When we are coasting along a smooth, straight road and the sun is shining, it is so easy to say, “Praise God!” We thank Him and trust Him and love Him for all the good things in our life. But what happens when dark clouds roll in bringing job layoffs, a cancer diagnosis, a divorce, the death of a loved one or the worse loss of all, the death of a child? In the chaos, confusion, and pain, we feel God is absent and we cry out, “Are you there, God? Do you see what just happened? Why have you forsaken me? Why? Why? Why?” We are tormented by questions. Hopelessness and helplessness bite deeply.
When the searing pain of senseless loss envelops us, God is not absent. He is weeping with us and He has an ear to our heart. In 1 Samuel, when David and his men return home to find their city burned to the ground and their wives and children taken captive, they “wept, until they had no more strength to weep.” (1 Sam 30:4) And then, rather than despairing, David turned to God in faith, trust and prayer, and God comforted him and strengthened him.
We cannot deny grief and pain, and crying out to God when we feel alone and lost is not a lack of faith, but an act of faith and exactly what we should do. If we try to handle our grief on our own, we separate ourselves from the only One who can really help us. But when we turn to Him in our brokenness, He holds us close. It is then, in the dark night of our soul when our life is so empty and God seems so far away, that He is actually closest to us, in us, doing His very best work unfolding His plan for our future.
In my experience, feelings of grief can blind us, and in the middle of the storm, God can be hidden from us. But He is a faithful, loving Father and would never abandon us. He keeps the flickering flame of hope deep inside our heart alive through the comfort and guidance of the Holy Spirit within us. He places people in our life who love us, care for us, pray for us and support us. First responders, hospital staff, family, friends and those we come in contact with in the activities of daily life – these are all blessings. He creates circumstances that lift us up and encourage us. More blessings. Like the day I went to the bookstore seeking a book on living after the death of a child. There sat a lone copy of On Children And Death, which I quickly bought. This led me to correspond with, and eventually meet the author, Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, who ended up playing a big part in my recovery. I love the often-quoted phrase; “coincidences are miracles where God prefers to remain anonymous.”
These little miracles are occurring in our life all the time. Often we are unaware that it is His hand holding us up. In Exodus 33:22-23, after Moses pleads with God to show Himself, God says to Moses, “When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back.” His loving arms have us protected in a hug so close to His heart that we don’t see Him. It is only in time, often years before we are able to look back and see the miraculous work of God, and realize that when we were drowning in grief, He was the rock we stood upon. “…Blessed are those who believe without seeing.” (John 20:29) It took me a very long time to “see His back” and recognize the power of that love in my life. I am so grateful for the gift of faith that allowed me to believe without seeing. I pray that blessing on all of you.
Coming up in Part Two, I will talk about what grief feels like and how to manage it.