Words of Hope: Having Faith Beyond Our Why

In our office there is a photo of my friend’s son who died recently in an accident. He is smiling and as I walk by, it looks like he is smiling at me. Every time I see the photo (which has been up on the wall for a few weeks), I am still startled. I stop and look at his face. Death does this. It completely jolts us out of our day-to-day life and requires us to consider how we want to live.  

Tragedy and loss make us confront our beliefs about God. It places us in a crucible that demands to purify what we believe. When my dad’s mother died, he entered this crucible. For a long while he concluded that a loving God could never let his mother die. He believed if there was a God, He didn’t answer prayers and left us in our pain. Dad entered a deep period of bitterness and hatred of God.  

I know friends who are in this place. A dear friend who lost more than most, is just coming out of a time of hatred for God. Anyone saying, “I’m praying for you,” to console her, served only to embitter her further. “Where was God when my beloved was dying? Why did God not answer my most urgent and desperate prayers?” 

Death and loss strip away everything that distracts, material things don’t matter, nothing matters. My dad had to wrestle with his mind and step into a paradox. The paradox held two contradictory understandings. The first was that his mom died in agony despite him earnestly pleading to God for her life, and the second is that he believed that God existed. It was a place where his deep sorrow about his mother became refined along with his faith that God is loving and has good for his life. I don’t know if Dad ever mentally reconciled these contradictory understandings. Instead, he laid aside his bitterness, his questions, his rage and walked by faith into choosing to follow and love God.  

For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11