Am I Losing My Faith?
Updated: Dec 10, 2021
I remember feeling the sense of pain for C.S. Lewis as I watched the film, Shadowlands, starring Anthony Hopkins. The movie depicts this giant of the faith after he has endured losing his beloved wife, Joy, to the pains of cancer. In the movie, Hopkins depicts the crisis of faith of the man he portrayed as very real and painful.
If Lewis, a giant of the faith, could respond in such a human manner, then what about the rest of us? Lewis comes around in the end, as he shares in his memoir, A Grief Observed. I have read that book at least twice in my life. The last time was shortly after we lost Hannah.
He begins the book with, “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 swallowing,” A year and a half after Hannah has gone to Heaven, I still feel restlessness. It is a common experience for those who are in the midst of intense grieving.
Although I cannot speak for everyone, I can say that losing a child, especially after watching her suffer for so long, is the biggest test of my faith in my lifetime. Throughout her lifetime I often wondered why God allowed her to suffer so much. Within 24 hours of her passing, I began to think about Hannah’s new situation. Where was she? What was she doing? Was she comfortable? Was she joyful? I even had dreadful thoughts that maybe she didn’t make it to Heaven. These questions, and other thoughts that flowed through my mind, tortured me and kept me awake at night.
There is also restlessness and nervousness that happens from having our earthly lives shattered into pieces. Our routines are different. The love and care that we provided for them is different. It is tragic to lose a child, no matter the situation. However, those of us that have lost a child with an enduring medical condition may even miss the process of caring for them. Of course, we do not miss the suffering or pain that they had, but when so much of our lives were devoted to caring for a sick child, it adds to our loss when they pass on to the next life.
And then there is that giant and obvious point—we miss them so much. We miss them more than any human words can express. The void in our lives that they leave behind when they depart is almost too much to bear. I will never be the same. I am forever changed. I pray that once the dust settles (does it ever?) that I will have changed for the better. However, I will always hurt.
It is bad enough that parents have to suffer with their children while they hurt; but, when they leave us and find comfort on the other side, our pain remains. It changes. Perhaps over time it improves. However, it persists. I believe it will until I join her.
So why does God allow all of this pain in our lives? Why do the innocent suffer and why were we chosen to suffer with them?
I believe that to question God during such a difficult time is not necessarily a sin. There are examples in the Bible of people like Abraham and John the Baptist that questioned God. Of course, they did so respectfully, but human emotions can be involved.
When we see an innocent person suffer, we may recognize it as an injustice. It is natural to question why a loving Heavenly Father would allow a child to needlessly suffer when no decent earthly father would do the same. I have a theory. I think I have Scripture and the Lord in my corner with this one. The answer is in the question.
I do not believe that the Heavenly Father allows any of us to needlessly suffer. If we suffer, there is a reason. Sometimes we can see some of these reasons now, but too often, it just doesn’t make sense. Am I closer to God since Hannah left us? Yes, I believe that I am. Will my life have a greater impact for the Lord since all of this happened to me? I believe that it will. Regardless, even if these two questions would have a negative answer, I believe that in the much broader scheme of things, that ultimately more good will come from everything that we have experienced.
Now this leads to another question: What about Hannah? What about her suffering? Why did she need to go through all of this? I really cannot say for sure. I can think of many POSSIBLE reasons, but I cannot know with absolute certainty right now that any PARTICULAR reason is the one. It is likely a myriad of reasons. Whatever the case, I do not believe that her suffering was wasted on her; nor do I believe that our collective suffering is ever wasted.
Paul wrote “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” 1 Cor. 4:17. There is something about the suffering that we go through here and now that ultimately results in something better for us in the future.
Paul also said that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18). Both of these passages point to a time after we go to be with the Lord. Hannah’s suffering was not only not wasted in this lifetime, it was preparing in her something far better. She may already be looking back at her earthly life with a heart of thankfulness for what she endured. There are many promises throughout Scripture that the Lord will ultimately correct all of the injustices in this world.
There is also the logical conclusion that an all-powerful, all-good, and all-knowing God would have good reason to allow all of this to occur or else none of it would have ever happened.
That may not be enough to ease your pain. It certainly doesn’t answer all of your questions. Perhaps it may nudge you just a bit in your spirit to have just a little more faith. Faith is an ever-evolving and changing part of our lives. Tragic experiences can shake us to the very core of our being. There is room for doubt in the journey of faith. There is also room for the prayer in our lives: "Lord, help my unbelief."
There is a deep longing for peace, justice, and perfect love that we all know. When we lose someone we love so dearly, we will never quite be the same until we are reunited. It is this deep desire that we humans uniquely have that points to a higher reality beyond this one. We were made for something better than pain and loss. I believe that the journey of faith will lead us to this better place.
1 Cor. 2:1 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”
2 Cor. 4:16-18 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Cor. 1:3-9 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.