I have a raging headache, my eyes are nearly swollen shut from crying, my throat aches. I AM SO MAD AT GOD right now!
Is that a shocking thing to admit, especially in print? It is the truth, though. I’m mad, disappointed, hurt, and in so much pain. Right at this minute I’m struggling with the question of why the God of the Universe, who can speak everything into being, would fail to act when asked, or rather, begged, pleaded with, and cried out to in anguish. Is God really love or is he mean, or at best ambivalent?
So far 2016 has been a big fat crap sandwich. Sorry, not sorry, if that last part offends you. I’m being brutally honest here. So far this year has brought death, pain, tears, and unimaginable sorrow. As of September 18, 2016 the count of loved ones dying is:
Spiritual father and mentor
Oldest and dearest friend
The last one may not seem to fit on the list. After all, we’re talking about a dog here, right? Dog’s don’t count on a list of human loses. I beg to differ.
Let me tell you about this particular dog and his significance in our family’s life. Bear, a gorgeous black Labrador/Shepherd mix was my son’s best friend and service dog. You see, my son is an Iraq War veteran who experienced horror on the battlefield and came home damaged. He suffers from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). His condition worsened as he tried to adjust back to civilian life. He tried to self-medicate. I begged him to seek treatment, but he wouldn’t go. Instead he turned to pills and alcohol to numb himself, to help him sleep, to make the nightmares and daytime flashbacks stop. They didn’t. He grew increasingly withdrawn and despondent. My happy-go-lucky son became a tortured stranger. I prayed diligently. I feared he would take his life. He didn’t, though he came very close several times. Instead he got a puppy. A tiny black bundle of energy with floppy ears, a white star on his chest, and giant feet. My son poured himself into the training of that dog. They became inseparable. If you saw one you saw the other. When nightmares raged and life didn’t seem worth living my son would look into the eyes of his dog; those trusting eyes that seem to gaze into his own soul, and he would calm himself and vow to keep going. He didn’t want to leave his dog without a master. On trips to the VA Hospital for treatment the doctors and staff would marvel at Bear’s absolute obedience and trust. One doctor suggested Bear become a service dog and filled out the necessary paperwork. Just like that Bear was official. He got a vest and was permitted to go everywhere, without restriction. My son’s panic attacks decreased. His moods lifted. He began to heal.
Two days ago I was talking to my son. He expressed how happy he was, how he feels whole again. He talked of a visit and, of course, bringing Bear with him. My furry grandchild. Then yesterday the phone rang. “Mom”, cried an anguished voice. “I’m taking Bear to the vet. He’s really sick.” Thus began hours and hours of calls and texts. Prayer requests were sent around the world via Facebook. Hundreds of people responded. I just knew that God wouldn’t take my son’s beloved dog. I had faith. The vet said treatment would cost thousands of dollars. I started a Go Fund Me account to cover expenses. Any price was worth saving Bear’s life. After all, he saved my son’s life. The money started pouring in. Within a few hours we had $2,000! God is good! See how He was prompting people to give!
Then came the call. Bear was experiencing complete organ failure. There was nothing more to do. He needed to be put down. But wait! God can heal a dog! God is bigger than any crisis situation! God is able! God loves my son. He brought Bear into his life.
A few minutes later came a stark text: Bear is dead.
That’s when I yelled at God. That’s when I shook my fist at heaven and shouted WHY???!!!??? God could have intervened, yet He chose NOT TO! He chose not to. And I’m supposed to be okay with that. But I’m not okay.
I’m also not alone. Right this minute there is a family in shambles because the husband, father, and church pastor committed suicide. He couldn’t deal with the pain and disappointments in his life anymore. Right now, there is a young wife contemplating leaving her husband, a pastor, because she is desperately unhappy. Her husband heard God’s call to ministry when he was in graduate school. She didn’t. Now several years and four kids later she is desperate. She struggles with feelings of inadequacy. She feels the eyes of all of the church members judging her. She comes up short every time. Right now, a middle aged pastor’s wife is dealing with alcohol addiction and quite possibly mental illness. She struggles to maintain the façade of normalcy, but no one is fooled. Her husband doesn’t know what to do so he buries himself in church work.
Life is painful, and messy. There are no guarantees of rainbows and unicorns. In fact, there is a lot of conversation in the Bible about trials and tribulation. There are lots of stories about bad things happening to good people.
So, what do I do with all of these feelings? I don’t stuff them, that’s for sure. Stuffing strong negative emotions doesn’t bring healing. Instead I vent. I tell God what I feel. I rage. I cry. Then, when I quiet down I trust. There is nothing else I can do. I can’t go back and change anything. I breathe. I look to Scripture for guidance, even though I don’t really want to. There is a thread, a strong thread – more like a cord, that speaks of God’s character. He is holy. He is omniscient. He is sovereign. I am none of those things.
While I don’t understand any of the happenings of the last 24 hours; not to mention the previous 9 months, I can only look to Jesus and say, “Lord, to whom shall I go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68) I have walked with the Lord for 44 years. I have experienced undeniable blessings. I have experienced unconditional love. I KNOW the character of God and that He is good. However, I don’t always understand Him. I admit, I cannot see the big picture. I don’t know how He may be working things out in my son’s life, in the grieving family’s life, in the young wife’s life, in the lives of the middle aged couple. I don’t know.
Of course we all make choices. Of course in some instances sin is involved. I’m not going to go there though. That’s not the point. I guess all I’m trying to say is that life hurts. Loving people and animals hurts. It is okay to question. It is okay to get mad. It is okay to vent. It’s okay. God is not shocked.
If you, or someone you love is hurting allow them the freedom to express themselves. Find a safe person to confide in. Ask for help. Ask for prayer. Don’t keep the hurt, pain, disappointment, and, yes, anger inside to fester. No matter who you are or your job title (I’m talking to you Mr. or Mrs. Pastor) share how you are feeling. Seek counsel. Seek health. And, please remember, even in the midst of your pain, you are loved and there is a way to get through the present circumstances. It’s okay.