Friday, December 21, 2007

The Dangers of Grief

The dangers of grief are many. You may not think of grief as being dangerous but it most certainly is. Charles Darwin reminds me of the dangers of grief gone wrong. The fact that Darwin rejected Christianity is commonly known, but what is not so well known is why he did. The painful death of his young daughter Annie may have been the culprit. According to biographers Adrian Desmond and James Moore in their book Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist, "Annie's cruel death destroyed Charles's tatters of belief in a moral, just universe. Later he would say that this period chimed the final death-knell for his Christianity."

Arguably, the most destructive philosophy in modern history took shape in the heart of a hurting and grieving man. Darwin's grief would not be satisfied with platitudes, nor should it have been. Yet something turned in him with which I think I can sympathize. A deep sense of injustice often stalks the grieving. Yet if you listen to those who are most virulent in their attack on faith and in particular the Christian faith, you will hear something like this: "How can a good God, or how can an all powerful God, allow such innocent people to suffer?" The implication is that either God is not powerful or maybe He is not so good, if He exists at all.

I admit that I have often been put in a defensive posture upon hearing such statements. When I read of Charles Darwin's loss my heart sympathized with him. For the first time in all the years I have known of this man and frankly despised his destructive invention of an explanation of our existence without God, I felt compassion for him. Then I felt sadness because of one man’s struggle with grief that turned to anger. I have no way of knowing if Darwin was visibly angry, but his theory of evolution is very angry. It concludes that there must not be a God, or he cannot be loving, or he must not have enough power to stop the pervasive nature of death, so what good is he? Darwin then proceeded to write not so much an origin of the species but an explanation of life without God.

This concept has taken hold of modern mankind, and with it some truly devastating result have followed. Millions have died because of Darwin's idea that only the fit survive. In countries that choose to live out Darwin's conclusion and establish atheism, the numbers are staggering. In excess of 50 million have been tortured and killed by the "fittest" who had their hands on the controls. Religious people have also taken lives in their very real and depraved grasp for power, yet even the Inquisition would be hard pressed to match the 20th Century’s record of death. Others took these concepts to justify their illogical conclusions and gassed Jews, exterminated their opposition, destroyed the weak and infirmed, in the gruesome acts of living out the survival of the fittest.

The thought that haunts me is that this all happened because a man grieved, and his grief turned to anger, and his anger turned to unbelief, and that turned to hopelessness. We get to choose what we do with our grief. It feels like grief sits in the driver’s seat of our lives, and for a while it may; but in fact we get to choose what we focus upon, what conclusions we draw, and where our anger takes us.

Does God have a good answer for grief's nagging questions? I believe God's answer came, but in a surprising form. He sent his one and only Son, and he gave him a unique name. "The word became flesh and dwelled among us..." (John 1:14 NIV). God's answer was the Word becoming flesh and giving us Himself, not a glib answer to satisfy our intellect but to satisfy the problem of death, suffering and evil. Our God got close, so close that he could hurt and bleed. He refused to remain distant. Thomas, the disciple of Jesus, suffering great grief, declared that he would not believe unless he could see and touch the scars of Jesus, then found himself invited by Jesus to feel his wounds, touch his scars and believe.

Stop. What kind of God has scars? Only a God who is willing to get close enough to hurting people that they could hurt him. These are the scars of crucifixion, another depraved human invention. Why was he crucified? For you and me. He came near because that is the only way to help hurting people.

The question of suffering is hard, profound and consequential. Struggle with it carefully. Struggle with it valiantly, but ask the God of grace to help your anger; hurt and let your suffering rest at the nail-scarred feet of Jesus. Grief is dangerous, but equal to the danger is the possibility of knowing the God who created, sustains and loves you. The only wise God who came near and suffered with great purpose, to end deaths power once and for all.

Struggle well!
Ed Litton

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have followed all your blogs since Tammy's death but two weeks ago they became more real and personal, when my brother died.

Thank you for your poignant and painful insights. In your grief and hurt, you are helping those of us who also walk with you in the shadowlands of loss.

The holidays are hard. I pray for you and your family as you go through this first Christmas season without Tammy.

Danny said...

I actually heard the sermon connected to this blog, and I'm curious if you have watched "God of Suffering?" (a lecture done by Answers in Genesis Ministries). The quotes you used from Darwin and Turner are used in that video. Anyway, I'm Danny from church. You did my Uncle Charles Jackson's funeral. If you want to respond by email I'm at n6daze@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

The dangers of grief are many.
It's like any moment in our lives when we have to make a choice between trusting God or leaning on our own understanding. What about the girl that chooses to abort rather than trust God and have the child she carries. What about the person who chooses to leave their spouse rather than trust God to heal their marriage. etc etc
They are all hard choices to make-but I can promise you that you will never go wrong doing what is right and trusting God to work things out for you.
This has been my solace through the grief. I've come to the upside of the grieving process. I don't have those episodes of weeping that make me think I'm going crazy and make me question my sanity-I don't have those any more. I still have times for tears but they are much more sporadic and controllable now. The best thing is that I can begin to see the things I've been hoping for.
I still don't know how God is going to work it all out. I just know that he will. I don't have to be bitter-there is great comfort in knowing that there is a God that cares and plans for us-I can rest in that.

Todd said...

Excellent, Ed. Thanks for this insight on the importance of perspective when grieving. That God came down to dwell among us...what love God has for us.

Thanks for allowing others to see what God is teaching you.

Tony Simoncini said...

Pastor Ed,

Thank you for the insights. These are powerful and wisdom filled instructions for those of us in the state of grief. I wrote a blog myself about the grieving process...questioning weather it is a process at all. Can we find a beginning, middle and an end to our grief? http://hisfamealone.blogspot.com also see www.myspace.com/tonyandshanda


I have not found many conclusions or definitive answers in my grief, but after chewing on this for a few months now, I have this one thing to contribute to the conversation.

As you stated in your blog, we have choices to make when we are grieving; will we let the grief control us and bring us down to the place of anger, and then eventually take us into the dungeons of hopelessness? As I found myself peaking into the dungeon a few times myself I found only one thing that pulled me away from its grasp. Focusing on my family and living “in the moment” for those God has placed in my life.

This process has helped me see what this life is all about. God has given me a wonderful family; a wife and a son who love and adore me, and they need me. They need me to be “in the moment” with them, 100%, here and now. And the truth is, they deserve it. They are grieving just as I am over the lose of a son and a brother, so how can I be so selfish that I lose myself and the two of them in my own self pity?

Pastor, I believe the truth of it lies within our Theology. I have been taught by so many that God has a “plan for MY life”, and everything God is working out “for my good” it’s all about me, and I just need to go to Him and He will “give ME the desires of my heart”…me, me, me, me, me. I call this the gospel of Tony. The truth of the matter is, the good news of Jesus Christ has nothing at all to do with me, and this good news guarantees me ONE thing. And that ONE thing is Jesus. I’m not guaranteed prosperity, freedom from pain, grief, difficulty, etc. The gospel guarantees us Jesus alone, and the gospel of Jesus is so much more powerful than the gospel of Tony. As I came to see the gospel I was following exposed for a lie, and subsequently turned to the gospel of Jesus, I began to see this life of faith differently, and because of this difference, I have been able to grieve in a way that honored God, and kept my head above the waters of that dungeon we call hopelessness. If I surrender to the gospel of Christ, I will never leave hope and it will never leave me, but if I choose to focus on Tony and the gospel that serves man’s every need and desires, then hopelessness can creep in at an alarming rate! Praise God for opening my eyes to a life of faith that in centered on Him and not Tony!

I love what you said about God’s answer to our grief. Is there is simple, precise, calculated answer that takes away the pain…NO! But God’s answer is found in the nailed scared hands and feet of Jesus that says, I came to grieve with you and entered human history to simply be “in the moment”. May His grace be something so amazing we sing once again of His love and peace in our lives even if it is in the middle of a storm!

Peace
Tony