A decade ago when my daughter and father died, the Church around me wasn’t talking about suffering. I absorbed faulty messages that led me to wonder if God had failed me—when really the Church had.
In 2016, @annvoskamp’s voice in The Broken Way shattered the silence and invited us to see the sacredness in our brokenness. Since then, many voices have spoken into this space, inviting more and more of us to discover God in our suffering and allowing us to stop faking fine.
I’ve seen the conversations shifting, the harmful narratives being called out and even becoming quiet and healing happen as a result…
But then just this weekend, I felt like I fell backward in time when I stumbled upon a recently released Lifeway women’s devotion with these words:
“…our Heavenly Father does not want us to be sad either, because if the loved one knows Jesus and believes in His death and resurrection, they will be with Him. What an exciting realization. I choose joy this day and every day.”
My heart sank. I saw evidence of the same painful, toxic messages again. I understand the author’s intentions and the hope of pointing readers toward eternal hope and joy in grief. However, Church, may we be careful with the language we use to speak to and shepherd our fellow suffering saints.
It’s time to stop selling a feel-good faith and cultivate a theology of suffering.
Stop idolizing happiness and
see that our sadness is holy.
Know that we can have both eternal joy and feel deep sorrow.
Stop minimizing our pain and our God.
Don’t tell us God doesn’t want us to be sad. Instead, tell us God is near in our sorrow.
Don’t tell us to choose joy in our mourning. Instead, sit with us in silence and
mourn with us.
And if you must tell us something, remind us…
He views our sorrow as sacred.
He collects our tears.
He draws near in our pain.
He gives us the language of lament to speak to Him in our sorrow.
And the Holy Spirit speaks on our behalf when we don’t have words, only groans.