Despite our best efforts to live a comfortable and pain-free life, tragedy and death are a part of the journey. We all know our mortality is inevitable, yet death always feels wrong and out of place when it confronts us. Our strong emotional attachments to loved ones create deep wounds and paralyzing feelings of loss.
So how do we respond in faith and hope when the unexpected happens? How do we hold on to the promise that God never lets us down when it feels like our whole world is falling apart?
When Tragedy Strikes Close To Home
A few years ago, I experienced a trauma that rocked me to the core: the loss of both of my relatively young and heathy parents within days of each other. The pain was staggering. Here I was, a strong believer in Jesus Christ, wringing her hands towards heaven trying to understand why my family got wiped out in the blink of an eye. My faith was being tested as my hope shriveled to a small seed overwhelmed by despair. There weren’t any easy answers or quick fixes to make everything better. I simply had to walk through the pain and suffering.
Wounded And Reeling
When we just don’t understand God’s plan, we often resist turning towards him in our confusion. Instead of reacting with confidence, our initial response to a big loss is typically shock. Our brain overrides our overwhelmed heart to protect us emotionally from falling apart. After two funerals back to back, I felt like a zombie; I was going through the motions without actually experiencing them. I was numb and in disbelief. It took some time for my heart and my head to catch up. Once they did, waves of sadness rolled in. Occasionally, anger caught me off guard in my grieving. I felt powerless, out of control and orphaned by capricious circumstances. I trusted God, but why did this overwhelming fear and anxiety continue to plague me?
Isolation Is The Enemy
I found myself withdrawing to cope with the pain; it felt easier than facing all of the inevitable questions and trite comments I would get at church. As the pastor’s wife, everyone had a scripture to offer or a Hallmark statement to convey, while I struggled not to lose it in the church lobby.
But I knew I couldn’t hide out forever, and feeling alone in my pain only made it worse. I needed to surrender to God and lean into healing. Despite my every effort, there was nothing I could do to change the circumstances or bring my parents back. I simply needed to walk through the stages of grief and experience them fully to move forward. Unfortunately, like so many followers of Christ, I got stuck in a cycle of guilt and shame. I felt guilty that I wasn’t over the pain quickly enough and believed my grief was too much for others to deal with.
Asking For Help
Thankfully, I had a strong support system that stepped in and didn’t let me hide. Our natural tendency to pull away in trauma does more damage than good. It’s easy to push friends and community away; we try to justify it by saying that we aren’t in a good place to be social or have fun. But the problem with this broken thinking is that it actually stunts our healing.
We need people such as trusted counselors, mentors and friends to encourage us towards life and moving past the pain. Sometimes, the best way we can experience the love of Christ and his comfort is through the hands and feet of his followers. God’s gift to us in these terrible moments is not taking the pain away, but instead offering us a community of people to go through the darkness with us.
Surrender And Solace
Once I was able to surrender to the loss and confess my anger and distrust to God, the walls holding me back from healing crumbled. I found my church community and women’s group to be my greatest source of solace. While I couldn’t make sense out of a senseless tragedy, I could, with their help, put the tragedy into perspective and move past it with the confidence and hope of a loving God whom I could trust in spite of the loss.
Once you have been through a deeply painful experience, you understand what others experiencing a crisis truly need. You are now equipped to guide someone else when they hit a rocky path. Encouraging others in their time of desperation helps to make sense of your pain and anxiety while also giving it a purpose. It’s not wasted suffering, but rather a gift to bless someone else with. God uses our emotional wounds to promote healing and multiply hope through His kingdom on earth. Don’t waste the tears of a tragedy; use them to sow seeds of hope for others.
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