How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.
– Psalm 13
The Psalmist above shows King David wailing over trials. In Isaiah 53, Jesus is described as “despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.” The Apostle Paul endured shipwreck, loss, physical ailments, multiple imprisonments, and eventually a death sentence. Why do we accept the sorrows and grief of Jesus, King David, and the Apostle Paul, yet despise this characteristic in those we know?
We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame – Romans 5
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8
God brings together for good all things. Even those things which are horrible and are in no way good in itself, God in His sovereignty can cause good to spring from calamity. Historically, we see more people convert to Christianity during persecution. Maybe someone notices our trust in God through our grief and becomes engaged with Christ. Is there a good being worked through our sorrow? We should not ignore our suffering. It should not be ‘gotten over’. We should embrace that which God is doing.
Our suffering forces us to lean upon God. It is common to ask ‘Why God?’ and searching for the answer is the journey. While we learn more, we show others our journey and hope they find Christ or become better Christians. If this is the path, why do Christians push to get people to ignore the loss, to get over it? Why do they shun those who do not? Why do they not come alongside of those struggling with loss, walk with them through the journey?
I am so thankful for a few men who are trying to walk with me. Losing a child by suicide isolates parents unlike anything else. Most people avoid those who do not quickly ignore their grief. My experience is not unique and, in my unofficial polling, seems to be the norm. At least 75% of those I have encountered have stated similar experiences. Many of these people actually pretend to be better around others just so they can have ‘normal’ relationships.
My fellow Christians, did you think maybe some of those around you are shoving their emotions down just so you will accept them? Maybe you are not the specific reason they feel like they need to act this way, but you can still reach into their life, help them feel accepted, ask about how they are doing in a way that lets them know it is okay to not be okay. Don’t say you will pray for them as if they have an illness. Be the answer to prayer, support them. Your support may help them have the courage to live and allow them to show the goodness of God.
Edit: This is not about non-Christians grieving nor about grieving without hope. I know many who have not had the good side of the experience while I have had both the good and bad. Above, I implied the griever has a God-given purpose. In the early days of grief, we see little else except grief, but eventually, we should be able to think on this and pray God helps reveal to us our purpose. We all know we should be a light to the world, and part of our purpose is shining that light well through our grief. I know this can be difficult when we may struggle to see the goodness of God. This is where support from Christians becomes helpful in this next phase. If you have read my book, you know that when my daughter died; I did not have support, and I faltered. I lost faith in God. Thankfully, through His mercy and grace, God has restored me. Then my son died, but with support, I am surviving.