Making Sense out of Sorrow (September 2013; Volume 2, Issue 9)
The booklet Making Sense out of Sorrow: a Journey of Faith is a cooperation of an ELCA pastor, Foster McCurley, and a Reform Rabbi, Alan Weitzman. They work together throughout the booklet to talk as honestly about death, grief, and suffering as they can. It is specifically written for those who have lost a spouse, but the insights, questions, and permissions apply across the board to anyone who has lost someone close to them.
They begin with the question that starts almost any grief process: Why? As humans, we seek to make meaning, to understand as a way of regaining control. They acknowledge that we will never know the answers to all of our questions, but we can be sure of a couple of things—“First, that God does not will suffering and death. Second, that suffering is not the direct result of a person’s sins” (18). As Christians, we believe that “the death of an individual is not the result of the individual’s sins” but instead is “the result of universal sin” (22). This is how we can understand God as all powerful, but also all about life. We are not alone in the good times, and especially not in the bad times. God is with us, and “invites our prayers, even our anger, and gives us hope” (26).
The authors go on to talk about the power of prayer, and point out how the Bible, especially the Psalms provide us examples of prayers asking for strength and healing and those that are more like yelling at God. This can be done privately or communally, but the key is to remember that God hears you, does not fault you for any emotions you are feeling, and can handle your anger, confusion, and questions. For, when we blame, complain about/to, and yell at God we are in fact “admitting how important God is in our lives” (56).
Each grief process is different, and there is no right or wrong timetable, but no matter the circumstances, I believe that this simple booklet is a great reminder that we are not alone in our grief, that our feelings are not wrong, and that healing is never too early or too late when God is allowed into the process.
Suffering and death is one of the hardest topics to understand in relation to our loving God, but it is only through our relationship that positive meaning can truly be made. I encourage you to read this booklet whether you are grieving now or not, and keep it in mind for the future.
Never forget that God loves you!
P.S. One of the authors, Foster McCurley, is the father of an LCF member and Worship & Music chair, Dana Gillin.