Dear Friends,

I was recently talking to a friend who was dealing with grief.  When asked what resource I would suggest that would be helpful, I stopped to think.  After Donna was killed, concerned friends gave me many books.  I appreciated their kindness, and read most of them.  But truly the single most helpful resource during my grief was God’s word, and in particular, the book of Job.

Someone who is truly hurting can find virtually every emotion of the grieving process developed in the book of Job.  I’m so amazed at how this book met me in my grief that I am convinced of its divine origin.  No human could have written this without being inspired by God.

As I began to heal from my physical injuries, my emotional injuries came to the forefront.  Just at the time when I started to feel better physically, the emotional hurt became overwhelming.  Never have I felt such deep pain and despair.  This is the time when I began to search God’s word for comfort and healing balm.  I was drawn to Job and his story…at least I could relate to him.  I felt like he could feel my pain!

Even today as I read the book of Job I can still experience the emotions on each page.  The journey through this book deals with the stages of grief.  It shows us that it is okay to ask God difficult questions.  He doesn’t mind us “getting in His face” with our frustrations, fears and even accusations.  I tell grieving people to think of being in God’s face as just another form of prayer.  Dr. Paul Coulter explains how, “Strong as [Job’s] words may be, they are constantly directed towards God.”

I began to ask God many of the same questions as Job.  I was frustrated with the Lord.  I felt unfairly harassed by Him.  It was agonizing to go through this hurt.  I would vent my frustrations with God and then feel guilty for doing so.  I was on an emotional rollercoaster.

I knew how easy it would have been for Him to redirect the car so that a crash would have been avoided.  I vented and processed my emotions with the Lord and didn’t hold back what I was thinking.  I figured God knew what I was thinking anyway, so what would it matter if I said it to Him?

I encourage people that it is okay to ask God all the difficult questions on your heart.  Tell God how you feel.  Process what you’re experiencing in the hurt.  Keep the lines of communication open even if your tone is a little less than respectful, or even accusatory.  God can take it.  He understands that we are but dust and how frail we are.  He hurts when we hurt and is there with us “through the valley of the shadow of death.”

An Important Understanding…

I love the story of Jesus raising His friend Lazarus from the dead, but this story has some very interesting details that we might miss with a casual reading.  Read this slowly and carefully,

When Jesus saw her [Mary who was Lazarus’ sister] weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. “Where have you put him?” he asked them. They told him, “Lord, come and see.”  Then Jesus wept.  The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!”  But some said, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?”  Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. (John 11:33–38).

Notice that Jesus stood at the entrance of the tomb of His friend.  He knew He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead in just a few moments.  And yet we read that deep anger welled up within him and he was deeply troubled.  He was so overcome by this that He wept…grieved…mourned…cried.  After He began to weep we read again that Jesus was still angry.  Why was Jesus deeply angry?  Why was Jesus crying since He was going to raise His friend from the dead?  What was the cause of His emotional anguish?

I would suggest that Jesus was deeply angry at the consequences of sin and death.  God created humans to enjoy Himself and His creation, not to live in fear, anguish and the pain of death.  The suffering that death causes was the reason why Jesus was so angry!

When you are grieving, God is grieving with you. When you are angry because of the loss of a loved one, God is angry for that same loss.  In fact, sin and death angered God so much that He appointed His Son to suffer and die in order to overcome it!!  Think on that!  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you are hurting while God is aloof and unaffected.  Your pain is His pain!

I encourage hurting people to allow God to uphold them, not to think their job is to defend God’s goodness.  He can defend Himself.  Our responsibility is to hold onto the Lord with tenacity.

Ultimately, I share with people that my own experience was identical to Job.  For months I continued to ask God, “Why did you let this happen to me?”  Then I realized that this is not a question.  I was actually accusing God of evil intentions toward me.  My question was not designed to actually learn what God wanted to teach me, but rather an attempt to accuse God of unfairly treating me.

Through the process of my grief I came to realize that I was asking the right question, but with the wrong intentions.  When I asked God to reveal what it was He wanted to accomplish in my life as a result of my suffering, He poured out the answer on me.  This is exactly what we are told in James 1:5 that if we lack wisdom (concerning our suffering; see v. 2) we can ask God who gives us the wisdom to understand—not why—but what He is hoping to accomplish in our spiritual development through allowing this hurt.

Once the Lord made this known to me (and I could talk about this for hours), I was in awe like Job.  One of my favorite passages in Scripture is Job 42:5, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.”  In my life this means, “I only knew you in a limited way before my suffering.  Now I know you more deeply than ever before.”

Through this journey God confirmed the complete truthfulness of His word, and the complete faithfulness of His character.  From what God accomplished in my life as a result, I would not trade my suffering even if I could!

Onward with my Lord,

Pastor Gary