It was an impressively bad night, and I tried to sort it out yesterday, and could only conclude one thing. It was the night of Joe's birthday, and I was having a so-called "grief reaction". I've learned this past year that when I feel miserable to my core-- body, soul and spirit-- and there is no other explanation for it, then it's a grief reaction. I now conclude it was because we had a birthday party (which is necessary for the grandchildren's sake, but always feels not quite right), and Joey wasn't there, and we aren't going to see him again for a very long time, and everyone is sad and subdued, and trying to carry on anyway, and "ohh, this hurts so bad--how long can I do this, God"?
Yesterday, in the comforting light of day, my dark thoughts went into remission. But I read Gannet Girl's blog, Desert Year, and it got me thinking again. She is asking her readers to respond to a poll on the spiritual impact of their loss. She asks, "In the biggest loss of your life, did God feel ____?" Here she provides several options to choose from, basically asking how close does God feel in your loss. Right now, the front runner is: "In the biggest loss of my life, God felt faraway, but still a reality".
This poll intrigues me because one of the worst features of Joey's passing has been a feeling of distance from God, especially in the dark hours of night, but even in daylight, more often than I would like. I have been a solid believer for 40 years, yet this past year has brought more doubts and questions than I ever thought possible. I've had difficulty praying and difficulty reading my Bible. I grab on to helpful Bible verses like a drowning person grabs on to a raft, but I have no strength for anything more than holding on with all my might. My daughter says I write like I'm trying to talk myself into believing what I'm saying. I've thought on more than one occasion, "If He loved me, He would never do this to me". The coziness I felt with God before Joey passed has fled somewhere, and I am trying to piece it all together again.
I know there are others who suffer deep loss without the questions, but I am wondering if this questioning of God's love/presence is an almost universal response to suffering. Even Jesus asked, "My God, why have you forsaken me?".
Our pastor has been teaching on the sufferings of Job. He says everyone has a Job story, and the book of Job was written not because Job was unique, but because his life reflects what we all go through on some level. He also says the voices in our heads-- the doubts, fears, and questions --are like Job's accusing friends. God silenced Job's friends by pointing to His power and beauty in nature. I have to say that I really get that. God's power and creativity in nature is one of the few things that deeply comforts me and has also quieted my chaotic heart this past year.
So I am going to follow in Gannet Girl's steps. I would set up a poll if I knew how, but instead I will ask my readers a version of her question:
In the biggest loss of your life, did God feel close or faraway?
I hope you share your thoughts, and I look forward to reading your answers....
9 I say to God my Rock, "Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?"
10 My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, "Where is your God?"
11 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.