I picked up the phone and hesitated.
Should I call?
Grief is complex, even on the best days. But when grief is fresh, it’s often ugly and raw.
Her grief—only a month or two out from the funeral—would still be hemorrhaging like a fresh wound.
I dialed her number anyway, thinking she might let it go to voicemail.
Her voice greeted me on the other end with forced cheer.
Last time I talked to her, her husband had been in hospice care. She was preparing herself to let go.
But even when you are ready, the letting go is never easy.
When we got to the difficult part of how she was really doing, her voice fell low and quiet.
“I knew grief would be hard,” she said. “But I didn’t know it would be this hard.”
Oh, how I know.
She said what I wish we would all be a little more honest about:
No matter how prepared we are, grief and suffering are harder than we think.
We gloss over the hard stuff of life because–who wants to be a downer?
We sweep the brokenness of life under the rug, not knowing that we’re all hiding our dirt. Instead of talking about how to get through suffering, we talk about the weather. Instead of praying for someone who is grieving, we simply avoid the topic.
This grieving widow reminds me that these unspoken conversations shouldn’t be avoided.
Our unspoken broken, as Ann Voscamp puts it, needs to be brought into the light.
But too often, we grasp onto misleading beliefs about how we will deal with pain when the time comes.
Three Myths About Suffering
We think will be able to rise above normal human emotions when we go through hard times.
I often meet people who feel bad about their emotions in the midst of suffering. They think they should not feel angry, sad, depressed, or fearful because they have faith.
But faith does not negate our emotions. We still have the normal human responses when we face suffering. I once heard Rick Warren say that God can handle our emotions–as long as we’re bringing them to Him.
We will not have to suffer if we follow Christ and are obedient.
Godly people suffer. Our obedience does not protect us from pain. As Tim Keller says, “The best people often have terrible lives. Job is one example, and Jesus — the ultimate ‘Job,’ the only truly, fully innocent sufferer — is another.”
Because we are Christians, we will have total peace–right away–when we face a horrendous crisis.
There may be some people who have this peace right from the start.
Let me tell you: I am not one of those people. I wish I could say that I never doubted, feared, or worried.
But I have felt all the emotions. I have struggled through some over and over.
As I walked through my grief with God, I found peace in the process.
And this is what I learned:
Peace is not always something we receive at the beginning of grief or suffering. But God does give us peace. Often, it’s a process of learning to trust him through the pain.
As you carry your sorrow, you learn to lay down your pain on a daily basis and trade it for His peace in the midst of pain.
As Pastor Tim Keller says,
“Only when our greatest love is God, a love that we cannot lose even in death, can we face all things with peace. Grief was not to be eliminated but seasoned and buoyed up with love and hope.”
Our faith doesn’t take away the normal human emotions we have in suffering, nor does it always give us instant tranquility.
Instead, we gain this peace as we walk with God through pain and suffering.