Tomorrow will be 2 months since my father passed away. It’s been just a little over 5 years since my fiance passed away. I knew that the two griefs would be very different, just as the two men and the relationships I had with each of them were very different. But I’ve been pretty amazed by just how vastly different the experiences have been.
The diversity of grief is quite impressive. I say this in the same way that I say I was impressed and fascinated by the power of the shingles virus as the disease wreaked havoc and pain on my body. If you can just distance yourself a little from the situation, even the worst, most painful things can fill you with wonder. I’ve always been rather reflective upon my sufferings.
One thing I’ve been reflecting upon lately is the difference that faith has made in my experiences of grief. When my fiance died, I was without faith–but in fact, that loss gained faith back to me. In grieving my father’s death, I have found myself faced with a far greater challenge: maintaining my faith.
The work of grieving can always be likened to walking through a dark valley. Back then, my faith was like a glowing torch, suddenly burst forth in the darkness. It was something new. Now, my faith has grown and matured, and at its center is the Cross. And it’s heavy. And Satan is working very hard to get me to drop it. He’s trying very hard to convince me that God is not with me. “If He were with you, you wouldn’t be suffering so much.”
What a conniving and sometimes strong temptation that is. But how false! How false it is to assume that God exists to take away our pain, and that if He doesn’t then He either doesn’t exist or is a big old meanie. We are not ourselves without pain. And the reason for that is not that God is a sadist who created us to suffer. The reason for that is that we allowed ourselves to be destroyed by Satan.
No, God does not rid us of pain. But He does free us of it. There’s a big difference between those two. We each carry our cross because God has given it to us. Not because He’s a big old meanie, but because He first carried His for us. That we must carry our crosses, that we must experience pain and suffering, are simply a matter of justice. He willingly experienced pain and death because of our wrongs. But justice demands that we each also bear the consequences of our wrongs. There is nothing mean or unfair about this demand. Understanding this simple principle of justice can take a lot of bitterness out of our sufferings… if we let it.
But what really frees us from pain is the perfect mercy that balances out God’s perfect justice. He is never more merciful to us than when we attempt to suffer pains patiently and humbly, as He did. How do we suffer well? First of all, we don’t give into that dreadful temptation to blame or to dismiss God. Rather, we spit in Satan’s eye and tell him we’d much rather suffer under our crosses than to lounge beside the lake of fire! (Note: getting angry at Satan and telling him where to go is a great stress reliever.)
We simply have to refuse to reject God. That’s all we may be able to do during painful times. And it is enough. God doesn’t ask more. He is never unfair, never unreasonable, and certainly never cruel. He never exploits our weaknesses nor demands the impossible, but rather understands and has compassion for our weaknesses. He always bears the brunt of our burdens–here and now as much as at Calvary all those centuries ago.
So, while I am undeniably experiencing pain, I am also experiencing God’s mercy and love. While I sometimes feel tempted to reject God, I am blessed with the freedom to say no to Satan. Really, why on earth would I go groveling after the one who brought ruin upon our race in the first place? I much prefer to walk through the dark valley with God.