We’re only a month into 2020 and my heart is heavy with grief and disbelief. Between the Australian bushfires, the death of Kobe Bryant, and the threat of a coronavirus pandemic, 2020 hasn’t kicked-off well.
For five months, Australia has been on fire. We’ve witnessed entire towns being reduced to rubble. We’ve wept for toddlers receiving bravery awards on behalf of fallen firefighters. We’ve heard the screams of animals caught in barbed wire and trapped in tree tops. We’ve felt the helplessness of farmers, who after facing a decade of drought, is now being forced to euthanise injured livestock. We’ve choked on hazardous smoke and cowered under black skies.
Between the Australian bushfires, the death of Kobe Bryant, and the threat of a coronavirus pandemic, 2020 hasn’t kicked-off well.
Earlier this week, basketball legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna died in a sudden and tragic helicopter crash. It was gut-wrenching news that brought the West to a standstill because Kobe was more than a basketball champion. He was a global icon of persistence, success, and loyalty. He was a doting father who loved his daughters. He was charming, down-to-earth, and the guy that ordinary people could look up to. As the world pours tribute to him, it’s clear that many of us wish that legends like him could live forever.
Over in the East, the outbreak of a new strain of coronavirus and the rising death toll is causing worldwide panic. Masks and hand sanitiser are flying off our shelves, as people fear the next pandemic. We’ve felt helpless as videos emerge of Chinese hospitals overflowing with sick patients, and exasperated medical staff buckling under immense pressure. Once a sprawling city of life and tourism, Wuhan has become a quarantined ghost town and the last place on earth that you would want to be right now.
Has God Abandoned 2020?
Over the past month, I have felt shock, sadness and anger. There is so much devastation that is beyond our control, and even prayer feels futile. The world is scared and hurting. Doesn’t God know that now is the time for divine intervention? At times like these I can’t help but question: Does God not see? Does God not hear? Has God forgotten us?
In crisis, it can be tempting for Christians to give answers that are theologically sound without affirming the very real questions that are on people’s minds. Is it loving to tell widowed Vanessa Bryant that God is always good? Maybe, but maybe not. Is it loving to share with distressed farmers that God is working all things out for their good? Maybe, but maybe not. Is it loving to tell the scared and quarantined that the coronavirus is part of God’s good plan for them? Maybe, but maybe not. I think it takes wisdom to walk with people through crisis, but I have learned that in some situations, Romans 8 can seriously wait.
Approaching God in Grief
Having faith in God does not make us immune to pain. Confidence in Christ does not mean breezing through life in a Zen-like state. We live in a broken world and hurting people have been encouraged to cry out to God since the beginning of time. I love that the Psalms are filled with raw emotion, and provides us with a framework for approaching God in grief:
- My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? – Psalm 22:1
- I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?” – Psalm 42:9
- Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?” – Psalm 77:9
- Why do the nations say, “Where is their God?” – Psalm 115:2
The Psalms show us that God does not expect us to be supernaturally happy in crisis. The Bible includes words of desperation and exasperation so that we can echo the same sentiments as expressions of faith. Personally, I believe that forcing someone to believe that ‘God is good’ at the height of tragedy, is no different to telling them to ‘get over it!’ When people are hurting, I think it’s loving to acknowledge that it is reasonable to question God’s goodness, and that it isn’t wrong to feel grief, doubt and anger against injustice.
Confidence in Christ does not mean breezing through life in a Zen-like state. We live in a broken world and hurting people have been encouraged to cry out to God since the beginning of time.
In his time on earth, Jesus displayed his humanity in his capacity to feel real and raw emotions. He cried when his friend Lazarus died. He felt righteous anger against the hypocrisy of the religious elite. He felt exhaustion from the demands of his work. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus is recorded to having a soul that was ‘overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death’ (Matt 28:36) and he asks God whether he could be freed from the cup of wrath. While the Garden of Gethsemane shows us that Jesus was faithful to God’s will in suffering, it also shows us that it is appropriate and safe to approach God with our troubled hearts and questions.
Does God Really Care for Me?
I believe that the teaching of theology is not only reserved for preachers on a Sunday. We teach theology in the way we live and respond to everyday situations. Personal crisis often leads to spiritual questions, so when hurting people open up to us, we have the privilege to show them what we know of God’s character. How we respond to grief and questions matter. Is your God patient or impatient? Quick to listen or quick to dismiss? Compassionate or heartless? Merciful or unforgiving? Do you believe that God is a distant deity who commands us to ‘Get over it!’ or a humble high priest who suffered and empathises with humanity?
Yes, our God is good all the time and no, he will never abandon, but in a world that’s grieving, let’s learn to be patient with pain. Let’s honour tears and acknowledge questions. Let’s sit with those who grieve, and in doing so, display to the world that our God is quick to listen, patient in love, humble in heart and empathetic to our cries for mercy.
What theology are you sharing in a hurting world that’s desperate for hope?
“…knowledge puffs up while love builds up.” – 1 Corinthians 8:1
First published at heiditai.com