I was standing in the room right off my home kitchen surrounded by people comforting my family and I after my father’s death. There was a lot to take in as a seven year old, but yet there are many memories of this week engraved in my mind. At this particular moment, I remember a person coming up to me. They told me that God needed another star in heaven, and now my dad was always looking down on me. I am sure this person meant this statement to ease my pain. What else do you say to a seven year old who just lost her dad? How do you explain the depth of death and grief to a child? This explanation stuck with me as a child. It didn’t bring me comfort, but made me angry! Specifically, I was angry with God. Why does He need another star in heaven? When I looked up into the night sky it seemed pretty full to me. I need my dad with me!
As I grew and matured, I didn’t believe my dad was a star in heaven. Although, I began to hear other explanations of God to understand this complicated life. People told me that God has a plan for everything, so I began to equate that my dad’s death had a purpose. If he wouldn’t have died, my mom wouldn’t have remarried my “now” dad or have my four brothers. I even wrote a winning essay on this my senior year of high school for a scholarship. This is crap! What kind of twisted God does this? Certainly, not a God I want to serve! I now believe God can redeem horrible situations by bringing about good, but His plan was never for my dad to get sick and die. Death wasn’t even supposed to be a part of His world in the first place. I remember sitting in my first theology class during my undergraduate studies when I heard this explanation of suffering and grief. I finally felt like I could breath a little and trust God more.
We can explain the pain away no matter what belief system we have, but in the Christian world I see this by the way we view God. What I mean by this is the pain we see or experience makes us feel uncomfortable with what we thought was true about God. It disrupts our clean cut God that is always good. We want to fit God and His ways in a small perfectly wrapped box with all of our answers. We don’t always get that privilege in this life. We don’t always get answers for our suffering. The hard reality is that this world is constantly filled with beauty and pain, bitter and sweet, and sorrow and joy. It doesn’t fully make sense! As much as I hate to admit this, I believe when you reach the place that you don’t have to explain the unexplainable your faith grows.
The many explanations people offer you or you may tell yourself during suffering often do not represent God well. It has taken me years to understand this. I had to wrestle with my faith and God. I had to go through many dark, bitter and angry stages. I still do at times! But through it all, the God I know weeps with us in our pain. The God I know shows up and affirms our emotions. The God I know sacrificed His own life and felt every kind of physical and emotional pain, so that one-day pain will be no more. To me, that is more comforting than a God that dismisses our pain with explanations. We too need to model those responses. I know we want to understand suffering in this life. I know we want to help explain it to others, but since there are no clear answers it only causes more pain. Be slow to offer answers. Instead, offer yourself to them. Sit in their pain and experience all of their emotions with them.