Have you felt painful grief and loss from the death of a pet, a loved one who committed suicide, or a child from cancer recently? Where can you find support? Just today, as I explored support sites through Google Plus (www.plus.google.com), I came across Mom Minus 1, an online support website for mom’s who have lost a child to cancer. The experience of the founder of this particular website touched my heart. How would I feel in a similar circumstance? How would you?
God can feel especially distant during such times. The overwhelming grief we feel at the loss of someone so dear can, like the moon blocking the sun, eclipse our sense of almost everything else. Sleep is difficult; we don’t feel like eating; having fun is out; and time can drag.
Our Need for Spiritual Support
Precisely because God can seem so distant in such times, many of us feel the need for spiritual support. We need to find hope beyond the grave, someone to pray for us, or to pray with us. Although God can seem distant, we want, even need, him close. One character in Scripture stands out for the number and enormity of tragedies he faces: Job.
Although ancient, the book of Job contains spiritual wisdom for us today. Like for some, waves of tragic losses precipitate in Job (businesses, employees, children, health and wealth) a depression in which the grave acquires intense appeal: he prefers the peace of death to the pain of life. William Blake illustrated Job’s grief and loss in this 1823 illustration below. Many of us also go through that. When we lose someone dear, our life loses a bit of meaning, and sometimes a lot. We then question our own purpose for living.
There’s a slow movement, sometimes in fits and starts, of our emotions into and through our grief and loss. The ceremonies of the funeral, the memorial service, and the graveside committal force us (if we allow them) to say, “Good-bye.” When my sister died at 38, I never thought my anguish would end. Sometimes we feel angry with God, fear the unknown, and protest the unfairness of suffering we don’t deserve. Job also navigates those cycles of intense negative emotion, until, finally, he grieves.
Grieving, the ability to feel intensely sad as we say “Good-bye,” may hold the key to not only resolving the past, but preparing for the future. Unless we can grieve our past, we can’t grasp the opportunities the present offers. When Job was ready, he grieves the loss of his former success, but especially God’s presence in his life.
God in Grief and Loss
Only God can meet our deepest need. In a surprise appearance, God meets Job’s deepest need, a restored personal relationship. The message God conveys isn’t what Job wants to hear (nor do we), but it brings the most healing. After prolonged listening, the Lord confrontats Job with nature (physical and animal), in which issues of justice do not apply, and with two monsters. Behemoth and Leviathan convey the impossibility of human control. Indeed, Job’s former success lends weight to his having been very much in control. Now he must accept the reality that many parts of life he does not control–nor do we. When chaos reigns, only God can restore order.
As you think of your need in grief and loss, what provision have you made for spiritual support? Do you also need a personal relationship with God?