It is God’s will – is a common message often shared by well-meaning Christians in times of pain, loss and grief.
Ambiguous as the statement may seem, it carries the expectation that those afflicted will be comforted by these words.
But “Don’t you dare question God!” is the unspoken caution hidden in the four words. But if your heart has ever been torn apart by unimaginable grief and despair, then you know that “How could God let this happen?” is one of the first questions you ask.
The words “It is God’s will” become inadequate, pointless and, frankly, the cause of more pain.
Like the proverbial salt to a gaping wound, they hurt more than they soothe your soul or comfort you.
During times of bereavement, the bereaved person needs a shoulder to cry on more than he needs a neat bundle of Bible verses and explanations about his pain.
It is true that death is the surest thing about life. One doesn't need to be a Christian to know that, but for those who profess Christianity, it’s the only way to heaven.
It’s also true that despite death being guaranteed, it often shakes the faith of even the staunchest of Christians.
One would then imagine that for a mother who is mourning the loss of her child, the test of her faith in God is even greater.
Journalist Willis Raburu’s wife Marya Prude knows this only too well. She recently shared a heart-wrenching message on social media, expressing her pain at losing her child.
She posted: “Everyone is so quick to tell me about God. What they don’t know is that every way I knew Him was tested and He didn’t prove Himself. So, as they say, you should know God for yourself, I now can say I don’t know Him. And I don’t think I want to know Him because He left me when I needed him the most.”
These poignant words garnered the interest of media and blogs. It was a subject of much debate on social media as well.
A cursory glance at some of the articles and comments on social media highlighted two major questions that a section of Christians were asking: how dare she question God’s will? What kind of Christian is she?
It is quite unfortunate that Christians often miss the opportunity to practise the values espoused in Christianity during such times.
Values like compassion and empathy, which would make Jesus proud.
Reverend Tom Honey, in his 2007 TED talk titled "How Could God Let the Tsunami Happen?" eloquently expounds on pain, grief and loss in relation to Christianity.
The talk is part of the sermon he gave to his “intelligent, well-meaning and thoughtful” Christian congregation weeks after the devastating South Asian tsunami of 2004 that left over 200,000 people dead.
In the talk, he quotes an article that was written by Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, about the tragedy, where he said that those most affected by the devastation and loss of life do not want intellectual theories about how God can let this happen, or why the deaths make sense, for these would not make them feel happier or safer or more confident in God.
Rev Honey urges Christians to offer compassionate silence and practical help during such times, as it’s a time for tears, not preaching or theology.
For Marya Prude and others like her, the Christian (and human) thing to do would be to band together around them and offer unconditional, practical emotional and financial support.
A shoulder to cry on and a listening ear would be a wonderful place to start.
And for those itching to weigh in on her faith in God or lack of it, compassionate silence would be a great place to begin.
These and other practical solutions would be honourable, right, excellent and worthy of praise, as Paul urges Christians to do in Philippians 4:8.
They would go a long way in demonstrating the loving presence of God. For that is God’s will.
The writer comments on social issues. Twitter: @FaithOneya, email [email protected]