Many reasons for death are given to those who have lost someone close to them. Some of these reasons, while well intentioned, do not provide any comfort. Most often, people suffering through the loss of a loved one or friend are not ready to have legitimate answers given until later. It is completely natural, however, to ask “Why?” This is in response to the sense of a lack of reasoning on “why bad things happen to good people.” To ask is expected; but to get a satisfying answer is not expected. People dealing with grief may be ready at a later date for philosophical explanations, but for the first few weeks following the death is not a good time to give answers; that may come later.
What are some answers that people sometimes give that are not helpful when first asked, or even later? Why are these reasons not helpful? Let’s look at a few.
“God allowed the loss or permitted it for my growth. It’s good for me.”
This does not provide comfort. How can anything this painful and hard to accept be good for a person? How can losing one’s baby be for their good? The person is not in the condition to accept this answer; it is cold and does not help them in their tremendous sense of loss. It makes absolutely no sense when a death seems “senseless” already.
“God is not all-loving or he would have intervened.”
This is not comforting either. Regardless of how we feel at the time, God’s love is ultimately not up for doubt. Scripture and personal experience by many who have gone through the same situation bear out that one can feel God’s love very closely during times of deep grief, though it may take time for us to get there.
“Perhaps God doesn’t exist at all.”
Does this really help? In times of trouble and death, we need to believe in something higher than us more than at any other time. To dismiss God is to dismiss the possibility of ultimately making any sense at all of the death (that question’s answer, by the way, may have to wait until heaven). To say that God does not exist implies that there is NO heaven or chance of ever understanding.
“God is not all-powerful or he could have stopped this.”
Again, this does not help the grieving person. While a grieving person may not be able to believe in God’s ultimate power at the time of loss, it is that power that will sustain us through times of grief when we are desperately searching for something bigger and stronger to support us. To deny God’s power is to deny any hope of ultimate victory over death. Jesus’ power over the greatest enemy, death, proves God is all-powerful.
“We get what we deserve. After all, we are all sinners and deserving of death.”
This is the opposite of the first one. Whereas it implies God sent the death to teach us a lesson, this reason says that God basically sent the death as punishment for the deceased’s sins; or worse yet, to punish us for ours.
For some reason, the issue of God often comes up when someone dies. Perhaps it is related to our need to make sense of the ultimately senseless condition of death. There are good reasons, however, that can provide real comfort and hope to a grieving person. We will discuss this in a future article.
Roland Cavanaugh is on staff at a large church serving as the Pastor of Congregational Care and Sr. Adults. He has self-published a book about his late father, “For As Long As I Can.” You can find ordering information at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1597816515/ref=cm_plog_item_link/102-2861005-6918529?
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