What a profound question. We spend a lot of time talking with parents who have lost children, and have discussed lots of questions, but I don't think anyone has ever asked that question quite so directly.
"How do you keep from losing your faith?"
I'm glad he didn't ask me that question. I'm not good at thinking on my feet ... It takes time (and sometimes writing it out!) for me to fully respond to a question of that depth. And this guy was clearly not looking for a "Sunday School answer." Well, you know, all things work together for good... was not going to do it for him.
Ever since Brad told me about that conversation, I've been thinking about the answer to that question. How did we keep from losing our faith ... after a diagnosis of terminal cancer for our teenage daughter, a year of grueling radiation and chemotherapy treatments, the unspeakably horrifying experience of watching our daughter take her final breaths, and now living without her presence for nearly four years?
Is it because we are some kind of super Christians, with faith that's faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings with a single bound? Is it because we have some kind of inside track to God, some secret source of strength that no one else knows about? Absolutely not.
There is nothing unique or special about us. Though we have never come close to losing our faith, our faith has certainly been shaken by the events of the last few years.
So, when something truly horrible happens, how do you keep from losing your faith?
For me, it all comes down to holding on to what you know. When you're going through a terrible loss, your feelings and emotions are all over the place. They are very real, and very present, but you can't trust them. Your feelings will tell you that God is not good, that God has failed you, that God can't be trusted. And, believe me, Satan will take advantage of those feelings to plant those doubts in your mind and in your heart. You have to accept the fact that those feelings are going to be there ... but you can't let them eclipse what you know to be true.
And what do we know?
- We know that God is sovereign. He is not surprised by anything that happens on this earth. Each one of us has a specific number of days to live, and this was determined by God before we were born. Psalm 139:15-16
- We know that God does not change. Hebrews 13:8
- We know that God is good. Nahum 1:7
- We know that our loved one is in Heaven, if he or she knew Jesus as his or her Savior, and that we will be reunited with them one day. Revelation 22:3-5
- We know that we will not be crushed, left in despair, abandoned or destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4:8-10
- We know that weeping will not last forever, but will be replaced with rejoicing. Psalm 30:5
- We know that God is close to the brokenhearted and will save those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 24:18
- We know that God is our Redeemer, and that He will redeem all of our losses one day. Job 19:25
- We know that God sees the big picture, and He is able to bring eternal value out of our suffering. Isaiah 46:9-10.
- We know that God loves us with an everlasting love. Psalm 36:7
Does knowing these things relieve our pain? No, not really. Our grief is still very real, and can be excruciating. But, if we remember what we know, it will help us fight off some of those questions and doubts that assail us during these times of suffering.
Randy Alcorn says, "The faith that can't be shaken is the faith that has been shaken." This is so true. I have been so privileged to listen to many bereaved parents describe with tear-filled voices how their faith was shaken to the core when they lost their children ... and how their faith is now stronger than it's ever been.
"How do you keep from losing your faith?"
By fully leaning on what you know.
"In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." I Peter 1:6-7