grief and faith
Today is Sunday morning and I’m not in church because I have a cold. I’m not sick enough to be in bed but I don’t want to share my germs with anyone. I hate it when people are coughing and sneezing and then want to shake my hand after the service. I’m sorry but that’s not what sharing our Christian love is all about.
My husband called me before he entered the sanctuary with some bad news. We learned that a friend of our’s whose husband died last week after an eight week battle with cancer (Yes, you read that right, an eight week battle. The doctors only discovered the cancer eight short weeks ago and now he’s gone.) has also just lost her mother two days ago. How does a person deal with that? How does a Christian demonstrate their faith at a time like this? How does a Christian wear their faith and what does it look like when their world has been shattered?
Here’s my thoughts based on years of studying the Bible, reading books by the great authors of past and present, prayer, and my own trials with depression and other circumstances. Faith isn’t necessarily a:
Lack of tears.
Lack of heartbreak.
Lack of questions.
Faith comes to fruition through all the above. It is through tears, heartbreak and questions that we become more aware, not less, of God’s all-encompassing love. How can we know a God of comfort if we’re never been in a situation to be comforted? How can we know a God of strength if we’ve never been held up by Divine Arms? How can we have a will to survive when it seems as if God has abandoned us if not by experiencing that “quiet, still voice” that assures us we will?
My husband said in that same earlier conversation, “Don’t be surprised if Susan (not her real name) is a basket case.” To which I responded, “I would expect her to be.” I was a hospital chaplain for about ten years and I’ve seen a lot. I’ve seen grief expressed in hard-to-imagine ways. From screams, from fainting, from stroking the deceased from the top of their head to their feet, to family fist fights, to stoicism, to anger, to not caring at all. So, I’m not expecting anything when we go to the funeral home tomorrow.
If she’s smiling, I’ll know she’s simply trying to hold herself together so she can get through this first funeral and then prepare for the second. If she’s inconsolable, I’ll understand that as well knowing her still to be a woman of deep faith. It doesn’t matter what I think anyway. The time we should least judge anyone’s faith is when their experiencing grief. “There but for the grace of God go I“, is never more true than at a time like this.
Our time will come.
I think sometimes that’s why we do judge. We don’t know how to separate what has happened to them and what may, no, will, eventually happen to us. So we project on them all the ways we hope we will behave but aren’t the least bit sure we will. We foolishly imagine we would handle it better or worse.
We don’t have a clue.
If we don’t want others to judge us during our darkest hour, we’d better not judge them. I did once. My best friend’s husband died. She wouldn’t allow visitors outside of family to visit till three weeks afterwards. There was no visitation and no funeral. I never even had a phone conversation with her during those three weeks. I have never been so hurt. I almost ended our friendship because of it. (Not right then, of course, but over the year following.) But I had made a promise to her family that I would see her through the grieving process. That was almost three years ago. We’re still best friends. (Obviously, I’ve worked through it.)
As I’m writing this, I’m reminded of what I read not too long ago:
We get through the tough times by learning to walk in the continual awareness that we’re walking in the presence of God.
That has been true for me as well. During my darkest times, I’m sure I haven’t acted as others might expect or want but I’ve walked in the awareness of the presence of God and, frankly, that has kept me from caring what anyone else thought. Dealing with depression, however, has proved harder because depression invades and distorts our thinking as nothing else can. But even then I’m still aware of whose arms are holding me up.
Anyway, whatever you’re dealing with today, whether it’s grief, depression or any number of other assaults, I hope that you are aware of God’s presence in whatever way He has chosen to make Himself known to you.