Life After Loss: Where is God in our grief?

"The Light of the World" - Painted by William Holman Hunt in the 1800s - Revelation 3:20 - Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

“The Light of the World” – Painted by William Holman Hunt in the 1800s – Revelation 3:20 – Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

A sad (because of the context), but true example of what I’m about to talk about:

Last night, I was compelled to reach out to a friend I hadn’t talked to in months. Just… felt this compulsion to text them and see how they were doing. Within minutes, they told me that earlier that day they received notice that their mother had died. I spent the next 3 hours on the phone consoling my friend and praying with them until they finally willed themselves to fall asleep.

But, here we go…

I received an email the other day from someone I could relate deeply to. Divorced, children, in a relationship with someone he’d known since childhood who was also divorced with children, etc. He was the provider, that rescuer and champion; trying to pour everything into her and their children. All he wanted in return was to be appreciated and affirmed for how much he’d sacrifice for them. Half the time she treated him like her king, the other half the time she was cold and selfish; thinking and focusing on her own agendas and plans. She was very status driven, always needing to be the best dressed, with the best guy, only showing the world her best side, but on the inside and behind closed doors, it was anything but.

We’ll call him.. “Tom”.

I can relate Tom.. Those who know my story, and by testimony to those who’ve known my ex and I both for decades, can relate as well.

One thing in this email that stood out though, was a very simple question we’ve all struggled with, even as believers.

“Why did God let this happen to me? I’m so angry at him!”

To digress, as a nation that’s a typical question. Prior to 09/11/2001, religion as a whole in our country had started to become politically incorrect. People had minimized God in their daily lives. I mean.. Life was good, right? Why mess with a good thing, right?

But after that day, people started to pray like never before. Places of worship overflowed that weekend, and songs like “God Bless America” suddenly had meaning again.

But, in all of that, people also approached God in one of two ways. We sought him out, or we become angry. I had been saved at 18 as a Christian, but never really embraced that relationship and “got it” until I had the infamous “closure” conversation a few weeks after my ex and I finally broke it off. I’ve since been baptized and one of the things you do is write an essay about what drew you close to God. Here’s just a small excerpt from mine.

“…I just felt myself continuing to struggle with the losses I had self inflicted. I was spiraling out of control and I could see the barren ground below. I slammed home… My body battered and broken.. but I digress.

While I had accepted God as my personal savior back when I was a teenager, I never really embraced the gravity of what that meant. At this point in my life, through tears and desperation, I did something I never had done before.

I prayed. But, I didn’t just pray like we do when we’re saying grace, or putting our children to bed. I found myself broken, sitting in the wasteland that was my damaged and empty heart, turning around and seeing nothing but the apocalypse which was my life, and crying out at the top of my lungs for God to please help me! To please give me a moment of peace from the pressure in my chest, my racing heart, and the depression that was threatening to truly kill me.

Truly, something mysterious happened. I felt a touch (even typing this brings me to tears), a peace and calmness I had never known before. I knew something awoke in me that offered me a peace that no therapy or pill, had been able to at that point.

Since then, God has continued to nurture me, and truly carry me through my depression into healthier states. The hardest part for me (being as controlling as I could be) was being able to close my eyes and let go, and trust in my faultless companion’s ability to guide my life. To trust that God knows what’s right for me, and to trust in his will.

I find that as I start to have true trust in him in my heart, the waves of guilt, shame, and loss in my heart have started falling off my body, soul, and heart.

Now, where those tears land in the wasteland of my life, I’m starting to see something special happening. Where there was nothing, flowers now are starting to push through the burnt soil, trying to reach for the sky.”

I sought him out. That’s a response born of humility. Being angry with God, as much as he can take it, is born out of pride. We want things to go our way, and if life won’t be played by our rules, then we will take our life and go home. We’re too angry to allow God to be God. WE want to be God and rule our own lives.

Mathew 7:7 says: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

If we truly and sincerely seek him, he will come. But don’t always assume he will give us what we need in the way we need it. God isn’t a cosmic bell-hop who is waiting to meet every wish and demand we have. In fact, it’s the opposite. Listen to him and follow his ways and he will bless our lives. That doesn’t mean that pain and suffering like what we had, or the loss of a loved one, or some other tragedy won’t happen. But, he does promise to walk with us and support us during those times. God works through others. How many people come out of the wood work and are there for us when we REALLY need them?

There’s a song by Scott Krippayne called “Sometime he calms the storm”. Part of the lyrics go: “Sometimes God calms the storm, and sometimes he calms the child.” Think about that for a moment. More often, it’s not the storm he’s calming, but us, if we’re willing.

Have you ever noticed that some of the kindest, loving, and gentle people in your life are those who’ve suffered the most? That’s because, during tough times, we grow. We develop intense empathy and compassion to those who are suffering as we have, and we’d do anything to take their hurt away; less judgmental and more forgiving, because we know what it felt like.

There’s a Psalm that brings me peace. Tom, check out Psalm 23. We all know it, even in pop culture for a non believer.. they’ve heard it.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

Even though you’re walking through the valley of the shadow of death, goodness and mercy will follow you. I promise.

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