Jennifer Slattery is a multi-published writer, podcast host, speaker and speaking coach, and the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries. She's addressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She has a passion for helping women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. When not writing, reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband. Visit her online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com or follow her on Instagram at slatteryjennifer and on Facebook at Jennifer Slattery - Author and Speaker
Is it OK to Question God in Our Grief?
by Mabel Ninan
I watched the news on TV in shock and horror on October 7, 2023. Hamas terrorists attacked and brutally killed Israelis in their homes and took several people, including children, as hostages. Within a few days, Israel retaliated by hunting down terrorists in Gaza through relentless airstrikes. Thousands of innocent Palestinians lost their lives, and many were displaced from their homes. After a week or so, I couldn’t take in any more information about the war. My heart was heavy. Human suffering and senseless violence drove me to my knees. But questions filled my prayers . Why didn’t God defend these children? Why didn’t He intervene or prevent this unspeakable tragedy? I was angry, confused, and frustrated.
I wonder if you ever questioned God or doubted your faith when you tried to make sense of the devastation you witnessed, whether it was violence perpetrated by evil men or destruction caused by natural disasters. Or, you may have struggled to find words to pray when you experienced great suffering or loss. You may have failed to comprehend God’s intentions and perceived inaction.
When our grief or pain becomes unbearable, we can doubt if God is really in control and if He cares about us. Sometimes, such questions can lead to more troubling questions. What kind of Christian am I if I doubt God? Is my faith weak? Am I a hypocrite for going to church and serving God while unsure of His power and goodness?
Expressing our sorrow or confusion to God is called lamenting and it is neither unholy nor un-Christian. Lamenting is a healthy and a perfectly normal way to process our pain.
It’s also biblical to pour out our raw emotions, including mourning, to Him. Almost a third of the Psalms are laments. The biblical books of Job, Jeremiah, and Lamentations contain prayers or poetic expressions of sadness and inner turmoil written by people of God. Elijah, an Old Testament prophet, became afraid and disappointed when an evil queen named Jezebel threatened to kill him and he cried out, “I’ve had enough, Lord. Take my life.” (1 Kings 19:4). His prayer reveals that even the strongest Christian can reach a point where they lose hope.
David, ancient Israel’s second king and a hero of faith, questioned God when he felt alone and betrayed, when he ran for his life, faced intense suffering, and on numerous other occasions. In Psalm 22:1-2, he wrote – “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.” Jesus uttered David’s words as He hung the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46 NIV).
We can learn from David, Jeremiah, Job, and other biblical heroes, and from Jesus, how to articulate grief when we are hurting. The loss of a child, chronic illness, or a messy divorce, for instance, can cause unimaginable pain. Sometimes, seeing others hurt saddens us. When adversity makes us mad or causes us to wonder if God exists or listens to us, we can pour out our hearts to our Father who understands. Scripture states, “Arise, cry out in the night, as the watches of the night begin; pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord.” (Lamentations 2:19 NIV)
The healthy way to process our anguish is to do so in God’s presence. We can be confident that God understands our pain and won’t judge us when we express our deepest feelings to Him. God isn’t surprised by our doubts and won’t condemn us for our honesty. He sees our brokenness and comprehends our inner angst..
Lamenting doesn’t show lack of faith. Rather, we exhibit faith when we cling to God’s side even when engulfed in doubts. Lamenting at God’s feet demonstrates our dependance on Him and our confidence in His care. Lamenting reveals our hope in His promises to deliver us.
Spending time expressing our pain before His throne clarifies our view of Him and gives us perspective. His love, faithfulness, and sovereignty come into focus, prompting us to praise God. Consider David’s words, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Ps 42:11).
As we spend more time with Him, a mysterious transaction occurs. He trades our pain for His peace. As we look to Him with tear-filled eyes, He directs our attention toward His unchanging character and promises. A flicker of faith can become a flame. Hope can return. Lamenting may not clarify all our questions, but it builds our faith, draw us closer to God, and puts us on the path toward healing and restoration.
Reflect: Are you going through a hard time right now? How can you honestly express your feelings to God?
Get to Know Mabel Ninan
Mabel Ninan is an author, speaker, and host of the podcast, Far from Home with Mabel Ninan. An immigrant from Hyderabad, India who has lived in seven cities across the U.S. in fifteen years, she navigates between cultures, feeling at home everywhere and nowhere. Her debut book, Far from Home: Discovering Your Identity as Foreigners on Earth, won the Christian Market Book Award for 2022 Christian Living Book of the Year. She has been a contributor to Guideposts’ All God’s Creatures: Daily Devotions for Animal Lovers since 2022. An award-winning writer, Mabel’s articles have appeared in Upper Room, CBN.com, LeadingHearts.com, Arise Daily, and (in)courage.me.
Mabel served in youth ministry in her church in India for more than ten years. In the U.S., she has been a leader with Bible Study Fellowship since 2012. She is currently pursuing M.A. in Theological Studies from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and lives in San Jose, CA, with her husband, twelve-year-old son, and a Maltese. Connect with her at mabelninan.com.
Check Out Her Latest Release, Far From Home:
In Far from Home: Discovering Your Identity as Foreigners on Earth, Mabel draws from her personal experience as an immigrant and examines the lives of biblical heroes to shed light on how we can find purpose and joy as sojourners on earth.
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