“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing. At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in.” (C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed)
He uses words like fear, fluttering, restlessness, and yawning. He likens it to the separation felt when drunk or suffering from a concussion. I remember feeling all those sensations almost without ceasing the first year following my Mom’s death.
In the book of Ruth, a woman named Naomi goes through the horrible tragedy of losing her husband AND both of her sons leaving her alone in a foreign land with her two grieving daughters-in-law. Upon returning to her homeland of Bethlehem, the Bible says that the whole town was stirred by their arrival. The women asked themselves “Is it really Naomi?” Naomi responds by telling them all her own account of grief.
Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Instead, call me Mara, for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me home empty. Why should you call me Naomi when the LORD has caused me to suffer and the Almighty has sent such tragedy?” (Ruth 1:20+21 nlt)
She asks her family and friends to no longer call her Naomi (“pleasant”) but to instead refer to her as Mara (“bitter”). Bitterness makes me think of the taste of over-brewed tea; it makes my lips pucker just thinking about it. She feels empty and uses heavy words like suffer and tragedy. What a dark place to be in, right? She openly talks to her family, friends and to her God about how she is feeling.
So many of us know this feeling – the feeling of hopelessness, bitterness and emptiness. It is somewhat similar to the sensation of fear. God does want us to come to him in honesty and brokenness, I don’t believe he was upset at Naomi for her bitterness. Troubles will come in this world, and we won’t always know “why.” But what if “why?” is the wrong question?
When tragedy strikes, could I respond instead with transparency and the question of “what?”
- What can I do to lean into you through this tragedy, God?
- What can I see that shows me God is using this sorrow for good and not evil?
- What did Jesus do when he experienced deep loss and feelings of emptiness?
I have seen many, MANY answers to my “what questions” since my Mom died 5 years ago. I have seen WHAT kinds of people God can bring together through suffering. I have seen WHAT beautiful qualities of God are evident when he comforts me. I have seen WHAT miracles have come as a result of a drastic life change.
I have seen WHAT an awesome God we have that he can overcome anything I honestly and transparently surrender to Him for His glory.
CHALLENGE: When I am feeling bitter, pray “God, WHAT would I see in this moment if I could see this moment through your eyes?”