I’ve had a couple of very wise things spoken to me in the past weeks. I have been trying to check in with people I consider much more mature/spiritually wise than I am (one of our pastors, a family friend who has counseled a lot of women in various things)…and these conversations have been very helpful overall in just verbalizing what I’m feeling and working through thoughts etc. But they also result in a thought/idea or two jumping out especially and giving me something to mull over or be encouraged by.
So in the interest of trying to use this space to continue to process and hopefully be an encouragement to someone else…here’s a couple things I’ve had shared with me that have made a difference as I process this grief and this loss.
When I talked to my pastor, I was days out from realizing how angry and upset I really was over what had happened. I know in some capacity that it is okay to verbalize our feelings (even negative ones) to God, and that it’s even okay to feel negative ones towards him as long as we do not sin in those places. I mean, the Psalms are full of expressions of hurt and confusion and anger. And God already knows what we are thinking and feeling anyway, it’s not a surprise to him if we express it.
So naturally, my pastor encouraged me to wrestle out these questions and hurts with God. To allow the truths that I know to be the framework to which I return eventually, but to be willing to acknowledge what is *real* for me in this moment even if that is not consistent with what I know in my head to be true. And then he had this insight to share.
Often, in our sadness and grief, we withdraw. Most people who are sad just want to be alone to cry, or be held in silence. But when we are angry, it leads to expression. We move towards the person we are angry with; and we tell them so. In this sense…of being a means to move us back toward him, maybe God actually prefers (poor word choice) that we be in that place of anger because it means we aren’t just isolating ourselves anymore. (though this is not a universal truth; if anger is what makes you withdraw then the opposite would perhaps be true…*shrug*). It made sense to me. I don’t get angry often; but in the times of being confused and hurting it is easier to go to God and simply be honest about those feelings and it usually feels better after getting them out.
Then, earlier this week, I talked to my family friend. Of her insights (and there were several), the one that made the most impact to where I was in that moment was the following observation.
For Christians, because we believe in a sovereign God, suffering in our lives can often be a harder thing to understand and deal with than it is for a nonbeliever. Because if God has control of everything in our lives, then when really hard things happen to us that don’t seem to have a reason it’s natural to think that “God could have stopped this from happening and I don’t know why he didn’t.” And even if there is the faith that there must be a reason we also know that we may never know it and it’s hard to be okay with that.
Granted, we obviously have a hope and a joy and a confidence in loss and pain that nonbelievers cannot have; so at the end of the day we don’t grieve as those without hope…but for the nonbeliever, there is usually just the “well, life happens and it’s all chance” mentality that at least takes away the internal struggle mentioned above.
Somehow hearing that made a huge difference. Christians are constantly told that suffering is good for our character, that we should expect it, that God works all things for good…and that is absolutely true. But it doesn’t mean that we should be expected to instantly be okay when we experience suffering; and that wrestling with the questions of “why” is actually part of the process of God producing a deeper faith and a deeper relationship with him.
So in a nutshell:
- When our anger prompts us to move towards God, it’s completely okay to express those feelings. It’s better than withdrawing and shutting him out.
- Suffering for the Christian is deeply hard, and it is completely okay to not immediately be okay.