The way grief can help us find God in the dark places

I put the phone down and walked out of the room. A friend had just called and shared some horrible news he had received about a beloved family member (I’m not going to share any of the details here).

“Raquel, can you come in here?” I called down the hallway.

When Raquel came in, I shut the door.

“What is it?”

I broke the news to Raquel and we stood there in shock. The sickening feeling that hit me reminded me of the lyrics of the Willy Russell song, “Tell Me it’s Not True.”

Tell me it’s not true
Say it’s just a story
Something on the news
Tell me it’s not true
Though it’s here before me
Tell me it’s not true.

Every day, my friend and his wife are wrestling through the tears, the pain, and the feelings of powerlessness that stay with them. A lot of people can relate to them.

I know about marriages that are struggling, people who have cancer or COVID, folks who are feeling completely disconnected from their churches, workers who are unemployed — you name it. My family and I are dealing with our own stuff right now, and all of us hurting folks are trying to figure out what to do with our grief.

I asked my friend how he and his wife are coping with their pain. He said that they’re finding a hopeful kind of grief as they pour out their hearts to God. He says he just keeps bringing his grief to God and reminding himself that these awful circumstances aren’t the end. God’s redemption always wins.

A couple of years ago, my wife and I had experienced a painful loss and I was wrestling with a heavy cloak of grief on my shoulders. One day, I was driving down the road thinking about what had happened when the song, “God, You’re So Good” came on. The grief kicked in again and I wiped tears away, fighting the temptation to believe that perhaps God wasn’t so good. But I sang the song in faith anyway, feeling the loss again, and believing that God hadn’t abandoned us.

Like my friend, grieving was a lifeline of sorts during our long, dark night of the soul. We grieved with friends, grieved with each other, grieved by ourselves — but the grief didn’t consume us. It chased us to Father God. It pushed us to believe that all things truly do work together for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). It was either that or hopeless despair.

To those who are weighed down by sorrow right now, I encourage you to face your grief head on. Pray desperate prayers like, “We are brought down to the dust; our bodies cling to the ground. Rise up and help us; rescue us because of Your unfailing love” (Psalm 44:25-26). But don’t forget to end your prayers with the hope of declarations that “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

Check out my book, “Confessions of a Happily Married Man,” which tells the story of how God has worked in the ordinary (and extraordinary) of my marriage — and how you can see the ways He’s working in yours too.