As people who believe in a God who is both sovereign and loving do we show a lack of faith if we mourn for the suffering or passing of a loved one?
Life is comprised of many promises but the greatest of these is suffering. I do not know a single person who has not experienced grief in some way. As a Christian and as someone who writes apologetics I can rattle off just about every intellectual reason for suffering in the Christian paradigm. I can tell you how good God is and why He sometimes allows us to experience pain. But everything changes when that experience goes from the conceptual to the actual.
If you’ve been an outspoken Christian for any amount of time you’ve probably heard this said,
“Religion is only for the weak. A crutch for people who can’t stand on their own two feet.”
I needn’t explain why this objection is still commonly used in atheist circles but I do want to point out an interesting correlation with this type of thinking to the thinking I’ve seen of many believers. In some Pentecostal and Evangelical circles, pain and suffering are seen as something to be avoided. On one hand, pain is seen as a sign of the devil’s activity. If everything is going wrong we may not be in God’s will, it is said. On the other, if we’re going through some kind of hardship we’re sometimes expected to get up on our feet and have faith in God. Where is the crutch again?
This hesitance to grieve is most prevalent, surprisingly, in the face of death. I’ve heard it said that we’re not to mourn at the passing of a loved one because they will, hopefully, be in Heaven. For the non-believer, a crutch is something to be shunned. We should stand on our own two independent feet and take whatever comes our way. For a number of believers…. well…. it seems all too apparent that they do the same.
However, I’d contend that both of these ideas are simply unlivable. If you tell me you don’t need some kind of crutch in the face of suffering, whether it be a shoulder to cry on or the hope that the tears will eventually be wiped away, I don’t believe you’re being at all honest with yourself.
Death is a promise in life that was never meant to be. Just as God mourns over the world we have created so too should we cry in the face of death, regardless of the existence of an eternal life. Jesus never shuns the act of grieving, going as far as to say “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
If you find yourself feeling as though to show faith you need to bottle up all of those hurtful and frustrated feelings inside I want to encourage you today that it’s ok to feel grief. It’s ok to feel angry and frustrated sometimes. As the preacher says,
“….(there’s) a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3:4)
Christ took our pain, not so we can hide it, but so we can lay it before Him and cry in His arms.