Surely God is good to those who are pure in heart, but as for me (though) my soul is grieved, and my heart fail, God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
- From Psalm 73
The accidental death of one child is bad enough, but when the same community loses two children, under similar circumstances and only days apart, how do we handle our grief?
Following the recent deaths locally of 8-year-old Andrew Hawkinberry and 5-year-old Morgan Beverly, what do we, their neighbors and friends, say to the stricken families - to ourselves? How do we keep from blaming God?
Even among those who seem to go through the grieving process with their faith intact, most can identify with Christian author Joe Bayley who, after losing two of his young children, said: Lord, I know these children ultimately belong to you, but couldnt you have waited to exercise your claim?
Grief is a human emotion, and even those who believe, All things work together for good to those who love God (Romans 8:28), wonder why an all-powerful God lets such terrible things happen. If He is all-powerful, that is.
At times, most of us have doubts about our faith, writes RBC Ministries Senior Editor Herb Vander Lugt. Dying children, glaring injustice, and other unsettling events had torn at the foundation of his faith for most of his 80 years. Yet instead of yielding to the temptation to give up his faith, it was during those very times that he searched hardest for answers to the questions which seemed to have no answers at all. The thoughts of Vander Lugt and others may help those who are wrestling with similar doubts or God-anger now.
Never come to a conclusion about God when you are in "halt mode," advises one. The acronym which stands for hungry, angry, lonely, and tired, is a synonym for emotional turmoil. Just as drivers under the influence of a mind-altering drug shouldnt drive, neither should the grief-stricken make a decision about what God can or wont do while under the influence of strong and upsetting emotions.
Sometimes our view of God is based on misleading theology. Weve all heard snatches of Scripture taken out of context: God wouldnt let anything happen to those who love Him... The Bible says, "He cares for you (I Peter 5:7), and loves you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3) These words are true but they present only one side of God. Those passages which comfort us when we are suffering are even more numerous. Take the (above) verse in I Peter, for instance. Before assuring his readers that God cares for them, Peter urges them to, Cast all your care upon Him, because He cares for you.
Its been at least 30 years, but I can still remember the gripping testimony of Pastor Clarence Cranford following the death of his wife. She had been sick a long time, and she was much too young to die. But as he sat by her bedside and watched her life ebb away, Cranford said it was as though God were there, too, holding them both in His arms. When the young husbands grief was at its greatest, Gods presence was the strongest. Through that presence Cranford felt God say, Crannie, I understand! Didnt I watch my son die a cruel death, too?
Crannie never stopped grieving for his lost wife. Neither did he ever stop loving the God who went through the painful experience with him.
It would be easy to say, "Of course youre going to keep your shaky faith in an uncertain God if all you do is read the Bible and listen to others who believe the same thing." But after experiencing Gods care more times than I can count, I say the following: You can either go through your grief in the company of those who point you to a God who loves you and understands what you are going through, or you can go through the inevitable sadnesses of life alone.
After fighting the battle of Jericho, and leading his people into The Promised Land, Joshua presented similar options to his faith-wavering people, while leaving no doubt what decision he had made for himself:
Choose you this day whom you will serve but as for me and my house, we will serve (trust, follow) the Lord (Joshua 24:15).
(Barbara Seaborn is a local free-lance writer. Send comments to email@example.com.)
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