By P.A. Bragg−

“Then Jesus shouted, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth.” (John 11:43-44a NLT)

The story of Lazarus is a personal favorite. After all, what’s not to love? Mary and Martha stand in the gap for their brother and Jesus delivers him from death while the world watches. However, this miraculous scene, which has brought me immeasurable hope in years past, now brings more questions than answers.

Over the last three years, I’ve lived in the shadows of silence while mental illness gnawed away at my brother’s life. Where’s my miracle? Why doesn’t Jesus sweep in and save the day? As my heart-cries grew more fervent, God grew all the more quiet. No healing. No miracle. Instead, Jay slipped further away, like a song that ends with a slow fade. And then, just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse…Heaven’s silence grew all the more deafening. On December 10, 2011, life as our family had known it, changed forever.

“Penny. Penny! Penny!” My sister sobbed out my name over the phone. That weekend, we both had tried to contact Jay. When our attempts proved unsuccessful and our concern increased, she drove to his house. I listened to what she was trying to tell me, but refused to hear the tragic truth; that our younger brother had barricaded himself in his bedroom and ended his pain the only way he knew how.

I had tried everything to save Jay. Did everything. Prayed everything. And yet, his mental condition continued to rob him of all dignity and strip his soul bare. It wasn’t supposed to end like this.

The reality of my world going awry has turned me inside out and altered the landscape of my life in every way. On many days, the grief and pain of losing Jay has swallowed me whole. However, while there is much I won’t pretend to ever understand about Jay’s suicide, this I know: God has used this grieving season for good things. Redemptive things. I’m grateful for each one. It’s just that my heart still throbs hot with the realization that Jay’s mental suffering was far too much for him to bear; a pain he could not express, nor contain.

Given the depth of my loss, I find myself faced with a question I never considered. “What’s a woman to do when death…doesn’t rise? Honestly, there’s a great temptation to hole up and hide until I figure out an answer. Instead, I’m choosing to write in the midst of my wrestling. Instead, I share this fragment of my unfinished story with you while I weep and grieve and groan—my computer screen blurry from tears again tonight. I know that God never intended me to hide my wounds, as much as I might like to when they’re gaping wide and bleeding out all over. Jesus didn’t cover up His blood. Instead, His Blood covered all.

As I approach the one-year anniversary of Jay’s passing—a year that has been both a blur and a crawl—I’m learning to live out the sobering fact that sometimes God heals before death. Sometimes, He brings life after death. And sometimes, death just comes…and stays. Amidst all my fighting and flailing, somewhere deep in my heart I must finally accept the fact that although Jesus may not have come in the manner I wanted Him to, He came. He comes. And, He will come again.

As much as I’d like to deny my reality right now, death has come to my family. However, albeit slowly and something I never could have conceived at the start of this year, I’m coming to understand that the grief we bear when death doesn’t rise is actually God’s gateway to raising new life.

“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives” (John 12:24).

Perhaps like me, you find yourself longing for healing to happen on this side of Heaven and still, you wait and pray. Beloved, take heart. While we find ourselves living out what looks like just another tragic drama—deep in the recesses of our shattered souls we must hold on to our hope in Christ. And, although we may not like the way a particular scene has played out, we must remember that we are in the midst of a greater Story whose triumphant end we know.

“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth” (Job 19:25 NIV).




Penny A. Bragg spent the majority of her professional career in the California public school system as a teacher, principal, and district administrator. Through the miraculous reconciliation of her marriage after an eleven-year divorce and a distance of 3,000 coast-to-coast miles, God led Penny and her husband, Clint, into fulltime ministry in 2006. Together, they serve as marriage missionaries—sharing their testimony of marital restoration across the nation and abroad during their 40-Day Marriage Mission Trips. Through Inverse Ministries, their non-profit organization, Penny and Clint have written extensively about the ministry of reconciliation including their most recent book, Marriage on the Mend. In addition, Penny ministers to those who, like her, have experienced traumatic loss and grief. For more information, visit her blog at



  1. 12-27-2012

    Penny thank you so much for this. I think too many times we are touched by suicide, and the words don’t come. I love what you’ve written, and having been touched by the same my heart and prayers are for peace for you and your family. Time doesn’t heal, but God certainly does!

    • 12-28-2012

      Jesi, thank you for taking the time to comment, especially since you too have been touched by this pain. Perhaps God will make a way for more conversations to happen around this difficult reality in which many of us have found ourselves. Bless you.

  2. 12-27-2012

    Penny, so touching & heartfelt. You have put into words the sorrow when healing does not come & the pain of suicide. Thank you for sharing.

    • 12-28-2012

      I deeply appreciate the opportunity to share my heart and pain, Karen. Thank you for helping to make a way for that to happen.

  3. 12-27-2012

    You have put into words what many people never find words for. You have also found that the God who has all the answers sometimes waits till heaven to let us in on those answers. But He is still our Redeemer, Savior and Friend Who sees us through each step, each question, each gut-wrenching heartache and all the tears – and uses them to heal, not just ourselves, but others. I love you, sister.

    • 12-28-2012

      Sister, thank you for all your encouragement over this year. You are so right, even in THIS, God is STILL our Redeemer, Savior, and Friend. What would we do without Him? Love you dearly.

  4. 12-27-2012

    Penny, thank you so much for opening your heart to share your story. It’s one of those subjects the church so often struggles to deal with and I know that many will find a path to greater peace because of your willingness to put pen to paper. God bless you.

    • 12-28-2012

      Deb, thank you for your words of affirmation. I’m grateful for the opportunity to share with the My Purpose Now community. Thank you for the invistation. My hope is that God will open a way to begin discussing traumatic loss and grief within the Church…and to provide tangible support to those who are left behind in the wake of suicide.

  5. 12-27-2012

    My dear, dear friend. I have watched you this past year, cried for you and prayed for you. Yet, again, your insight and transparency flow outward from you to do God’s work. Bless you for sharing. And praise God for giving you the talent and skill to help all of us comprehend the incomprehendable here on this earth. Love you.

    • 12-28-2012

      My friend, you have been a steady source of compassion over this last year. I’m so very grateful for our many tearful and raw conversations. Thank you for being Jesus on the other end of the line…and for connecting me with the My Purpose Now community. Clint and I treasure you and Gary. Could we remove the 3,000+ miles between us and reunite in 2013? I hope so.

  6. 12-28-2012

    Dear Penny,
    Your broken heart has and will continue to touch others in their brokenness. I’m so sorry for your pain, but God is using your pain to reach out to so many that hurt and feel so isolated. God Bless You, my friend.

    • 1-1-2013


      You have been a blessing to my heart this year. Thank you for your prayers, the grief books, your e-mails, and your deep compassion. May God fill you with more of His presence as the year begins. Bless you, dear one.

  7. 12-28-2012

    Beautifully put… I find myself in that place of being asked to accept that what I prayed or hoped for may not happen; yet still trust that God loves me and is still a good God. Thank you for sharing your story. (hugs)

  8. 12-30-2012

    Yvette, we prayed together for you tonight. We know that you have experienced much pain and anguish, especially this last year. May you feel God’s arms of comfort wrapped around you. He is a good God. Always.


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