Grief and the Goodness of God
“Why won’t you end this?” My heart cried out to God as I rocked my newborn against my chest. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I thought of all the doctor appointments, fevers, procedures, medicine, and pain I endured throughout the past few weeks. During the first few months of my daughter’s life, questions circled around me each day as I tried to make sense of the good God who wasn’t bringing my sorrows to an end.
Much came from that difficult period of my family’s life, but perhaps the biggest reality was understanding what it felt like to be held by the hand that also crushes (read more about that here). I learned what it feels like to walk the line of being nurtured by my good Shepherd, while at the same time wrestling with feelings of confusion, doubt, and fear for the God who, at times, felt far away. It was a time that brought the Psalms to life as I understood more clearly what it means to wrestle through grief.
Most likely we all have asked similar questions of God. Whether it be from recurrent miscarriages, infertility, relational abuse, the loss of a loved one, chronic pain, or a host of other reasons. We all grieve deep wounds in our lives. As Christians we know the promises of Scripture: Our God is in control of all the world (Eph. 1:11, Col. 1:16-17, Prov. 16:33). Our God is good (Mk. 10:18, Ps. 34:8). That same good God is working all things for our good (Rom. 8:28). Yet we still stand wounded. We still live in pain. We still lose a child, a husband, a way of life. We still hurt. And so we’re often left to wrestle with the truths we believe and the deep grief we experience.
In his new book, Seasons of Sorrow, Tim Challies takes his reader through his own wrestling with grief. The book is a collection of journal-like writings through the first year following the sudden death of his twenty-year-old son. Early in the book, Tim writes, “I have never doubted that God’s sovereignty and goodness were displayed in giving me my boy. I am fighting right now to never doubt that God’s sovereignty and goodness have been displayed in taking away my boy.” This fight continues throughout the remainder of the book.
Tim takes the reader through the different seasons of his grief—fall, winter, spring, and summer. As a reader, I felt less as if Tim was speaking to me, and more as if I was peering into the private prayers of a friend. As I read through his fears and joys I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Psalms. In some chapters Tim would be full of assurance, hope, and fortitude, while the next chapter we’d find him confessing his greatest fears and doubts. But isn’t that the way of grief? Isn’t that the way of all of us as we grapple through sorrow?
What I like most about this book is that it’s not a how-to manual, but instead it beautifully models what one saint’s experience with grief might look like. It allows the griever to grieve. Throughout the book Tim reminds us of many important theological truths, but he also lets the reader see the often difficult road it takes for us to believe them. Tim gently and beautifully draws the reader in to see the way the Lord ministered to his heart and showed his faithfulness throughout each season of sorrow. Though I’ve never lost a child, I found myself encouraged and brought to tears as I thought about my own suffering the Lord has brought me through, and the grief he continues to walk beside me in.
With short blog-length chapters this book makes an easier read, which is especially helpful to get the perfect amount of content that isn’t overwhelming (something I would have appreciated in the midst of my own darker times).
In one poignant moment near the end Tim writes, “Just as God calls some to proclaim the gospel in far-off lands, he calls some to bear witness to his goodness in grief. Just as he calls some to give generously and some to act mercifully, he also calls some to grieve faithfully.” This ministry of sorrow, as Tim calls it, is a ministry he has surely stewarded well in writing this book. And it’s one that I believe will encourage you, no matter what sorrows you are walking through today.