathi and I will continue to pray for you guys.

  4. I am reading this on the anniversary of my brother’s death from cancer many years ago. This quote perfectly explains the process of great grief over a loss that can not be adequately expressed. I pray you experience God’ love in peace in this time.

  5. Dearest Mel,

    Bonhoeffer wrote the most profound poetry while in his cell

    waiting to die

    are not we all

    life in Christ is being born again and about resurrection

    even if only off the couch for awhile

    in him one shall rise again

    gospel I see

    much lov


  6. Thanks for sharing. This is a beautiful meditation both for immediate grieving and transcending to past and even future grief. This is a timeless work of the heart.

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