Life ChallengesRelationships

One Reason Grieving Can Be Tougher for Christians

By February 9, 2015 7 Comments

Grieving is usually defined as the process that accompanies the act of letting go of something.  Typically, we talk about grieving in reference to one’s response to the death of a loved one, but other losses require grieving as well.  A person going through divorce experiences grief over the loss of their spouse, just as a person diagnosed with cancer will grieve the loss of their health.

Sometimes we even find ourselves “letting go” of something we thought we had, but didn’t.  This happens when a husband or wife discovers their partner was cheating on them.  At that point they must cope with the reality that the image of the faithful spouse they previously had was a lie.  Regardless, grieving is tough.  And there aren’t any magic solutions to make it easier.

One thing that the research seems to agree about is that the grieving process includes two key emotional elements—appropriate anger and appropriate sadness.  Appropriate in the sense that either of these two emotions can become dangerous when misdirected or unregulated.

I don’t remember where I first heard this illustration, but I love using it: emotions like anger or sadness are much like the warning lights on your automobile dash.  They exist for the primary purpose of alerting you to important realities.  Much as, say, your check engine light comes on to alert you to potentially concerning mechanical issues, anger “comes on” to alert you to injustice, just as sadness alerts you to loss.

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Injustice and loss are two difficult realities to digest, and that’s why grieving is tough for all of us.  But for the Christian world, there’s an extra wrinkle.  Basically, it’s the belief that somehow God is behind the pain and suffering we experience.

“People tell me God must be allowing this to happen for a reason…” is one of the things I hear most often from individuals going through tough situations.  The problem with telling a grieving person something like that is that it puts the responsibility for the problem on God, as though God were the major force behind the loss they’re experiencing.  It’s not.  God isn’t evil, and He doesn’t perpetrate evil.  Loss and pain are the result of living in a broken world.

God isn’t evil, and He doesn’t perpetrate evil. Loss and pain are the result of living in a broken world. Click To Tweet

Here’s my point: when we talk to a grieving person as though God is somehow responsible for their difficult circumstance, or at least, for not stopping it, we rob them of their potential to experience productive anger.  Anger—the sense that a situation is not fair—seems strange, or even wrong when directed toward God, whose character is defined by fairness.  Christians going through this often struggle with their faith, or feel guilty, thinking that they are mad at God, and wondering if that’s okay.  The truth is, they’re not mad at God; they’re mad at the unfairness of a broken world.  That most certainly is okay, and as long as the anger is appropriately controlled and directed, it’s part of the way out of grief… it’s part of how you truly let go of what you lost.

If we make God responsible for the loss, we rob the hurt individual of their right to appropriate anger. Click To Tweet

Romans 8:28 (NLT)
28 And we know that God causes everything to work together* for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

Romans 8:28 simply says that when we are online with God’s will, no matter what we experience (good or bad) God is at work for our good.  It doesn’t mean that God causes bad things to happen, it simply means that even in a broken world, even in difficult situations, God is orchestrating events to bring about good.

It’s okay to be sad when we lose people or things that matter to us, or when we experience pain.  It’s okay to be angry at the unfairness of this broken world when that happens.  It’s just also important to remember that God is at work behind the scenes doing amazing things that are for our good.

If you’re going through a season of grieving, I pray that God will help you process the emotions you’re experiencing as quickly as possible, and yet as thoroughly as necessary.  Try to remember that this is temporary.  While the deepest pains we experience may leave permanent “scars,” the pain of loss lessens considerably over time, so hang in there.  Lean heavily on God and people who love you.  Take it one day at a time.

 

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about Jonathan

Jonathan Hoover is the associate pastor and couples pastor at NewSpring Church in Wichita, KS, and the author of The Blindfolded Marriage.

As an author, communicator, and sought after marriage coach, Jonathan has shared God’s message of hope, love and encouragement with thousands of individuals.

Jonathan and Wendy have been married for 12 years, and they have two precious daughters, Cheyenne and Summer.

7 Comments

  • Sarah says:

    Thank you for explaining this Jonathan. I have been struggling with grief from a difficult situation and the emotions it has brought. I did think that God was allowing this to happen and felt angry about that. It caused me to doubt my faith. I now understand it much better and realize God did not want or allow this to happen. It helps me to know that even though this happened, he is still working for good for me. Thank you! “

  • Cassie Haerle says:

    Jonathan –

    Throughout my life, I’ve been cheated as many have said. I’ve lived in cars as a child. Molested by my uncle and step dad. Never met my father. Was married to a man that cheated on me and another that loved to hit. Lost my sister from a tragic accident and just recently lost my mother from a drug overdose. I had always asked our God why me and how could you do this to your faithful child. After counseling to deal with my childhood and learn how to find a quality man (since I never had an example). I found a wonderful God loving man that has been patient with me for 17 years. He still prays at night for my peace, it’s beautiful. Throughout the years of attending New Spring and the class I attended there, I’ve got it. I don’t ask why? We do live in a broken world for a very short time compared to Heaven. My question I ask now, is how can I help others that are struggling. I say guide me to where you want me, my heart is open and healed because I know HE loves me and has a wonderful purpose for me.

    • Cassie,
      Thanks for sharing your powerful story. I’m so glad that God has inspired you to help others as a result of what you’ve been through. Praying God’s richest blessings on your future.

  • Glenda Baker says:

    I had a very dark day today.
    For no particular reason I began crying, sobing & couldn’t stop.
    It’s been a while since I cried.
    The beginning of the year is very hard & I notice I become angry & hateful. I try to control it, but it’s hard. I attend counciling.
    March 2015 will be 4 years since we lost our precious daughter in a car accident.
    Not a moment goes by that I don’t think of her promising life & tragic death.
    Everyone else has moved on & even forgets what has happened to our family.
    We are suspended in time.
    I don’t understand, but despite it all, God is good & I know He loves me. I try to lean on Him.
    He is my only hope.

  • Glenda Baker says:

    I had a very dark day today.
    For no particular reason I began crying, sobing & couldn’t stop.
    It’s been a while since I cried.
    The beginning of the year is very hard & I notice I become angry & hateful. I try to control it, but it’s hard. I attend counciling.
    March 2015 will be 4 years since we lost our precious daughter in a car accident.
    Not a moment goes by that I don’t think of her promising life & tragic death.
    Everyone else has moved on & even forgets what has happened to our family.
    We are suspended in time.
    I don’t understand, but despite it all, God is good & I know He loves me. I try to lean on Him.
    He is my only hope.

    • Glenda,
      I’m so sorry about your loss, and am praying right now that God will help you through the pain you’re experiencing. I pray God will give you peace and comfort.

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