When dealing with a life-altering grief, like the untimely death of a close person, we often have difficulties worshiping God. Whether we used to believe or if we still do, questions flood our mind and give rise to doubt. We thought we understood our Creator, Savior, and Lord enough to worship, but now something stands in the way.
Starting near the end of 2009, a series of events led to a life-altering grief. After twelve years of trying to become pregnant, our daughter, Emily, died by miscarriage. Following this, my business was burned out by fire, my wife had complications from the miscarriage resulting in four surgical procedures and a skin disease causing daily skin tearing. This experience brought up questions and the only answers I could find were over-used platitudes written by people who never experienced deep grief. My questions turned into doubts, and the more I confronted them, the further the answers seemed. In 2008, I would be called a great Christian man of faith who regularly tithed, gave offerings, and served God by volunteering my time and energy. By 2012, even though I attended church with my family and everyone around thought I was the same Christian man, I was empty. Devoid of all belief for two years, I nearly stepped over the line into disbelief.
God let me see that line. I could feel it and it scared me! I came back into fully trusting and believing in my Creator, Savior, and Lord, but it took time and work. This story is detailed in my book, God Is In the Doubt.
In 2018, my son, Caleb, died by suicide at age 21. Yet again, I struggle with worshiping God. However, this time is very different because I have the prior experience of knowing that I should trust in the process, even when my trust in Jesus is difficult. The hardest questions were already answered the first time through.
UNDERSTANDING THE CHALLENGES
Profound grief exacts a toll on its victim. Plagued by blame, guilt, and all sorts of questions, one rarely gets a moment of peace. I am not talking about what others say to us, which is another terrible story, but only what we do to torture ourselves. Naturally, along with blaming and questioning ourself, we also do the same to God. “Why did you let this occur?! If I knew it would occur and had the power to stop it, I would, so why did you not?”
Along with these, certain phrases will catch us off guard or kick us in the gut. These can come from many sources, including the sermon and worship songs. Many grievers decide it is not worth the pain and stop attending church. Others, the questions surmount until the desire is gone.
EXAMPLE SITUATION OF WORSHIPING GOD
One Sunday after the sermon, our pastor challenged people to commit to Christ. I love seeing people changed and coming to Jesus. A young man in his early twenties standing in front of me professed his change. I rejoiced with him and with his friends or family that celebrated next to him. Then his mother came over and started crying. Uncharacteristically, I cried as well. I thought, “How odd!” I rarely empathize to this degree. Then I realized this was not empathy, but jealousy. I am still standing there with everyone else who is rejoicing and I am embarrassed, then angry, then depressed. The myriad of emotions flooded over me in moments.
She gets to rejoice in her adult son’s life and I do not get to rejoice with mine.
I am still standing there in shock at all that transpired with the mom still bawling in front of me as the church sings.
“This is my surrender…
I will make room for you to do whatever you want to…
Your way is better! Your way is better!”
I am supposed to sing that His way is better? That it is better for this mom to have her boy, to rejoice with him, while I weep for mine?
EXAMPLE WORSHIP SONGS
Occasionally, my church will sing Kari Jobe’s The Blessing. This beautiful song has a section:
May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children
My generations have been cut off. This song makes me feel like His favor is not on me. I just cannot sing this. The pain is too deep.
Another example is Jireh. Which part of these lyrics am I supposed to identify with?
I don’t wanna forget
How I feel right now
On the Mountain Top
I can see so clear what it’s all about
Stay by my side
When the Sun goes down
Don’t wanna forget
How I feel right now
I did not have a big problem overall with the song until this week when our worship leader pointed out from where the name Jireh comes. Abraham is the first recorded instance of using it as a name for God when He went up the mountain to offer his second son as a sacrifice, but God provided a ram instead. Abraham rejoiced in God the Provider because his son would be allowed to thrive, yet I am to rejoice despite my only son not even surviving.
FINDING STRENGTH TO WORSHIP GOD
Finding Comfort in Community
During times of overwhelming sadness and despair, surrounding yourself with a supportive community can make a significant difference. Seek solace in the company of friends, family, or a faith-based community. Share your struggles, lean on their support, and allow them to offer encouragement and comfort. Connecting with others who truly understand your grief can help you feel less alone on your journey.
Engaging in Self-Care
Prioritizing self-care is crucial when navigating through grief. In the midst of overwhelming sadness, it’s easy to neglect your physical and emotional well-being. Engage in activities that bring you joy and provide a sense of comfort. This might include taking walks in nature, practicing mindfulness or meditation, or engaging in hobbies and interests that uplift your spirits. Remember to be gentle with yourself and allow time for rest and rejuvenation.
Embracing Faith and Seeking Spiritual Guidance
While it may feel challenging to connect with God amidst overwhelming sadness and despair, don’t hesitate to turn to your faith for solace. Seek spiritual guidance through prayer, meditation, or engaging with scripture that brings comfort and hope. Embrace your faith as a source of strength and trust that God understands your pain and is present in your journey towards recovery.
Seeking Professional Help
Sometimes, the weight of grief can become too heavy to bear alone. It is essential to recognize when professional help may be required. Seeking therapy or counseling can offer a supportive space to navigate complex emotions, explore coping techniques, and work towards emotional restoration. Remember, reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness, but rather a courageous step towards peace.
If you are one who no longer believes in God or struggles with questions leading into doubt, I encourage you to contemplate on the fundamentals. For example, was the universe created by design? This leads to one who existed before the universe, God. How do my questions pertaining to what God did or did not do actually change who He is? This one should be easy since no question we have can change reality. Either He exists or does not, but our questions do not affect the outcome. If you used to believe but now struggle with that, what changed? Your perception. So, all that remains is why did you believe before you had struggles? If your suffering, or the suffering of others, caused the questions, why did other people suffering not have an impact before? Billions have suffered throughout history and we are aware of much of it. If you thought He would protect you, love you, or provide for you in the face of this other evidence, you have not turned away from God. As Dennis Prager says, you have turned from your “Celestial Butler”. God is our Creator, the Master of the universe, the Almighty One. I spent several years regaining my faith in Him because I had the wrong idea of who He is. I spent that time relearning by serving Him like a servant will their King. Since then, I have come to love Him again.