This last week was a tough one. The week started with learning of the tragic death of Michael Ball and ended with the passing of Jon Wallace. In-between was lots of pain, questions, and struggles, many of which were pointed at God, and with good reason. At times like this, questions like "where are you?", "I thought You said you loved me?", "How could You allow this?", and even "How can there be a God?" are going to be asked, and should be. And honestly, Christian platitudes like "remember, God is with you", or "God works all things out for those who love Him", or "He knows the plans He has for you", feel like they fall sadly short.
The image that came to mind this week was that of Job's friends. In Job 2:11, after his family is killed and he himself afflicted with terrible pain, his friends came and sat with him, not saying a word, for seven days. Just sitting. And I've seen many people coming around the Zell’s, Ball’s, Wallace's, and Bixby’s doing just that. Sitting.
But what about grief? What about what we feel now? One of C.S. Lewis' most powerful writings was called "A Grief Observed", as he worked through his thoughts and feelings after his wife's death. It is not one of his more popular works, as he is very upfront about his struggles and doubts. But I think that’s the thing with grief: it’s OK. Often I feel like our culture wants us to feel “better” and be “happy”, but I think sometimes it’s OK to be sad. It seems strange to need permission to grieve, permission to be sad, but I think we have to be.
One particular question that weighed on me this week was “How could a loving God allow this to happen?”, which is a question there is no good answer to. It’s a question that sees hurt, pain, frustration, and anger bubbling up inside it, and it’s a question with no easy answer. Sure, we can talk about God’s permissive will versus His sovereign will, the concept of free will, even “Thy Kingdom come”, but when it really comes down to it, I don’t know. Why does God allow suffering? Why does God let us hurt ourselves, or let others hurt us? Even the ones who love Him?
David asked these same questions in Psalm 13:
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?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
And like David, I think we’re called to his same conclusion:
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.
God, I don’t know why these things happen. I don’t really understand how You can allow it. I don’t know why good people suffer when others seem to prosper. I don’t know why knowing that we live in a broken world is of little comfort.
But, I do know who You are. I know what you have done, for me, through me, and around me, and I long to be grateful. I want to trust that You care, that You’re there, that there will be a day when You will end sorrow, pain, suffering, forever.