I see it far too often. Sincere, well-meaning individuals who, in an effort to comfort the grieving, end up saying something that causes further damage. Things like:
- “What a blessing that God chose you to suffer.”
- “It’s all part of God’s wonderful plan.”
- “It was just their time to go.”
- “God needed another angel in heaven.”
- And, my personal favorite (not), “Everything happens for a reason.”
So, cancer is somehow a blessing from God? A young girl being raped is somehow a good thing in God’s eyes? 9-11 was all a part of God’s wonderful plan? A son or a daughter killed in a car accident by a drunk driver is really a blessing in disguise? I’ve heard things like this said; from Christians no less! If these terrible tragedies are a blessing from God, then I’ll pass. He can save them for someone else. We do not worship a God that intentionally takes the lives of our loved ones. Why would God need a little child more than the parents? Why would God need a thirty-five year-old mother of three more than her family? Please, let us never suggest that God causes all afflictions to occur. He is not the source of all the earth’s ills. He is not behind every tragedy that befalls people. He does permit them, but that doesn’t mean that He prefers them. I do realize that there were episodes that we read about in the Old Testament when God brought hardships on His people as a result of their sins. But even in those instances, the purpose was benevolent in nature. Plus, I have these accounts recorded for me in scripture. I have no such evidence to go by today.To pin every disease, every financial disaster, every tragedy on God is to tread on very shaky soil. The notion that even unexplainable tragedy rooted in evil can somehow be traced back to God and His glorious plan for your life is simply not in line with the Bible.
There are some things we don’t know. There are some things we can’t explain. We don’t know why good people suffer so terribly. We can’t comprehend why babies get sick and die, or why a young teen-age girl is raped and killed. We will never be able to explain the unexplainable. Sometimes in our zeal to protect God we feel like we have to provide an answer, yet we often damage our credibility when we attempt to explain the unexplainable. God doesn’t need us to protect Him. He can take care of Himself. Better to say nothing than to speak about things we know nothing about.
In the midst of devastating loss, Job’s three friends came to sit with him. They traveled to be with Job in an effort to “show him sympathy and comfort him” (Job 2:11). Their intentions were right. It’s when they opened their mouths that they got it all wrong. Sometimes the things we say, in an effort to provide comfort, place an even greater burden on the grief-stricken. And, many times, the advice given is blatantly untrue. I’ve often heard it said that “time heals all wounds.” Those of you who have experienced the loss of a spouse, a child, a close friend, etc., can attest to the fact that this sentiment is false. For some, the passing of time may ease the heartache, but time doesn’t heal ALL wounds. The sting of loss is always there. It may get easier, but the emptiness is ever-present. Comforters will sometimes appeal to the good in one’s life, reminding them to focus on their blessings. I once conducted the funeral for a couple whose fifth child was stillborn. An individual tried to console the couple by pointing out that they should take solace in the fact that they still had four healthy children. Needless to say, those words were no consolation.
How about this? How about instead of intellectualizing one’s grief; instead of telling the grieving that they must dry their tears and be strong; instead of giving pious explanations for their suffering that are not even Biblical; how about we simply love on them? How about we embrace them and let them cry on our shoulder? How about we just sit and listen to them? Never miss a good opportunity to shut up. The best thing we can do for one who is grieving is just BE THERE!