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It's Okay To Let Survivors Grapple With God
Grappling with God might not sound like a healthy activity. But, depending on your perspective, grappling with God may be a necessary exercise. The death of someone close to us creates a terrible new perspective and can bring all kinds of emotions to the survivor: Sadness, anger, regret and confusion.
Those who are members of a church, or have a strong faith, can begin to question God in relation to their loss.
“Where was God?”
“Why would God allow this to happen?”
When coming into contact with a survivor, it is important to remember that they are in a cloud, a fog, and things that make sense to most, may not make sense to them. They have just experienced a crushing loss and, most likely, they are grappling with God.
In today’s blog, we explore this topic through interviews with survivors from LifeSupport’s series called The Worst Loss.
Anger is a common emotion in grief
Why do people become angry after a tragic loss? It could be for a variety of reasons.
If their child was killed in an accident, they may become angry at the other party involved in the accident. Mentally, they may believe that their loved one was unjustly taken from them too soon.
A survivor’s anger can also be directed at God and those who try to tell them about God’s goodness and love.
In an interview with LifeSupport, Barbara Vernes talked about the loss of her son and the emotions that she felt as people in the church tried to support her, but just made her angry.
“Christians would say, ‘Oh, God is with you, He’s right there.’ I was angry. I would say, ‘I don’t feel Him. I don’t see Him. I don’t hear Him. I don’t know where the heck He is, but He’s not right here.’”
While writing her thoughts and feelings about the loss of her son online, some people even questioned her faith when she entitled one of her posts, ‘Where Was God?’
“I wrote, asking where God was and how the church wasn’t helping and this woman online said to me, ‘If your faith was stronger you wouldn’t be feeling this way.’ I thought to myself, ‘Are you kidding me? My beautiful son is dead. He’s never coming back. My faith isn’t a question.’”
There Is No Quick Fix For Grief
Barbara described how she was blinded by grief, anger and confusion.
“You can’t see anything. Nothing makes sense to you at that point.”
Those in the church that want to support a survivor in grief need to realize something important: The survivor may grieve for a very long time and there is no magical phrase, scripture or gesture that suddenly brings them back to who they were before their loss.
Grief if a journey, a unique journey for everyone. The last thing survivors need is for someone to question their faith when they are asking “Where is God?” Questioning a survivor’s faith will only add more anger and confusion to what they are already experiencing.
Grappling with God Creates Opportunities
The word ‘grapple’ means ‘wrestle.’
When you grapple with God, you are wrestling with God, figuratively.
What does that mean? Are we fighting God? Should Christians grapple with God?
“If they are suffering, they are probably grappling with God,” said LifeSupport Pastor Paul Johnson, whose son was murdered. “There is some kind of questioning going on there. There is a real opportunity to reach out in faith and help that person grow. So, from a practical perspective, it is important because there are people that are suffering, and from a spiritual perspective, it helps people develop their relationship with Christ in a new way.”
As with all mental health struggles, grief provides opportunities to connect sufferers with Christ. The church needs to allow survivors to grapple, or wrestle with God, so their relationship with Christ can survive and thrive.