Grief: The No-God Zone8:30 AM
Stumbled across another article the other day cautioning Christians against using the "God has a plan" line when a fellow believer goes through a time of intense suffering. Such a period of grief is no place for trite sayings about God's sovereignty and providence. Best to say "I don't know why this happened" and leave God out of it, lest the mention of God pull a trigger in the mourner and result in a flood of angry outbursts. Perhaps, if the goal is to not agitate the mourner (or respond truthfully), said approach might work.
Meanwhile, let's lament together how rare it is that a Christian clings to God during suffering. Now the standard response is anger and disbelief: "How could He? How dare He?" And that's okay, we're told. God understands.
Of course, God's grace and comfort stretches out even to those who kick against the goads. He understands intense suffering. He understands grief. He understands pain and wanting it to go away forever.
At the same time, this new development of leaving God out when encouraging Christians going through great loss, of viewing truths about His sovereign plan as "trite," unhelpful, and inflammatory, is troubling and counterproductive.
It's troubling because once upon a time, the faithful experienced daily, horrendous persecution for their faith -- and they blessed the name of Jesus for it. They rejoiced in their suffering. They rejoiced in being counted worthy to suffer for Christ. Or if they suffered for other causes, like sin or just a sin-filled world, they repented or clung to God's grace and plan, respectively. I think of Job who experience excruciating physical, spiritual, material, and emotional suffering -- yet he praised God anyway. And God's response when Job questioned why? "I'm God. You're not."
Ouch? Yet that, in the end, is the truth that will set us free from suffering -- the truth that we are not God, that our temporary life is not all there is, that God is at the helm with a loving plan for us. It's the ultimate way to learn to love Him and glorify Him for who He is, and not just for what He gives us.
Plus, during intense pain, where else can a sufferer go? To you, the comforter, who cannot be there when grief overcomes in the middle of the night? To another human being who might be equally in pain? To an "I don't know why this happened"?
We do know why things happen -- because God allows it for our good. We don't need to dissect suffering and point fingers of blame, like Job's friends. We merely need to acknowledge that this suffering is not for nothing.
It is a sign of spiritual immaturity to lash out against God or push Him away during suffering, to not rejoice in our afflictions, to lose hope in Christ. Not that our job becomes shoving these truths down the throat of a sufferer who is angry with God -- we still offer grace, love, and support and go silent on Biblical truths until the person calms down. We need to know this for when we suffer -- for we will suffer at one point. We need to develop the spiritual maturity to bless the name of the Lord during hardship and the wisdom to run to Him alone for comfort when nights are darkest.