Wrestling Through Loss
By: Terri Prahl
Even though I am no stranger to loss, watching the grief unfold in others still shocks me, dredging up deep, lingering questions.
How long, God?
At some level, I already know.
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, for I have overcome the world.”John 16:33
My mind grasps the truth, but the grief blocks my heart from holding it.
At another level, tragic loss of various kinds – my son, my health, my mom, friendships, and the innocence lost by sin — has often left me feeling unseen and my prayers ignored.
My expectations failed to meet my reality, frustrating me to the core…laying down our will for God’s is hard.
When you know God has the power with a single word to create the world…when you know He has the compassion to give His only son to redeem unfaithful people…when you know God is God and is perfect in all His ways… it’s easy to wonder why He didn’t use that power to give His child the desires of their heart. It’s hard not having clear answers to make sense of this world we live in. And like Eve, I find myself at times, wanting more than He gives.
Some may think me blasphemous for expressing this pain. But unspoken pain is the gateway to a cynical, cold heart and ineffective life. God knows the deepest intentions of our souls. There’s no hiding the truth. But, thankfully, there is a way through it to a strengthened faith and confident hope.
I am caught between several truths:
And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.Romans 8:23 ESV
This groaning means “of an inward, unexpressed feeling of sorrow”. This groaning/sigh is not a displeasure in who God is but an inner longing for things to be the way they were – to receive the promised inheritance being secured for our future redemption. We know death and decay weren’t meant to be our story. We grieve sin and the chaotic state of the world. As Christ followers, our compassion for others in pain often leads us to question the good plans of God. We see in part, with human eyes, and our bodies hate pain. This is not a sinful groaning against God. It is an honest assessment of the fallen nature.
Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.Philippians 2:14-16
This grumbling means to “express displeasure in” something or someone. We know that God is over all, so ultimately our complaining is against a good and faithful God. When we come to God with our questions, fears, doubts, and inner groaning, we must do so with reverence for who He is. God lifts the humble. Asking why can come from a sincere place of confusion and hurt. If it comes from a place of indignation on the character of a holy God, this is expressing displeasure in a sinful way. His mercies are new, and we can choose to confess and ask for help even in this!
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.Hebrews 11:6 ESV
Faith here is defined not just as a saving faith in the work of Christ on our behalf but of any belief or moral conviction of those who have put their trust in Him. It is in the walking out of our saving faith when we don’t always live into the beliefs of the Christian ethic. We are being made new and transformed by the renewing of our minds. We don’t even know all we need to believe/hold fast to until the Holy Spirit teaches us through the Word and the Church. There is grace in the growing. The same grace that saves us is the same grace that grows us! When we know, we need to obey. If we fall, we must confess and ask for forgiveness, and 1 John 1:9 gives us the promise that He is always faithful. God is for us…we forget that…He desires our all, and also shows mercy to those who are weak in faith and struggle to believe.
Jesus invited Thomas to touch His wounds and believe. He didn’t require a blind faith of Thomas in that moment. God left us with Scripture, historical evidence, testimonies of faithful saints, and the gift of the Holy Spirit that indwells believers. He shows us in Creation. He reveals Himself to those who draw near. Bring your doubts and ask for a desire to overcome. He is big enough for it all!
How I Wrestle Through Loss Before God
To be honest, I have had many a morning of wrestling through human loss. In these times, I humbly pour out my heart and ask the questions. He meets me there, and I am drawn to Him as I speak what I know to be true.
What I Know:
I know God can heal physical bodies, but He doesn’t always this side of Heaven. He has never promised us all to live to be 90. Nowhere does He call it evil to bring someone home to be in His presence. To die is gain when we know Christ.
I know God would have been glorified and praised if earthly healing had come. We would have used words like miraculous to sum up the outcome. But, isn’t being ushered into the fullness of Christ’s inheritance a miracle too?
I know God is still worthy of praise regardless of the answer to our prayers. Make no mistake, He answered. And He was victorious. But, in our hurt, it’s hard to believe this is the way God chose to answer our pleas for help. I don’t know the specifics of how He is working for the good of those who love Him. We only see in part.
I know that those in Christ are raised in death to live eternally with the Father. Thank you, Lord.
I know He is close to the broken-hearted. He is faithful and will provide for all their needs.
And still it stings.
It’s not just me. The whole earth groans, longing for the renewal of all things.
The sadness fills us. Even Jesus wept.
We long for a day when hearts will be forever mended, not broken.
Satan longs to shake us in tragedy —- to make us question the goodness and presence of God.
The enemy wants to destroy our testimonies through the struggles of this earthly life.
He twists the promises of God, as He did with Eve in the garden, to make us feel He is withholding something of value we deserve – or have rights to.
We experience restless nights. Desperate prayers. Wrestling with the what-ifs. Living between the strength and power of God and our own human limitations.
This is spiritual wrestling as we seek to humanly hold on to the beliefs we profess. This is what it looks like to “take heart”. In times of great loss, of any kind, we are vulnerable to the lies of the enemy. For this reason, we are told to fight, contend, strive, and wrestle with the spiritual forces seeking to create distance in our intimacy with God. If this fracture can happen, the door is opened for greater doubt and turning from God.
Instead of denying our humanity, we are invited to come and find rest in Him. We can enter boldly with our sincere questions and wrestle in our grief toward healing in Christ.
How do we wrestle well when the enemy tries to drive a wedge between us and Christ, allowing us to doubt the real promises of God and tempt us to sin in our sorrow?
- We learn and understand the difference between a promise and a principle of God. What exactly has God promised to those who trust Him as read in the written words of Scripture? Does He promise life without loss? Does He promise every prayer answered according to our will? Even Jesus prayed, “Not my will, but yours be done” to the Father.
- We practice patient endurance in the trials of life. It requires effort on our part derived from being in the presence of God and listening to the Holy Spirit. This is what it means to abide. Making time to abide is where our responsibility lies. Those who hope learn to wait for the things they hope for to be realized. And they live with expectancy and joy in the wait. Expectancy and joy don’t mean the absence of tears and longing, but an ability to hold them both as they walk in flesh and Spirit.
- We step back and think about how we view the situation through the gospel story and not a self-centered lens. Our stories are a part of the greater good news story of redemption and renewal in Christ. This moment is but a vapor.
- We remember who God is by studying Scripture. How we view God is our theology, and sometimes it gets skewed away from who He really is as described in the Bible. Without seeking a relationship through prayer and Bible study, it will be impossible to hold the proper view of God, which in turn poisons all other aspects of our practical lives.
- We repent of any false images we are clinging to in processing our human emotions. Our feelings are not sinful. The way we allow our feelings to dictate our obedience to Christ can lead us to sin if we aren’t wrestling before God in light of truth.
- As hard as it feels at first, we need to give praise and express gratitude for being able to enter in and know God personally through faith in Christ. The greatest moments of victory for my heart and mind after loss have come from singing out of gratitude to God. It is counterintuitive when we hurt, but it is the only true way to healing.
There is much to unpack here, so I am going to write individually about each of these ways we wrestle toward growth and confident hope in Christ over the next few months.
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Have you ever grown through dark places and experienced the beautiful healing of Christ in your trials? Did you automatically trust and accept God’s will for you? Or did you have to wrestle through some things that didn’t belong in your life and were hindering your trust?