Published March 16, 2010

Paul's Epistle...
"Comfort In Loss - Responses"

Last week in this space I printed my response to a lady who had suffered the loss of her 16-year old grandson in a terrible highway accident and felt unable even to pray during this time of extreme grief. I offered several Scriptures that intended to aid in realizing that God wants to hear our cries, especially in time of need. After all, that's when we need Him most in the conduct of our daily lives. (The Psalms are an especially rich resource. See 34:15, 34:17, 39:12, 102:1, 107:28.)

A typical response to that column was this: "I can sense the Holy Spirit typing those words through you. Thanks for the great reminder of God's comfort. We all need to hear that from time to time..." - Ralph P.

However, one reader gave another very personal illustration of just how difficult it is to pray during such times:

"Sorry, Paul, I disagree. There can be times when the grief is so hard to bear that you can't pray. I know because I was in that situation. That's when the prayers of others get you through. [When] my father was going for open heart surgery, we found out my 43-year old brother was in a hospital with a ruptured aneurism in the brain. My father had the surgery and didn't make it. ... That day the doctors put my brother on life support. My [other] brothers and I went to the hospital the next day and had the life support removed because he was brain dead. A few weeks later my mother-in-law died suddenly. ... Two weeks later my father's oldest brother died.

"At the time it was almost more than I could take, although I know God won't give us more than we can bear [1 Cor. 10:13]. Grief can overtake you, though, when it is all at once. For awhile I felt as if I hated God, although deep down I knew I didn't, it was just part of my hurt.

"When our pastor asked if I had told God I hated Him, I said I couldn't do it because I knew I really didn't. I did cling to Psalm 46:1 ["God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble"] and knew God would be my help but I couldn't pray to Him.

"There was nothing wrong with my spiritual life, and I eventually got over the grief and moved on and was able to pray again just as before.

"It is really easy to judge someone else when you are not in their situation, but God made us all different and we all have to grieve in our own way. I don't think we should condemn someone else if we aren't in their shoes. You really didn't know and understand what that lady was saying unless you lost a grandson, too. Sorry to disagree with you, but this is just how I feel because I went through it. At the time it was horrible, but, like I said, later after I was through the grieving period, I was fine and my prayer life returned to normal." - J. C.

This lady is correct about the fact that I have never lost so many loved ones in such a short period of time, so while I can certainly sympathize, I cannot truly empathize. I have not "walked in her shoes." Another writer, who did have similar experiences, had these observations and some helpful suggestions:

"You make some great, Biblically-based points in today's Epistle, but I completely understand your writer's frame of mind. I consider myself a ‘strong' Christian, still growing in His Grace, but I try to seek Him in my daily walk. Having gone through ten-plus years of anguish with my son (involving drinking, drugs and multiple arrests) and during my mother's recent losing fight with melanoma, there have been more than a few times in my life when I just couldn't find the words to pray. During those times, I thanked God for Mother's life and the Christian home in which we were raised. I thanked Him for keeping [my son] safe and alive through all his shenanigans.

"But there were times when I'd hit a brick wall – I'd sit or lay there and just cry. That's usually when His Spirit reminds me [that] God understands these times and He tells us through His Word that it's okay. Romans 8:26-27 says, ‘Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered.' Wow – groaning which cannot be uttered. I could almost feel God's loving arms wrap around me and tell me, ‘It's okay. I understand, and I'm going to carry you through this, too." – G. W.

That reminds me of the Gerald Crabb song, "Through The Fire,*" which offers an excellent reminder:

So many times I've questioned certain circumstances
Things I could not understand
Many times in trials, weakness blurs my vision
Then my frustration gets so out of hand
It's then I am reminded I've never been forsaken
I've never had to stand the test alone
As I look at all the victories the spirit rises up in me
And it's through the fire my weakness is made strong.

He never promised that the cross would not get heavy
And the hill would not be hard to climb
He never offered us victories without fighting
But he said Help would always come in time.
Just remember when you're standing
In the valley of decision
And the adversary says give in
Just hold on, our Lord will show up
And He will take you through the fire again.


- Paul

*"Through The Fire," written by Gerald Crabb, copyright 1999 Lehsem Songs, BMI, used by writer's permission.

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