Loss-child

Fairness

As the pandemic improves, there is a strange reality. Some are celebrating; some are grieving. Some will get back to normal; some are in a grief process. These paradoxes of life occur. 

At the core, is a question: Why are some blessed and others broken? In grief, a real aching of the heart is: it doesn’t FEEL fair. It’s okay to acknowledge these feelings. Let’s look at two men: Abraham and Job. 

ABRAHAM

Abraham is described as a man who believed in God. He had faith. But, he was also a sinful man. He lied about Sarah being his wife and told others that she was his sister, putting others and her in danger. He had multiple wives. He took matters into his own hands and had a baby with Hagar (his servant). 

At the same time, there was faith and growth in Abraham’s life. He obeyed God moving to the land that the Lord showed him. He gave his nephew, Lot, first dibs on choosing land and asked God to have mercy on Lot. He trusted God with his only son that He would provide a ram as the sacrifice. 

JOB

Job is described as a righteous man. He also believed in God and had faith. When on the ground having lost everything, in rags, in the dirt, his wife told him to “curse God and die.” He refused. In fact, he told her “shall we receive good and not evil?” While in the depths of grief, he withstood his friends, who accused him of not fearing God and being prideful. Before his losses, he had helped the poor and was considered wise. In his suffering, he appealed, cried, pleaded to God that it didn’t FEEL fair, yet he knew that he had a Redeemer and he would see Him one day.

But, he was not a perfect man. He accused God of not being fair.

SAME BUT DIFFERENT

Two men. They were likely contemporaries living in the same time period. In so many ways, parallel lives: both had families, both had riches, both had faith. Both righteous in that they BELIEVED God. They had FAITH. But, two very different lives: one, blessed, no matter what he did. The other, inflicted with intense suffering: losing 10 children.

This is a very real possibility in life. One can have STRONG faith and yet massive suffering occurs. Loss does not feel fair at all. Life is not easy. It is true. We are not promised ease. But, God is just. He is the answer to the question of suffering. He allows it and we don’t always know why. Job never had an answer and many times, neither do we. We learn to live without the answer or the understanding of the many inequalities of life. 


In the end, what did Abraham AND Job do: they both believed in the Promisekeeper, Yahweh, that He would DO what He said He would and KEEP His promises. He does not lie and He does not change. Both men ultimately were given unmerited and unwarranted mercy: Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin (Romans 4:7). Is this fair? Not really, it is a GIFT of grace and mercy! God goes beyond fairness.

Contributor-L. Vincent

Photo-Tingey Injury Law Firm

Loss-child

All We Need is Love

Ricky. Arturo. Maria. Rob. Howie. John. Real people that I have met on the streets this year. Real people dealing with pain.

I now visit the city of Austin monthly. If you spend any time downtown, you will see the many homeless tents. Today they were surrounding the City Hall in protest as I walked into a salon to get a manicure. Ironic. The juxtaposition of wealth and poverty. Seemingly two different worlds.

Jesus says, “‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

A long time ago, I decided to lean into this love Jesus calls us to. I was in college. Buying a sandwich for a man in the grocery store; buying groceries for a woman on the corner; buying a burger and fries for a man at the convenient store. I never give out cash, but I do buy a meal or groceries. 

Since I have lost my son, I have been bolder to share my story and to ask about their story. I have realized that I have pain and that they likely have pain too; I deal with shame and maybe they do too. We both likely want to feel better and to have a sense of dignity as a human being. Commonalities-no matter race, ethnicity, social status, economic status, education, etc, etc.

So, if we are walking to get a meal, I ask them to share their life story. John was a Coast Guard boat operator with three kids. Ricky was a 22-year old who got kicked out of his house and had four siblings. Maria, a mother from Honduras, with five children to feed. Each person has a story and so do I. 

I ask them to pray for me and tell them that I will pray for them. I mean it and we usually shed a few tears together. Maria sobbed for me. I am grateful for these conversations. I tell them about Jesus and that He is helping me through my crazy pain and that He cares for me and for them. I want them to have HOPE and PURPOSE.

How I wish I could solve the problem of homelessness. I have visions of counselors on every corner, going to the library to ask for access to the computers for job searches, and all kinds of ideas. I read that there is a wonderful truck ministry that brings meals to many locations throughout downtown. But, all I really need to do is love people, engage, and be bold as I go, one person at a time.

Contributor-L. Vincent

Photo-L. Vincent

Loss-child

Here Comes the Sun

This morning the sun rises on Mother’s Day. That song by the Beatles came to mind—-

Here comes the sun do, do, do
Here comes the sun
And I say it’s all right

Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here

Here comes the sun do, do, do
Here comes the sun
And I say it’s all right

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here

Here comes the sun do, do, do
Here comes the sun
And I say it’s all right

Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been clear

Here comes the sun do, do, do
Here comes the sun
And I say it’s all right

The song is a happy tune about coming out of something difficult (a long cold lonely winter). Some of us are at the beginning of the long cold lonely winter: can’t see a glimpse of sunlight. Some are in the middle: seeing a few days of sunlight. Some are having more sunny days than dark. But, having hope that the sun will come one day helps!

And, it’s all right. Wherever we are in this grief journey. “It’s all right.” You can make it through the darkest, hardest of days. It may not feel like it, but you CAN!

Leading up to this day,  I have been thinking about what the Lord has in store for me for the next 40 years.  What CAN I do? Instead of focusing on the difficulties of the past (the long cold lonely winter), I need/want to focus on the possibilities of the future (here comes the sun). 

Life with God doesn’t start in heaven. For me, it started 33 years ago. A purpose with things to do. He has JOY, fulfillment for me to experience here on earth. 

I acknowledge the hurt, the missing, the wishing it were different today; but I can’t change it. Just now, a picture of my son called “Eyelashes in the Sun” popped up.  I had specifically placed him on the bed trying to take a picture of his very long eyelashes in the sun. I can see his baby hands, nose, cheeks. My beautiful baby. I want to touch his baby face. Even as I write, that deep hurt aches. I miss him dearly. My husband and I have a deep cry looking at the picture together holding each other. At every turn, there is a reminder. I can be grateful for this memory and the love we shared. But, I cannot bring him back. I can’t change the past, but I can look to the future.

What do I know that I CAN do as a mom?

Titus 2:3-5

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

I CAN teach what is good!!! I CAN be reverent. I CAN not slander or be addicted to much wine. I CAN follow the Lord having character (even in the middle of my suffering). I CAN love my husband and children encouraging others to do the same. I CAN be self-controlled, pure, busy at home, kind, being respectful to my husband helping others to do the same. I CAN pray for younger people to love and have HOPE.

I have made it through a year and nine months of the most excruciatingly dark days. The sun is beginning to peak out. I am grateful and it’s alright.

Contributor-L. Vincent

Photo-L. Vincent

Loss-child

Stay Out of the Pit

When grieving, it is easy to fall into a pit. The whole thing is a big, huge process. But, here are some ways to try to stay out. First, look at your views.

When grieving, we may have a tainted view of God.

“I could have come up with a better plan than this.”

“It does not seem fair.”

“God is not helping me.”

As a result, we experience unsteadiness, anxiety, and anger at God.

However, we can choose to believe the truth about God:

  1. He is growing His children (James 1:2-4).
  2. God will be a strength and refuge (Psalm 46:1).
  3. He is still faithful and good (Psalm 119:75).
  4. His ways are right and just, though I may not understand or see (2 Cor. 4:8/Heb. 11:1).

The more we choose to believe the truth about God, the results are:

  1. Hope (Romans 5:3-4).
  2. Willingness to wait on God (Psalm 130: 5-6).
  3. Strength in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).

We can also bring wrong thinking about ourselves into grief:

I deserve better than this. I should not have to suffer. It is not fair.

It is more important for me to be happy than holy (Jer. 2:11-13).

I thought I would have an easy life and I look to those circumstances as my source of peace, hope, joy.

Hardship in life equals bad for me.

I will never get out of this pain. This will last forever.

It doesn’t seem like I am growing. I am getting worse.

Since this is so painful and hard, I can’t do anything.

Something is wrong with me. I am embarrassed.

I am afraid of rejection. 

I am unlikeable.

I feel abandoned. I feel alone/lonely and like no one else is dealing with this.

I am not sure if I can ever be happy again.

We can also choose right thoughts about ourselves:

  1. I am one with Christ (John 17:21).
  2. Christ died to save me and to give me a purpose to display Him in the midst of the hardest times (Rom. 8:28-30/Is. 43:7).
  3. I am willing to suffer for His name to be made known (Phil. 3:8-10).
  4. Christ was made perfect through suffering (Heb. 2:10). I will grow through suffering.
  5. There are things I will never understand (Deut. 29:29).
  6. I am the created, He is the Creator. I will humble under God and believe His ways and thoughts are higher than mine (Is. 55:8-9).
  7. Even if the hard things last my whole life, it is a small time compared to eternity (2 Cor. 4:16-18).
  8. I can keep following Jesus in His strength for His glory today (John 14:15).

In grief, wrong thinking about others crops up:

  1. People do not understand me.
  2. How dare such and such treat me that way.
  3. That person is damaging my self-esteem.

We can choose right thinking about others:

  1. What truth do others need to hear or see from me today? How will I accomplish that? (2 Cor. 1:4). TobyMac says he is on the edge of his seat expectant for what God will do each day.
  2. Others are better than myself (Phil. 2:3-4).
  3. How can I love others? (Matt. 22:37-39).
  4. How can I display Christ to someone who has wronged me today? (1 Pet. 2:21-23).

Lastly, we can choose right actions:

  1. Trust God (1 Thess. 5:16-18).
  2. Ask others to pray for you.
  3. Seek fellowship with believers, sing praises, hear messages (Heb. 10:25).
  4. Reach out to others in service (Matt. 20:28).
  5. Ask God what you are responsible for in a given situation (communicate, deal with anger or anxiety).
  6. Get out of bed with an alarm.
  7. Make a list of duties and carry them out. Ask a friend to hold you accountable (Gal. 6:5).

David echoes this: “He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure” (Psalm 40:2). This is a battle and a daily fight and is not easy. It may be two steps forward, one step back. But, it is worth seeking this freedom with the Lord’s help.

Contributor-L. Vincent

loss-abandonment · Loss-abuse · Loss-addictions · Loss-cancer · Loss-child · Loss-divorce · Loss-flood · Loss-pandemic · Loss-parent · Loss-pornography · Loss-spouse · loss-suicide

Not Abandoned

Today is Good Friday. Today, we remember Jesus, beaten and broken on a cross, in extreme pain, crying out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He felt alone and abandoned for a moment. 

This fulfilled and hearkened to the same cry that David had in Psalm 22.  

And that Job had. 

At one point, Job felt that God had torn, gnashed, broke, dashed, slashed, and hated him (17:4-14)-his words, not mine! 

In pain and grief, there are moments when you wonder if God has abandoned you.

Job felt totally abandoned and alone and in the middle of his battle, cried out for mercy two times! (19:21) It was at this climax, that he proclaimed that HE KNEW THAT HIS REDEEMER LIVES!!! At the point of his greatest despair, his faith was at the highest level.

Astoundingly, he knew that he was in need of a Redeemer (19:25). Job likely lived after the time of the Tower of Babel but before or during the time of Abraham. When ALL was taken and friends did not understand and even accused him, he knew he needed REDEMPTION and God would vindicate him. 

He knew that there would be a day of justice (“at the last He will stand upon the earth”) when he would SEE GOD with his own eyes. This is where he goes for COMFORT. 

For Jesus, He was experiencing the outpouring of divine wrath as He bore our sin. All three: Jesus, David, Job experienced reproach and ridicule. All three kept relying on God through it and experienced his rescue and mercy.

The truth is: God was always watching over Jesus, David, and Job. God never ditches His people. Hear this: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will not leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). And this: “For he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’ (Hebrews 13:5b-6). And it goes on and on: “But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’ And God said, ‘I will be with you’ (Exodus 3:11-12). 

God does not leave us while we suffer. He has compassion for us and stays with us. He is the Father who stays!! He does not desert us and this is the greatest promise ever. He never dumps us but is right next to us as we cry and hurt. He never mocks our suffering or our faith. He wants us to reach out to Him and let Him comfort us. He wants us to talk honestly and openly. Jesus, because he felt forsaken, understands us completely. God does not hide His face from us, but rather is listening and hears every cry.

Psalm 22 ends with these words: he has done it. Jesus said, “It is finished.” We have a Redeemer who gets every ounce of our agony, affliction, and aching. Today we remember the darkness He went through to save us. He died for the broken. He was broken for the broken. He is with the broken. This is my body broken for ____. Pray: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have MERCY on me, a sinner.

Contributor-L. Vincent

Photo-L. Vincent

Loss-child

Comfort

When friends are grieving, it is hard to know what to do or not to do. Even if you have grieved before.

Job lost almost everything. Eliphaz and Bildad (Job’s friends) wisely started by sitting silently with their friend for seven days. They gave Job credit for being wise and helping others before his losses hit his life.

However, they, then, resorted to accusing him of not fearing God (15:4), being prideful (15:9) and even mocked his pain and the sounds of his trauma (15:20-21). They did not let him be honest and real in his grief.

The most damaging part: They wrongly believed that all blessings were caused by obedience and tragedy was caused by sin. Thus, they failed to hear Job and lacked empathy. 

A third friend emerged and attacked Job on a new level. Zophar accused him of being guilty and unrepentant. He told Job that he should have had wisdom and to devote his heart to God, to pray for forgiveness, and to put sin far away. 

Interestingly, even though Zophar was wrong about Job, there was truth about sin in what he said: if there is sin, changing is the correct answer. Stop what we are doing, examine our hearts, go before God, identify and turn away from sin, and recognize patterns to try to grow.

In fact, Psalm 51 is a good guide for repentance. David had sinned with Bathsheba and we see his remorse. He appealed to God’s mercy (v. 1-2), he did not make excuses for his sinful behavior (v. 3-4), his desires changed and he wanted purity in thought and deed (v. 6), and lastly this led to praising God for the freedom he experienced after confessing (v. 14-17). When we confess, we can repent without regret, earnestly and eagerly clearing ourselves, hating the sin, longing for restoration and desiring justice (2 Cor. 7:9-11). Repentance is a good thing.

The problem was: Job’s problems were not due to sin. Job is the ultimate example of dramatic irony. The reader knows something that the characters do not and we know that Job’s sin did not cause his losses, but his friends did not know this. And, this is life. Sometimes tragedies are due to sin, sometimes not.

So, we need to be careful as friends, seeking much discernment: being “wise as serpents and innocent as doves”(Matt. 10:16). But, the insightful friend looks at 1 Thess. 5:14 (And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all) and asks: is a person dealing with sin or are they fainthearted and weak? If fainthearted and weak: comfort, help, encourage, be patient.

Humble people have shared their stories and failures and hardships to comfort and encourage me and have listened for hours on end. This vulnerability has brought tremendous help.

Contributor-L. Vincent

Photo-A. Tikhonova

Loss-child

Not the Same

“We are not the same people.”

“I know.”

I cannot count the number of times that my husband has whispered this to me.

On the outside, a grieving person looks like the same person. They walk around and seem like the same person. But, on the inside, something has changed.

If you have ever read 1984, in the last chapter, Julia and Winston meet after betraying one another. They have both been drastically tortured. Winston notices changes in Julia-her face is sallow, a scar, and that her waist is thick and stiff. Physically and emotionally there were changes. Now, when they see each other, they are numb: “Something was killed in your breast: burnt out, cauterized out.”

There may be hidden physical and emotional changes. The griever may have not slept for days, weeks, or even months through the night. They may have experienced PTSD-flashbacks to the events preceding their loved one’s death. Recurring thoughts about what they could have done differently. 

In the movie and true story, Born on the Fourth of July, in the midst of chaos, as a squad leader in Vietnam, Ron Kovic accidentally killed a fellow soldier, Billy Wilson, a 19-year old in his squadron. The guilt tore him up. He suffered with PTSD and the reality of paralysis. He broke down with his parents–unleashing the enormous anger inside. The anger at himself, anger at God, anger at anyone around him, anger at the government, anger at his circumstances. He looked for relief from the anger and guilt and shame in drugs, alcohol, sex, and a new place. 

But, one day, he decided to face Billy Wilson’s family and sought forgiveness and truth. After Ron explained how he believed that he was the one who killed Billy, Billy’s mom comforted, “We understand the pain you’ve been going through.” One sufferer comforting another sufferer. She lost her son: she understood pain. Ron suffered with guilt; she released him. 

Ron was not the same person coming back from Vietnam. Grievers are not the same people. They may look the same, but they have been through sometimes unspeakable journeys. They don’t want pity, but it’s good to try to understand the depth, even if you never talk about it. Sometimes it is just your presence.

They are asking: who am I now? It takes time to figure out new identity, but there are answers. There is hope. 


Meanwhile, “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort…comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too” (2 Cor. 1:3-5).

Contributor-L. Vincent

Loss-child

Heal & Grow

Today I realize that I will be in a spiritual battle the rest of my life. If this seems like a negative thought, another way to think of it, is that I will be running a race of perseverance. That was always the case, the moment I believed in Christ, it’s just that since the loss of my son, I realize it even more. I am more dependent on God now for my daily thoughts. I must constantly seek truth and His Word to keep myself healthy.

Paul said this too: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7).

GOOD NEWS: HEALING AND CHANGE ARE POSSIBLE

In the midst of suffering or grief, a person is vulnerable to attack. The person is weak. In our loss, we bring thoughts about God, ourselves, and others to the table. We also bring our desires and our motivations. These are not always aligned with truth. We fight to know the truth and believe it.

There are many theories that the world uses to try to help us in our suffering. Many tell us to change our thoughts and possibly our environment in order to see change in our lives. This is a good beginning, some of it works in the moment, but there can be many missing components: 

First, the Lord and need of a Savior. For the Christian, God is at work through the Holy Spirit in our lives. He can change us. His Presence can change us. 

Second, ourselves. Many theories treat us as the “victim”-that we are grieved, anxious, depressed and there is nothing we can do about it. But, Scripture says, we CAN grow and we CAN change and we CAN heal. Practically, we can get medication, counseling, learn to breathe, get exercise, manage our time. All those things are good. But, most importantly, we can seek God for long-term change. We are not victims. There is hope. This is a gradual and lifetime process, it takes time and effort and IS worth it. 

Lastly, God’s Word. God’s Word is truth and it can challenge the lies, the desires, the motivations. God has given us “everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him” (2 Peter 1:3)

HEART CHANGE

Another missing piece-changing our thoughts is not enough. Our hearts need change. What does that mean? That means our desires, motivations-what we long for, yearn for, crave and how we satisfy these. 

In our hearts, we may know what is right, but desire what is wrong. Eve knew what was right. Abraham knew what was right. David knew what was right. Yet, they chose to do wrong. James 4 explains that we can know what is right, yet do wrong. James 1 talks about how yearnings (even good desires for acceptance, security, identification, satisfaction, happiness, approval, comfort, escape, strength, pleasure, success) can turn into sin. James 4 asks, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions [my lust, my pride, my selfishness and more] are at war within you?” Am I willing to sin to get my desire? Am I willing to sin if I don’t get my desire?

The battle is in this. First, in the heart. To put off and confess old patterns and choices (identifying the desires/passions) and to put on the “new man”-renewed thinking, having a new pattern of truth. This is where change happens. Then, actions follow the change in thinking and motivations. Then, peace. Sounds nice and linear. It’s much more messy.

I will be trusting God with some really hard truths and some really hopeful promises the rest of my life. This is the major and most important part of my coping with my loss. The good news: healing and change are possible.

Contributor-L. Vincent

loss-abandonment · Loss-abuse · Loss-addictions · Loss-divorce · loss-suicide

LOVE

Today is Valentine’s Day. This makes us think about love. One genuine act of love is FORGIVENESS, a free gift that God gives us every day. Forgiveness is love and counteracts anger, a feeling that a normal part of grief.

In the 1990s, a book called The Blessing by Gary Smalley and John Trent, taught people to forgive others through writing.

When my kids were little, I taught them the four promises of forgiveness (within the context of learning to overlook, talk it out, and get help with conflicts) from Ken Sande’s book The Peacemaker:

I promise I will think good thoughts about you and do good to you (good thought).

I promise I will not bring up this situation and use it against you (hurt you not).

I promise I will not talk to others about what you did (gossip never).

I promise I will be friends with you again (friends forever).

If we read these as an adult, we quickly see that this is not easy to do with severe hurt, but the possibilities of freedom for all involved are huge.

If I forgive someone, I usually focus on the offense and then work to forgive that hurt. Then, if that event/offense comes to mind again, I forgive again (Jesus said 77 x 7), and so on (Matthew 18:21–22).

I thought I knew quite a bit about forgiveness based on these things, but I learned something HUGE this year in the book, Forgive What You Can’t Forget by Lisa Terkeurst. The author has insight into forgiveness: she suggests writing down not only the sin that occurred against you, but all of the EFFECTS that the person’s actions had on you. A friend told me that this is a part of TRAUMA recovery.

The EFFECTS can create so much anger and bitterness, in some ways, without our awareness! The effects are what people are typically dealing with after the offense has occurred. So, yes, forgive the act, but also any effects that came about due to the act. This is powerful.

I forgive you for the act (write it out). I forgive you for the effects (make a list). And keep adding to your list as things occur. Then, if you want to be symbolic and concrete about it, take something red and place it over the list, symbolizing that Jesus died for ALL of this. This is one piece of how to forgive a traumatic event. This sounds simplistic but is a process and may take time. Be gentle with yourself as you try to even think about forgiving a large hurt. Ultimately, it will free YOU. Love yourself and others with the gift of forgiveness.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32).

Contributor- L. Vincent

Photo-B. Kerckx

Loss-cancer · Loss-child · Loss-flood · Loss-pandemic · loss-suicide

Suffering

There is a core question that most grievers ask at some point: Why does suffering exist? Why do some suffer greatly and others do not?

In the past I would have answered: to help you grow (John 15), to grow your character (Heb. 12), to show you where you misplaced your hope (1 Peter 1:13-14), to make you stronger, more persevering (James 1). And, this can absolutely be true. But, now I realize that there is MORE to this answer–that there are some kinds of suffering that will never have answers. 

Sometimes suffering comes from our own sin or others’ choices to sin. Other times, we do not know why we are suffering. Sometimes it is a combination of the two.

John 9: 1-3-As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth.  And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” So, when Jesus was asked if the blind man’s suffering was caused by sin, he answered that there was a greater purpose. 

Sometimes things happen in heaven that humans know nothing about and that can’t be explained. Sometimes very difficult things happen to faithful people. It is simplistic to think that sin is always the cause of suffering. 

In the book of Job, one day in heaven, the angels and Satan gathered. Satan accused Job of following God because of the protection and blessings. Job was described as blameless, upright, one who feared God. His family was close-knit. God, then, allowed Satan to test Job within certain limitations. The Lord allowed Satan to remove his blessings, but protected Job’s life.  God could have prevented the suffering, but He did not.

There were two tests: In the first test, Job lost his 10 children, servants, all possessions. 10 children.

In the second, he lost his health.

In the first test, he answered, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

In the second test, he answered, “Shall  we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” Job’s answer was both humble and even grateful. He had been completely broken, yet he maintained faith. He understood that a faith-filled life did not guarantee a life free of pain and sorrow. If faith only mattered in good times, it did not matter at all.

Job also grieved: he fell to the ground, his heart was heavy (6:1), he felt punished and mocked (6:4-6, 23), he lost his appetite (6:7), he was in massive pain, with little hope (6:8), he had nights of misery and tossed in the night (7:4), he thought he would never see good again (7:7), he asked hard questions like why even try (6:29-30) and wondered if God was fair (6:22), yet, he appealed to God for mercy (6:15) and saw Him as holy, wise, strong (9:4-10). All of these are very normal in severe grief. Reading Job can be a relief to a griever–seeing a faithful person experience the same emotions, questions, and yet still have faith.

John Stuart Mill and others claim that God cannot be omnipotent AND good at the same time. However, in Job, it is seen that God is in control and is good. He also allows suffering for a purpose and has a relationship with Job through it. What is the good-this is not fully answered, but partly that Job would continue in his faith regardless of the most severe circumstances. But, Job knew nothing of the events and conversations in heaven. This is the humbling of man-he does not know everything or the reasons for everything.

Martin Luther King, Jr. explains that God’s goodness is a high and fixed purpose aiming at the supreme good of man, and that accomplishing His purpose reveals His true power. And, His ways are not our ways (Is. 55:8).

Job never knew about the scene in heaven. He never had answers for the reason for his losses. And, for some kinds of losses this is the case. The believer will have to learn how to keep living and have faith WITHOUT answers.

Job, also, could not make the connection of his own sin and the atrocities that happened. Yes, he was a sinner, and he confessed this, but the severity of the losses did not match the sins he committed. He understood that any bit of mercy from God was a gift, but this degree of suffering did not make sense.

In the case of suicide, it is true that the victim sinned (in great pain and darkness); but for the survivor, the question is-why did God allow this? The survivor will have to learn to live without the full answer and this is super hard, but doable.

God allows the suffering of His children. God is sovereign over all that we experience: our grief, our physical ailments, our humiliation. Our suffering does not take God by surprise (Hebrews 12:5-6; 1 Peter 1:6; John 15:2). God gives us grace in our suffering (2 Peter 1:3). In the middle of suffering, it is important for the believer to remember that God is at His core, good. In the end, what did Job cling to? He had his faith in God’s goodness and the hope of his salvation. 

Contributor-L. Vincent

Photo-L. Vincent