Not Another Word

Pray-Her

Suffering in secret, it’s not what Jesus did—not that he had a choice in the matter, but it’s what his followers do religiously. Many of us believe talking about pain and subsequent grief somehow takes away from God’s glory, God’s goodness, God’s immaculate record. We behave like God only wants to see us when we’re happy, that God only wants to hear praise and worship.

Not wanting to bear witness to the bad parts of life, we present carefully worded statements, most often rehearsed in difficult moments like:

“God makes no mistakes.”
“God knows best.”
“It is well with my soul.”
“God has a better plan.”
“God loved them more.”
“God needed another angel.”
“God is good all the time and all the time, God is good!”

We talk as if God needs an alibi for every bad thing that happens in our lives and in the world, as if God is the number one suspect. More so, the underlying message is, “Don’t say anything bad about God.” Or, “Don’t question, God.” Or, “Talk to God but leave the bad stuff out.”

Consequently, we attempt to hide our frustration, mask our doubt, rush through our disbelief, go through the motions so as to get it over with and get back to how a real Christian should be. Happy. Because we have “the joy of the Lord” and are “more than conquerors” (Nehemiah 8:10; Romans 8:37). We are better than this and God’s plan is so much bigger than this. It is faith adamant, faith defiant, faith impenetrable but it is also faith in denial.

The truth is, many of us don’t know how to talk about suffering without celebrating it. We say to our friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, and complete strangers, “It will make you stronger.” But what do you say then to people who are suffering and dying for no good reason? To miscarried babies and those born with deadly diseases, to teenagers who die of opioid addiction, to Asian American elders assaulted and attacked on city streets, to African American women and men murdered by police? To persons who die in freak accidents or because they were in “the wrong place at the wrong time”?

Jill M. Hudson writes in Congregational Trauma: Caring, Coping and Learning, “Trauma can strike anywhere any time and the church is generally ill-prepared to respond.” Why is that? Didn’t the prophet Isaiah speak of one who would be “acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). Didn’t Jesus identify with the impoverished, marginalized, and oppressed? Didn’t Jesus suffer and die? Isn’t this where the hope of our salvation rests, at the foot of his cross?

Christians experience suffering and sadness just like everyone else. It’s okay to talk to God about it, to yell at God about it, to cry out to God about it. Our prayers can begin with angry outbursts and frantic pacing or tears and sighs or a combination of all of these. Yes, God is good and so is grief. Why can’t more of us just say that and not another word?

Reverend Starlette Thomas* is a freelance writer in Bowie, MD. She writes on the social construct of race and the practice of faith at www.racelessgospel.com. Her hobbies include reading, writing, and praying with her feet.

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