Nancy stated in an interview with the Gospel Coalition Blog on August 4, 2010, that grieving people have four primary needs. After countless discussions with bereaved parents, and through our own experience after losing our daughter to cancer, we've found her statements to be very accurate.
In my last post, I shared the first need:
- Grieving people have lingering sadness that is lonely and lingering that needs to be respected.
Today, I want to share her second point, and discuss it in light of our experience.
- Grieving people have significant questions that need to be answered in light of Scripture.
As I've stated before, I've been in church basically my entire life. But until my teenaged daughter was diagnosed with terminal cancer, I was quite content to stay in the shallow end of the theological pool. To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure I had ever even learned how to swim...I really think I was still sitting in an inner tube wearing floaties. Not really a pretty picture of a 41-year-old woman!
But when that diagnosis came, I suddenly found myself in the deep end of the pool with a hole in my inner tube and the floaties stripped away. I'm so thankful that even though I'd never really had to apply them, I'd been getting "swimming lessons" my entire life. I could at least dog paddle, I knew the Master Lifeguard, and I had access to all of His written swimming lessons. I knew where to turn for help.
But, still, there were questions...deep questions that were not easily answered.
Why does a 16-year-old girl who is serving the Lord get cancer?
If God is a God of love, why doesn't He heal my child?
Why pray, when God's going to do what He's going to do anyway?
Does God even care about what happens to our family?
You may remember that we went to a Respite Retreat with other bereaved couples over Labor Day weekend. We spent hours and hours just sitting around and talking. There were no shallow conversations at that retreat...all of us were navigating the deep end of the pool, and that's what we wanted to talk about.
A common experience of bereaved parents is that they no longer enjoy "small talk." Who has time to talk about the weather, or the latest ball game, or even politics (make sure you vote today!) when there are life and death issues to discuss?! One of the moms at the retreat exclained, "I love it here! Everywhere else we go people want to talk about Kindergarten, and we want to talk about Calculus!" I knew exactly what she meant.
I still don't have all the answers to my deep theological questions. But there are a few things I know:
God is good, He is in control, and He's working out His plan. Sin, evil, cancer, death...all of these things will come to an end in His perfect time.
God is God, He sees the big picture, and He has a purpose in everything that happens (even if I don't like it...okay, even if I hate it!)
God is sovereign, and He can be trusted. I don't have to understand everything, I just have to rest in the knowledge of His care.
These are the kinds of things that grieving people need to be assured of. Don't try to answer all their questions with "Sunday School" answers, but listen to their questions without judging. Love them, pray for them, and gently guide them to the Master Lifeguard.