On my desk, between two bookends, are several books on the subject of grief. I would guess that there are volumes and volumes written on this most severe storm that has plagued humanity since we were shown the exit door to the Garden of Eden. I have a feeling that as I read through them that they are going to come to some fairly similar thoughts … since there are no answers. I’m not sure if it’s good to read them, or would be better to read something else. I’m not sure what I’m looking for, not sure there’s anything to find.
Except perspective. What happened to us has happened. There is no turning the earth backwards and rewinding time. If that could happen, I would have already done it. Short of that, our heart must come to grips with the reality facing us and gain some perspective that gives us reason and meaning in our ongoing lives.
I think THE WIND THAT DESTROYS AND HEALS by Stephen E. Broyles was helpful in this regard. In the introduction the reader is told, “I offer no quick-fix theology or easy answers. In fact, I offer no help at all in avoiding or lessening life’s pain. … What I offer is a voice crying in the night, the sense of human community in suffering, and the knowledge that healing and wholeness can be born of pain and sorrow.”
Part of the book reveals the long slow struggle with cancer endured by Broyles’ wife Elizabeth. Her eventual passing and his ongoing recovery are the context of the book. On page 12 is a statment that I think casts light upon the rest of his book: “Somehow we must find a way to accept human suffering and mortality without losing our faith in all that is beautiful and strong and good. Or to put it another way, to trust God even when he seems untrustworthy.”
Broyles turns first to the Psalms and the expressions of both suffering and faith. The next chapters look at Job’s plight. In regard to Job, Broyles says, “…When the dust of debate has settled, and the voices of Job and his friends have been brought to silence, we will have progressed no further than this: The pious servant trusts even the seemingly untrustworthy God, and God trusts the servant to remain loyal to him even when there is no longer reason to.”
Finally, Broyles turns to Jesus and points to his suffering. “He prayed to be spared the whole series of miseries: the arrest, the trials, the mocking, the beatings, the crucifixion, the last despairing breath, the burial in the tomb. Three times Jesus prayed , and three times God did nothing….Here is the crux of the cross: Jesus trusted God even when God was silent and unseen.”
As he said, he did not intend in this book to answer all the questions of suffering. He does, however, offer perspective. And that is most needed in times of grief. The last chapter is an excellent list of things you can do when suffering strikes.
The questions for discussion at the end make this a great group resource as well.
Does anyone know how to get in touch with Stephen E. Broyles? My internet search did not turn up anything. I recommend his book to you … it was helpful to me.
Thanks for reading,