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Where Are You, God?

By Susan Zonnebelt-Smeenge and Robert C. De Vries – Is it okay to be angry with God after a loved one dies?

In their book, Traveling Through Grief, grief counselors Susan Zonnebelt-Smeenge and Robert C. De Vries offer a spiritual perspective on anger toward God when you are grieving.

Job 2:4–6: “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.” The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”

Job 19:7–11: “Though I cry, ‘Violence!’ I get no response; though I call for help, there is no justice. He has blocked my way so I cannot pass; he has shrouded my paths in darkness. He has stripped me of my honor and removed the crown from my head. He tears me down on every side till I am gone; he uproots my hope like a tree. His anger burns against me; he counts me among his enemies.”

May I be upset with God? How do I manage my feeling of being abandoned by God in my moment of greatest need?

You may be feeling isolated and alone right now. No one else knows just how lonely and hurting you are. You may think you have been abandoned, as though no one cares. Your relationship with God may be a big disappointment. You may have thought that because God loves you, and you are a believer, he would protect you against bad things in life. The death of a loved one is definitely one of the most hurtful things you will ever have to endure. Perhaps you just want to yell at God or pummel on his chest right now, and ask what he possibly could have been thinking to allow the death of this special person in your life.

Job would understand your anger at God and your questioning why he allowed this awful thing to occur. You may be helped by reading the entire book of Job to understand the depths of Job’s despair. He questions God about where he is and why God doesn’t let him die too. Maybe you have felt like that at times. You might think that you would be better off dead along with your loved one rather than having to move forward.

As a result of your sense of abandonment and extreme disappointment in God, you may not want to talk with God or worship him. This is a normal reaction when a person feels so hurt by another. The tendency to withdraw from the offending person is quite common. Those feelings need to be expressed to God. Write him a letter. Journal about how upset you are. Get it all out. Ask him to help you understand this pain of your loved one’s death.

Look further at the case of Job. God hadn’t left him. True, he didn’t relieve Job of his pain, but he was there all the time. Job just wasn’t aware of God’s hand holding him up until the trauma had ended. Isn’t that also true of us? Sometimes it is difficult in the middle of intense strife to see God working within and through us. Hopefully as you make progress on your detour, you can have a little better perspective on your grieving. Perhaps you will then be able to see God’s hand using evil (like death) to weave some threads of blessings into the mix. God has been with you all the time, holding you up, even when you’re upset with him, because he really does love you. Job 42:12 says, “The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part.” That may be difficult to believe, but it can actually happen in your life too.

Remember, God didn’t want this pain for Job from the beginning. It was Satan, the evil one, who boasted that he could get Job to curse God if Job didn’t have it so good. So God allowed Satan to bring all these calamities to Job’s life, including the death of his beloved family. Remember, God didn’t want death for us either. He has other blessings in store for you yet. In his love he orchestrated a final plan where after death comes the best of all—eternal life with him in Christ. Believe that with all your mind and heart. But also remember in the meantime that God is with you—right now and for always. Count on it.

Prayer: Dear Lord, King of the universe, I am mystified by the drama you engaged in with Satan and Job. Help me see clearly that you were and still are all-powerful and in ultimate control. Help me believe that you will never abandon me. Even now, in my grief, assure me of your presence and your blessing. Amen.

Susan Zonnebelt-Smeenge and Robert C. De Vries are the authors of Traveling through Grief (Baker Books, 2006), from which this article is excerpted. Susan is a licensed clinical psychologist working for Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services, and Robert is emeritus professor of church education at Calvin Theological Seminary and an ordained pastor. They are the authors of Getting to the Other Side of Grief, The Empty Chair, and Living Fully in the Shadow of Death. They live in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Used with permission of Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

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