Grief is an experience that is a part of all human life, and it comes to anyone, at any time, regardless of age, situation or level of faith. We will all encounter grief at some point in our lives because the process of death and dying exists in our world. While God protects us from an eternity separated from God, we are not protected from painful losses that can lead us to grieve.
Finding God in any instance is the daily work of our faith. Our spiritual lives must be attentive to the presence of the Spirit, and spiritual life encompasses our emotions just as much as it involves our thoughts and decisions. It is common for a person to feel that God is far away, uncaring or oblivious to our plight. The best of believers can experience depression, extreme sadness or feelings of anger and hopelessness. Even the Psalmist asked for God’s whereabouts when there did not seem to be any help on the way (see Psalm 77:1-10 as an example).
In This Article:
The Agony of the Soul
As a weekend pastor and a past hospice chaplain, the experience of grief is quite familiar to me. The question of God’s presence is not always asked aloud when a person is in despair. Still, I can see its formulation in the expressions of those in the throes of grief.
I have ministered to those who have known the Lord God for as long as they can remember, and I have ministered to those who dare hope that God really does exist. Seasoned believers and those new in faith can suddenly find themselves sinking into a depression that is foreign to them. The agony of loss mixes in with the common questions of why and what, and this is where the gift of human relationship is vital to rightly deliver empathy and compassion as much as the person can receive.
An emotionally and spiritually healthy church can do its best work in helping to heal a wounded and shattered soul by simply coming alongside a person, caring for them deeply, asking and suggesting nothing in return. This is one way to find God’s presence; by tapping into emotional receptors that are both raw and frozen simultaneously that connect to our very soul.
God Is Present in the Dark Places
People suffer loss for a variety of reasons, including old age, disease, murder, abortion, accidents or even loss of personal possessions. The marked difference for the believer is a firm foundation that God is always there. And the truth is, God never left, or will never leave us, even when we do not feel he is present. As people move through the various stages of grief, experiencing the love of God through the deep love of people is a helpful start.
Recall that King David made a deliberate move to go and worship God once he had mourned bitterly for his infant son (2 Samuel 12:15-20, see also Psalm 51). In these moments, we can hear God’s still, small voice, reminding us that the Lord will never abandon us.
When one is able to insert the word “me” into that truth, things can begin to change. This helps an individual begin to personally experience that God can be trusted. When trust is initiated, hope is planted. Hope and trust in God’s abiding presence help to offset our natural, human anxiety that invades our thoughts and emotions when we find ourselves in the darkness.
We Journey as Individuals
Finding God in one’s personal grief is a unique journey we cannot speed up, cut short or curtail to fit our schedules.
Consider how contemplative prayer, in its purest form, focuses on listening to God and practicing the experience of the person of God. Rather than asking for something, we choose to spend time with God for the sheer calm and peace that it brings. Finding God amid grief can be as simple as sharing our groans and sighs, as we express our deepest emotions, understanding that all is being taken in. Everything is seen and is being heard, for God knows all and is waiting for your open heart.
The only condition to finding God this way is to believe he is listening to you, even without using words. The Lord may provide a subtle sign, known only to you, not solely as a matter of privilege, but more of an assurance that the Lord’s love will find a way to make sure you know he is sovereign, even in this.
The best way of finding God in your grief is to allow the Lord the opportunity to guide you, even if it takes more time than you would like. We must trust the Spirit of God to be always fully present with us, especially in the worst of times, which is why the Lord God broke into this fallen world in the first place.
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Approved by faculty for the College of Theology on Nov. 22, 2023.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.