Three precious promises as I’ve grieved over the last few months: God loves me unconditionally despite my doubts and lack of peace. God’s ways are higher than mine. Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us that “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” I know God is close to those who have a broken heart. “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit” (Psalm 34:18).
A few months ago, one of my best friends moved away, and I was plunged into some of the deepest grief I have ever experienced. It sent me spiraling into a season of depression and provoked one of the deepest questionings of my Christian faith. At times, I cried out to God, pleading for an answer that would give me the peace and closure I needed to move on. At other times, I was filled with pride and arrogance, demanding an answer from God and refusing to trust Him again until I got one.
In the following paragraphs, I am going to be very open about my struggles because I believe that is what the church needs. For too long, we have kept inside what we should be sharing. In Galatians 6:2, Paul commands us to “bear one another’s burdens.” Most relationships in the church barely scratch the surface, either because we are too afraid to share with others or because we don’t know how to respond. My hope is that this article will help both those who are grieving and those who want to minister to others.
As I wrestled with my feelings, naturally I looked for others who had experienced something similar. I stumbled across C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed one day and decided to give it a read. I have read several of C.S. Lewis’ works in the past, most of which are either allegories or apologetics. A Grief Observed was very different, almost like a deeply personal journal that was not intended for public reading. Originally published under the pseudonym N.W. Clerk, Lewis wrote A Grief Observed after his dear wife Joy died of cancer. They were married for only four years before she passed away.
Now, I have certainly not experienced the death of my friend. Nonetheless, there is still incredible grief from his absence. Growing up as an only child, I always wanted a brother. The Lord most definitely filled that desire through my friend. For the past four years, we spent nearly every day together. And through my friend, I repeatedly experienced the unconditional love of God as he forgave me when I was wrong and saw past all my many faults. And now, suddenly, he is gone. I am thankful that we still have the ability to communicate and visit each other. But the fact is that my friend no longer lives close by, and things will never be the same. That void is often overwhelming.
As I read A Grief Observed, I found myself identifying with many of the feelings this giant of the faith experienced so many decades ago. At the start, Lewis addresses God’s apparent silence in our grief:
But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once. And that seeming was as strong as this. What can this mean? Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?
Thankfully, these are only thoughts that crossed Lewis’ mind and not anything he actually came to believe. I know such thoughts have crossed my mind during the last few months, and I’m sure they have crossed yours as well during a time of grief. Later, Lewis acknowledges that grief is one of God’s methods to test our faith, to show us who or what our trust is really in:
God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn’t. In this trial He makes us occupy the dock, the witness box, and the bench all at once. He always knew that my temple was a house of cards.