What Gives, God?
Sermon by Pastor Josh Van Leeuwen
Introduction by Phyllis Yearick
In the late 1960s, a Swiss psychiatrist named Elisabeth Kübler-Ross published a book that was intended to help terminally ill patients process the range of emotions they experienced after their diagnosis, but because the book’s message was applicable to so many other situations it became the manual for anyone working through a devastating loss. Kübler-Ross wanted her readers to understand that we all deal with grief in our own way and in our own time, but the stages we go through are normal and should be expected. There’s no way to get through grief without experiencing the pain and disappointment that come with it. When we are already at our lowest, though, and well-meaning friends try to help us feel better by offering platitudes, sympathy, or anything beginning with the words “at least,” they can actually make us feel more isolated and alone, further compounding our suffering.
Scripture tells us over and over again that the people of God are no strangers to grief. Suffering comes with the territory. There is joy, of course, as well as gratitude and praise, but if we the church are who we are called to be, a community that is counter-cultural, we will face discrimination and hostility from the world. Often that hostility is directed toward the church as an entity, but it can also be aimed at us as individuals. And sometimes we simply feel lost and abandoned by God. Well-meaning friends might try to cheer us up, reminding us that God loves us and is always with us, but their words are no balm for our misery. A church that does not acknowledge the pain and grief that accompany the life of faith is no real community at all. Instead of embracing those who are struggling, we end up alienating them, causing them to feel more isolated and alone.
When we are suffering, crying out to God to come to our aid, we need fellow believers who will walk alongside us. We all suffer, we all sometimes feel lost or abandoned by God, and we should not be ashamed to share our hard times with our church community. We should not have to feel judged for being unable to present a Pinterest life. Even Jesus experienced anger, sadness, and disappointment. Why would we presume that for us to do the same would project the wrong image to the world? Yet, even in his ultimate suffering on the cross, Jesus was never forsaken. Even as his closest friends abandoned him, his Father still loved him. Embracing the confidence that nothing can separate us from the love of God will help us to endure suffering, especially if we know that others in our faith community are suffering alongside us. The road to the end of grief is never around, only through. One vital aspect of the church’s lifework is to offer company on the journey.
You are welcome at Westview Church! Join us this Sunday morning for worship at 9:30 (Children’s Worship and nursery care available). Discovery Hour is on summer break.