I don’t want to be sad today, but this week I am mourning over a recent conversation I had with a woman whose five-year-old son drowned in a lake. She relives that day of horror in dreams and what-ifs and her emptiness this first Christmas is overwhelming. It has been seven difficult months of laying down all hope for a different yesterday. The shootings last week have intensified her grief. She feels forgotten. While the whole world sympathizes with grieving parents, and angry legislators debate the whys, she faces the same emptiness in isolation and self-blame.
I have recommended the book of Job to her. Job is not a book of comfort; it is a book of reality, and part of healing beyond grief comes through embracing a loving and merciful sovereign God to whom belong all things—even our children. I come into this world alone and naked, and every good and perfect gift I receive in life is from the hand of the One who loves me and gave Himself for me. The whys of my life have been superseded by His gift of Himself.
Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. Job 1:21
It is a hard truth, but in a circumstance of grief where it seems like you’ve been robbed, that thinking must be stopped! Widowed for the third time at age 49? Does God love me less? Job helps me to see my loss through the filter of God’s pure goodness. Job was able to survive in grief because he was neither an idealist nor was he self-reliant. The idealist loves God in prosperity and curses God in adversity. He does not know God; he wants a gift-giver and super-hero protector. The ideal life avoids pain at all costs. Life is pitifully all about himself. The self-reliant one wants no God at all. His response to grief is stoic or blame-filled, or denied all together. Cleanse your faith of idealism and self-reliance!
In the depths of grief, Job held on to the true God who is good and merciful. Would you curse God and die? Job declares the question foolishness. What? Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips (Job 2:10). It is a hard season of the year, and I pray that you will be surrounded by family and friends who love you deeply. But if you are naked and alone, you are not slighted by God. You are called to “endure harness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (II Timothy 2:3). There is an eternal weight of glory that is mine. It is coming. Sorrow and sighing will flee away. My work here will be done one day.
And sometimes in the seasons of gray winter, and the false festive aura of the ones whose suffering is more private, we need to take personally the final admonition of Paul to the church at Corinth: “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” (No, he’s not telling us widows to act like men.) He is saying, be strong! Be brave! Be valiant in your faithfulness! Be wholehearted in your faith!
Job is our life lesson in the darkest hour of grief, because he lost more than we have. He endured greater suffering. He never wavered. You cannot see God now in the painful darkness of your world, but for the grieving one, the words of Job 23 may be even more comforting than Psalm 23:
Will He plead against me with His great power? No; but He would put strength in me … But He knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold … I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food … and what His soul desireth, even that He doeth. For He performeth the thing that is appointed for me.
Oh, give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good. His mercy endures forever!