Cancer Journey · More Musings

Wrestling with God and Grief

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I have been angry at God. I have not wanted His will. And I have been wrestling with Him for many years now.

Through unexplained illness and an unthinkable diagnosis, I fought the Lord. In the prodding of too many needles, bad test results and needless suffering, I have questioned Him. I have wondered where He was and what He was doing, when the darkness lingered and grew unbearable. When I felt as though He was working against me or had abandoned me, I struggled to sing His promises. When nothing made sense and everything seemed wrong, I wrestled.

Sometimes Christians grow uncomfortable with those who are wrestling with God. Maybe even our own wrestling has left us doubting where we stand with the Lord. When questions that cannot be answered are spoken out loud, too often we rush to a “pick-me-up.” You need to “let go and let God” or “He is working all things for good,” or any other cliché or often repeated Bible verse meant to put a band-aid on our wounds. It’s not that these things aren’t true. It is just that when taken out of context or not spoken with compassion, they often aren’t helpful and can even be hurtful.

We love to quote the Apostle Paul. He offers so much insight and comfort. His words of praise echo in prison cells. And yet, we tend to gloss over his deep pain. In Second Corinthians 1, only a mere few verses after talking about “the God of all comforts,” he says, “We were completely overwhelmed—beyond our strength—so that [one of my favorite phrases in all the Bible] we even despaired of life itself” (2 Cor. 1:8 CSB). In chapter four of Second Corinthians, Paul writes, “For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’s sake, so that [there’s that phrase again] Jesus’s life may also displayed in our mortal flesh” (2 Cor. 4:11 CSB). Paul held both affliction and comfort in his hands. I’m not sure that he ever talked of glory without including suffering. He surely wrestled.

Wrestling can be holy. For when we wrestle, we grab onto the Lord and do not let go. After Paul wrote words about affliction and death, he proclaimed: “Therefore we do not give up” (2 Cor. 4:16 CSB). Wrestling with God through our grief isn’t walking away from Him, it is drawing closer to Him. Read the book of Job. It is one of the most painfully beautiful stories of suffering in all the Bible. In the face of unimaginable grief, his wife gave up, but Job wrestled.

In Genesis, we read story after story of brokenness and sorrow. Jacob also wrestled with the Lord. All through the night he held on until the dawn finally broke through the darkness. He called the place where he wrestled “Peniel” meaning “face of God” for he said, “I have seen God face to face” (Gen. 32:30 CSB). Jacob walked away with a limp – forever changed by his wrestling and pain.

I, too, am being changed. My wrestling is not over. Sometimes, the grief is so engulfing, I don’t know how I will survive another day. God can and has done good. He has brought beauty from ashes, and I believe His glory will continue to shine. Still, I would have wrote this story differently. Watching my son suffer and die will never be okay with me. Not here in this world. I do not understand the ways in which the Lord works. I wish He didn’t feel so far away sometimes. But even when I don’t understand, even when the lies scream louder than the truth, I can still trust Him. I will choose to still trust Him. For God, He is always good. He has been and will continue to be faithful.

Never in my life have I been more grateful for the Word hidden in my heart, for the unshakeable relationship I have with my Heavenly Father. It is the very presence of God living in me that makes me keep going when I want to quit. I could not grieve and hope without Him. He is not afraid of my mess. My anger and confusion do not shock Him. Although I am commanded to obey Him, He does not need me to agree with His ways. He is God, and I am not. He is present in the darkness, even when I feel alone. God is near, and He is good. I will trust Him when I do not see and I will stay when I want to run. Not because of anything good in me, but because His steadfast love endures forever and nothing in all of creation can ever separate me from His love (Lamentations 3:22; Romans 8:38-39).

And all my life You have been faithful

And all my life You have been so, so good

With every breath that I am able

Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God

~Goodness of God by Bethel Music

“Those who are wise will take all this to heart; they will see in our history the faithful love of the LORD.”

Psalm 107:43 ESV

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