A few months ago on social media, I saw a post that was sharing the loss of a loved one. This person simply wrote about why they loved this person and admitted that is seemed too early, but then quickly affirmed that God’s plans are greater. I felt anger rise up in me. For the rest of the day, I couldn’t quite shake this feeling that brought up my own pain and grief. Similarly, this summer I was at an event catching up with some people that I hadn’t seen for awhile. We were giving each other life updates. Some shared a few disappointments, struggles, and hopes for the future, but then immediately responded with “but whatever is God’s will.” I heard this at least three times in one night from completely separate people. Once again, I was upset and bothered by this statement.
I used to admire these people. I used to ask what was wrong with me and my faith that I couldn’t simply trust in God’s will for my life. Instead, I have always been the one questioning God. I have been the one doubting His “will.” I have been the one screaming and angry at Him when both of my parents passed at such a young age. I have been the one ready to walk away from God altogether as I have watched the world groan and suffer through horrific things over and over again. Why can’t I simply say “but whatever is God’s will?”
These people aren’t wrong in saying these statements, as long as they aren’t using it to hide what they are really feeling. It felt like they quickly bypassed the hard parts to make sure I knew they trusted God’s will. We all have ways to avoid what is hurting us, and I believe Christians are sometimes afraid to really struggle through their pain with God. It is scary! We are afraid if we come before God with our true feelings with no filter we might be admitting we don’t trust Him. What if He doesn’t love us anymore? What if I am not really a believer? This is exactly how I felt after I lost my mom, and often other Christians made me feel this way too. With a deep sigh, I will even admit I have cussed out God a few times. I have told Him I am done. I have wrestled with Him over and over again about the pain in this life. This is a terrifying place to be, but sometimes that is exactly the place we need to be.
We cannot deny that throughout the Bible people wrestled and struggled with God. Have you ever read the book of Psalms or Job?! These people cried out to God. They demanded answers from Him. They were raw and honest about how they felt. Even Jesus, as he was dying on the cross, asked, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). God didn’t abandon them after they did this. No, He showed up even in stronger ways, and they grew from it. When we can articulate our grief and pain we are speaking truth and exhibiting healthy grief. If we miss this in our faith, we will take the messy, humanness out of it. We can’t truly have a close relationship with God unless we are first honest with Him. God can handle all of your emotions, even anger and sadness. He invites you to bring that to him.
My Christian faith has been the most comforting thing through my grief and pain, but also has caused some of the most lonely and confusing times during it as well. It seems that the Christian church and culture are afraid of pain. We may preach a sermon around pain here or there, but there is no real room for questions, doubting, anger, and down right struggle. It seems like you either have complete faith or you don’t have faith at all, and there is no “in between.” I have lived often in the between stage, even as I pursed education and a career in ministry, and I can tell you it is there that God truly grows you. I can tell you I am still often in the “in between,” but it is there that I feel like I have a real and honest relationship with God. Maybe it is in this area that real faith is being born. Maybe we should be slower to respond “Your will be done” in pain, and quicker to ask, “Why have you forsaken me?” Maybe that is exactly God’s will.