Monday, October 16, 2017

Join the Conversation

Here is a note I got about bitterness last week. The questions are so clear and precise! This lady has some excellent and heart-felt questions. Many of them were what I wondered too, except I couldn't put them into words as well as she's done. How do we keep bitterness at bay when apparently God's promises didn't work? Or, for some reason, they didn't work for us personally? Please read on thoughtfully for the full context of her questions. I've attempted a bit of an answer too, but like the man who was crippled in the Bible, whose friends carried him to Jesus, I think I need some friends to come around with their help too. Please join this conversation but clicking a comment today or email me and I'll copy and paste it in for you.   

 - from SJ, 10/9/17, used with permission.

Thank you for your writings.  They have been food for thought.  Today's email about bitterness has been particularly interesting.  I noticed that since my husband died 10 months ago from an accident, with me raising my 2 children alone with no family nearby: I realized that I have become an angry and bitter person.  I do not want to be that.  At least I recognize it now, and will try to work on it.

But, since you wrote your email address down for questions, here are thoughts to ask--

1.  I think: well if God made me, knew who I was before I was born, and knows me, then that means He also knew how I would react--all my anger, my feelings that my life is if He knew I would react the way I am: How can He be mad or disappointed at how messed up I am...if He knew this was how I would react?  Is He going to discipline me further, to teach me even more that I better deal with my life the Bible way?

2.  We are told to believe in God's promises, i.e. He will never leave us or forsake us, He will care for our burdens, etc.  But how is it realistically possible to believe these promises now, when they didn't work did they, in protecting my husband...wouldn't it follow the line of thinking, Well doesn't that mean God's promises didn't come to pass for my husband, because he died.  And yet, I'm supposed to re-set my thinking that God will be there, will look out for me and my kids, will comfort us...wouldn't it have been better if God did that with our family intact?

3.  Which sort of circles back to the first thought: then God will keep punishing me, disciplining me, until I get with the program, and be more thankful and obedient and more faithful, and get over this wounded wasted life already.  -SJ

Dear SJ,
     Sometimes we get hounded with thoughts that we must do more, obey more, trust more, give more, thank more, rejoice more, glorify God more.... and that somehow it was our fault our husband died---like God was or is angry with us and we need to be disciplined and corrected. 
     These kinds of thoughts come in subtle ways from pastors and Bible teachers, the way we were raised, books we've read, and classes we've taken. Even in the best of churches we often get the message that if we do the right thing God will bless us, right?
     Sometimes it works like that---in fact, it often does! People are blessed! Prosperous! Loved! We can easily start to think such abundance is normal. 
     My husband Tom and I were in a church group once (actually, more than once!) where the teacher was describing how righteous living bears good consequences. Tom and I walked away with many a "Yes, but..." for times of suffering we've seen or personally experienced. And we wanted to ask this: what about the words of Jesus? In John 16:33 He said, "In this world you will have trouble."
     There's also the example of Job in the Old Testament. His friends gathered around him during his absolutely undeserved suffering and made matters worse with their accusations that he was hiding some sort of heinous sin--which he wasn't. 
     Volumes more could be said, but John 16:33 comes right to the point as Jesus continues with, "But take heart! I have overcome the world." When we are overcome with suffering, pain, confusion, bitterness, and even sin Jesus is still here to overcome. He helps us overcome sin, he helps us overcome grief and suffering too.
     For me, personally, confession and forgiveness are almost as habitual as breathing, so if there is sin in your life that needs to be confessed, take it from me--confess it. Grief alone is enough of a burden, don't also harbor known sin. But if you and God have nothing between you, if instead it feels like you're prayers are bouncing off the ceiling or that He has abandoned you, then hang on to what you know about God rather than what you are feeling. Be like Jacob who wrestled with the angel of the Lord and refused to let go.
     Also gather godly people around you. Widows trying to get back to normal while still broken-hearted are like a person with a broken leg trying to walk without a cast and a crutch. We need God's help in the form of His people! And unfortunately people usually don't realize we need their help and they don't offer it. Persistence--asking again and again--is necessary. Especially since you still have kiddos at home, you need help with them. 
     This is a process and a wilderness journey. It's not something we understand or enjoy. Our first task most days is to breathe and get through the day. But each day puts us closer to the truth that this journey is not a waste. Widowhood won't last forever, but heaven will and that's where our heart is.  
     I wish we could talk face to face, there's so much more to be said. But for now, I hope other readers will add their insights and encouragement. In the meantime I will be praying for you. Let's stay in touch and please feel free to reply.     


  1. I would hope the lady with the questions about bitterness and God's promises can find a GriefShare program near by to attend. My husband died 2 years ago and I went through the 13 sessions three different times. At first you are numb and you don't really know what you feel. The grief keeps you from feeling God's presence. God does not take the pain away but will help you get through it.

    I also had questions and doubts, but look back on how God helped me in the past and know that he will do it again because of who He is.


  2. Dear DLC, thank you for sharing your experience. GriefShare is a great ministry that has helped many many people. I've attended it and had the privilege of starting a facilitating a group in Ohio. One of the best things is that you can attend more than once. I'm really proud of the persistence you showed in going through it 3 times! God's healing goes deep and takes time but the joy He has ahead of you will be worth it all. hugs to you, ferree

  3. My husband died 2 years ago and I started to attend Grief Share about 3 week after his death. Like the first commentor stated, you are so numb and raw you don't know how to feel or what you are even thinking. The facilitators and the attendees helped me through my darkest days. Having Godly people around me and encouraging me daily helped me in so many ways. What I know is grief takes a long time, two year plus and somedays grief just takes my breath away. God is in control and I trust in Him to bring me through.


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