So far on the series on how grief impacts one’s faith after the loss of a loved one, we have asked what grief and loss may likely be teaching us about God and how faith can help.
Grief impacts the physical, emotional, social, spiritual, financial and mental dimensions of one’s life.
What I am about to share with you will highlight my journey through grief and loss from the lens of my faith.
Grief affects everyone differently, and our faith reaction to losing a loved one also varies. My late wife, Chidinma and I lived our lives based on Christian values.
We believed in learning, meditating, and actively experimenting with the bible, a collection of religious texts or scriptures in Christianity.
For the most part, the bible and various teachings around the bible guided every decision we made.
I found myself overwhelmed by the sudden illness that overcame my wife and found strength in the spiritual discipline of prayers we had practised for many years.
As the reports of her illness progressed in a short time, I reached out to families and friends to join me in knocking on heaven’s gate with the primary request that my wife’s illness shouldn’t lead to death.
I can’t express enough gratitude to the scores of communities who channelled their spiritual discipline of fasting and prayer, pleading with heaven that God would heal my wife.
I attended some of the prayer sessions held on behalf of my wife.
I heard friends, families and strangers passionately and selflessly praying out loud, and I listened to the content of their prayers, which often moved me to tears. I left each of those sessions strengthened and encouraged.
I was further encouraged by the many prophecies and bold declarations of family, friends and trusted spiritual mentors who shared that my wife would not die from this illness.
Sadly, it appears that the many prayers of strangers, friends, and family members, as well as the bold faith declarations and prophecies that my wife would survive the illness, failed to come true since she died six days after being admitted on the morning of March 30th, 2020.
As my emotions raged uncontrollably with emotions that I never thought a human being could experience all at once, and as my mind overflowed with confusion and questioning, I was deeply troubled and conflicted.
Many questions that flooded my mind included:
Does God still answer prayers?
What purpose does it serve for people to “waste” their time praying if God knew that my wife would die?
What’s the point of praying if God knew He wouldn’t answer the prayers raised? Can He still be trusted?
Our prayers didn’t yield the expected results, so what now for the faith of those who sincerely believed and threw themselves into praying?
Can they truly trust and pray for other ill people?
Have our loved ones and trusted spiritual mentors misled us with their prophecies?
There was an endless string of questions. The brewing mixture of these endless questions and the mash-up of grief was utterly overwhelming.
How does grief and loss impact faith?
Faith responses to big live events such as the loss of a loved one can vary. When faced with a life event, such as the death of a loved one, our faith can be pulled towards either the loss of faith or the strengthening of faith.
Losing a loved one can lead people to grow closer to God. Yet, as I wrestled with conflicting thoughts that plagued my mind and heart, I found myself on the other end of the faith dial.
When my wife passed away, I didn’t find myself and my faith getting stronger; instead, I found myself clinging to life by a thread.
Before my wife’s death, I believed there was a God. The belief that God exists remained intact after her death.
Still, I lost faith in my ability to trust him because what happened ran counter to our personal promises in the place of prayer at the beginning of the year, our bold declarations of faith, and the prophecies we had received.
It was never even a consideration for me to renounce my faith. I had experienced God’s ‘mercies and goodness’ before, but this life event crushed me to pieces. The closest I had come to losing my faith was hanging by a thread.
Storytelling fascinates me, and the story in the Bible of Peter’s reaction to Jesus when many of his disciples deserted him was one that held me on that piece of string.
Jesus asked His twelve most trusted friends: “And you-do you also want to go?” His COO, right-hand man, Peter spoke up and said, “But Lord, where would we go?” No one but you gives us the revelation of eternal life. We’re fully convinced that you are the Anointed One, the Son of the Living God, and we believe in you!” John 6:66-69
What did hanging on the thread feel and look like?
My decision to remain in faith did not exempt me from spiritual distress despite my loss.
On the contrary, It disrupted my spiritual practices and trust in God, causing a continuous cycle between doubt and belief.
Imagine a grieving person whose faith hangs by a thread, struggling with trust in God and disrupting their spiritual discipline.
Imagine using the correct scriptures but at the wrong time to comfort the bereaved individual, sending bible verses to the person, launching into faith defence or some unintentionally authoritative remarks or comments because of religion or culture.
When anyone offered me comfort as described above, I felt that the thread I was clinging to with my life was violently shaking.
The more I internalised Peter’s words which helped gripped tighter. But the experience on my emotional level was quite different.
On the other hand, the encouraging words I often received from unexpected sources, which acknowledged my pain, spoke into it, and prayed into it with tenderness and authenticity, were comforting to me.
Oh my gosh, those moments felt so soothing. It was like you applied the proper amount of pressure to an aching muscle.
Early on in my grief journey, someone commented to me along the lines of “this is difficult.
I can’t imagine what this season must be like for you. There is nothing wrong with not feeling like praying, reading your bible, or attending church services.
His heart bleeds for you too. He feels your pain. There’s no need to pretend to him about how you feel. Be real.
When you’re in desperate need, just ask the Holy Spirit to help” left a deep impression on me.
My thoughts drowned out the person’s voice as my thought volume increased as I sped down the rabbit hole, asking questions around how a God who permitted my wife to die could bleed and be in pain if she is no longer with me and with him.
As I remember his words, I am struck deeply by the phrase, “When you are desperate, ask the Holy Spirit for help.”
What did spiritual disruption look like for me?
One of our spiritual disciplines was reading the bible and daily devotionals with Chidinma and our children in the mornings.
But, in my spiritual disruption, I gave up reading and studying the bible, listening to teachings around it, fasting and praying.
I appreciated anyone who prayed for me, but I rarely believed it. My annoyance was heightened when people made bold faith statements around me.
One time, I told a friend, “it’s fine to pray around me as long as you don’t make those bold declarations of faith.
I am not sure I believe in them at the moment; maybe someday it will change.”
Following my loss, the only prayer that came out of my mouth and heart was “Holy Spirit, please help”. I would endlessly repeat two songs in the background with the volume so low that you could barely hear the music.
Whenever I desire to experience intimate worship, I find that my mother tongue, Yoruba, is my language of the heart from the southwestern part of Nigeria. One of the two songs inviting the Holy Spirit was in that dialect.
I had moments of outburst at my laptop while the music played. Even though I tried to avoid these songs by trying different genres of music, I ended up coming back to these two songs which played in the background for more than six months.
One day, I found myself reciting in my heart the book of Psalm 23. I remember being stuck on verse three for many weeks as I struggled to accept and began to believe it.
Ps 23:3 TPT “…he restores and revives my life. He opens before me the right path and leads me along in his footsteps of righteousness so that I can bring honour to his name.”
It was only when I read verse 4 of the same psalm through the lens of grief and loss that I realized death casts shadows, which led me down another rabbit hole of questions, including:
Is grief the shadow that death casts on the deceased’s loved ones?
- Can a person walk through death’s shadow?
- How can one walk through the shadow of death?
- What happens if I refuse to walk through the shadow of death?
- How long does it take to walk through the valley of shadow?
To put it simply, these thoughts, questions, and the constant guidance of the Holy Spirit have led me to discover other writers’ perspectives on faith and grief.
Many of them provided new perspectives, while others validated my thoughts and emotions. As result, I also gained a deeper understanding of grief and loss.
The following are some resources for grief and faith that I have found helpful and hope you will find them helpful as you journey through grief.
It still doesn’t seem that I have all the answers to the questions that occupied my mind during the acute phase of my grief journey.
It is a pleasure to share with you that I do not feel like my faith and I are hanging by a thread anymore.
In a sense, I feel that I have reached the bottom of my faith by free-falling and my trust in God and my spiritual practises are on the mend.
My gratitude goes out to everyone who has prayed for me since I began my grief journey.
The following are some resources that I have found helpful in my faith journey as it relates to faith and grief.
Books on Grief, Loss and Faith
- A Grief Observed
- Through a Season of Grief: Devotions for Your Journey from Mourning to Joy
- Grieving the Loss of a Loved One: A Devotional Companion: A Devotional of Hope
- Where Is God When It Hurts?
- Disappointment with God
- The Question that Never Goes Away: What is God up to in a world of such tragedy and pain?
- When Bad Things Happen to Good People
- A Time to Grieve
- When God doesn’t Make Sense
- Prayers, Texts and Tears: A Creative Response to Grief
- A Grace Disguised
- A Grace Revealed
- When God Doesn’t Answer Your Prayer
- A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss
- Hope Beyond Grief: Finding Comfort and Peace at a Difficult Time
- Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants
Devotional Reading Guides on Grief, Loss and Faith
- Your Journey Through Grief
- Learning to Lament: A 5-Day Devotional
- Loss Doesn’t Get The Final Word
- Dealing With Death
- Recovering From Grief
- Finding Meaning in Mourning: Walking Through Grief
- How Can I Trust God When…
- Dealing With Emotional Pain
- Grief Survivor
- 5 Names of God to Know When Struggling with Grief
- 7 Days Of Praying Through Loss
- Sadness and Grief
- Grief Bites: A New Approach to Growing Through Grief
- Hope In The Mourning Reading Plan
- Grief Bites: Doubt Revealed
- Comfort In Sorrow
- Overcoming The Monster Of Grief
- Trusting God In The Midst Of Tragedy
- Our Daily Bread: Finding Comfort in Times of Loss
- A Godly Perspective During Personal Tragedies
- The Louder Song: Listening for Hope in the Midst of Pain, Anxiety, Grief, Doubt, and Lament
- Sitting in Grief: A Devotional Journey Towards Standing Again
- Trusting God With Honest Lament
- Psalms: Dealing with Difficult Emotions
- Why?: A Study Through Job
- What To Do When Life Doesn’t Make Sense
- A Desert Transformed
- Sitting in Grief: A Devotional Journey Towards Standing Again
- Grieving With Hope
- How To Parent Well After The Loss Of A Spouse
- When Tragedy Strikes
- Unshakable Hope – Courage
- The Perspective To See Benefits Of Difficulty
- Grieving Well
- Walking Through Spiritual Valleys
- Grieving With Hope After Miscarriage and Loss
- Praying God’s Truth Over My Fears
- Seeing God’s Faithfulness in the Shadow of Grief
- Finding hope in darkness
- When Faith Fails
- Hope In the Midst of Pain
- Love & Loss
- Loneliness – Finding Hope And Connection
- One Day (There Will Be Healing)
- Grief From Loss
- Grief Bites: Hope for the Holidays
- Joy for all seasons
- When God Could’ve But He Didn’t
- The gift of Wilderness
Is there any resource you think should be added to this list? Please share it with us in the comment section.
What has your experience been with loss and faith? How has your faith helped you deal with the loss of a loved one? What were some of your struggles with loss and faith?
Tell us about it in the comments section below.