Recently I’ve met many people that have suffered tragedies in their families. I know this sounds a little selfish, but the ones that stick out the most to me are the ones that affected my own family. Over the past couple of years, I’ve had to experience my brother in law taking his own life. I also had to witness my Grandmother’s dementia progress to the point where she begged those around her to take her life. On New Year’s Day last year, when everyone was celebrating the start of new things, my family was mourning the loss of a dear woman who had a tremendous impact on my life. She was a person that was there for me and loved me during some of my darkest days.
I know this doesn’t come as some breaking news to you guys, but none of us are immune from tragedies. If you haven’t experienced them yet, please get ready because ten out of ten people die in this world. If there is anything that can shake one’s faith to the core, it’s when you experience tragedy in life. One of my favorite authors, C.S. Lewis, even wrote a book about the grief he experienced after he lost his wife to cancer. In his work A Grief Observed, Lewis writes:
“You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice [a large cliff]. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it?”
Lewis touches on something many of us experience during tragedies, mainly, a crisis of faith. It’s easy to hang on to that faith when times are going well, but when our faith is tested in a significant way, and we are left hanging over a cliff, we tend to fail. That crisis of faith hit Lewis, and I admit it hit me very hard as well. It is a time that Satan loves, because it’s a time where he can plant seeds of doubt in your mind. We question God’s goodness, and many times even God’s existence. It’s a time where many of us experience a severe weakness of faith.
I’ll be honest with you and say that I don’t have any real advice on how to keep your faith strong when you experience tragedy in your life. Theologians have wrestled with these thoughts and moments for centuries, and I still haven’t seen any good advice for how to strengthen your faith in the midst of a tragedy, especially when you’ve feel like you’ve hit rock bottom. The only bit of hope and good news that I can offer you is that when our faith is weak, His faith is strong. In the words of the great Lutheran Theologian Johann Gerhard:
“Do not be dejected in spirit because of your weak faith. Cast your gaze on the strength of God. He is able to water what is dry, to cure what is ill, to bend what is rigid, to warm what is cold, and to recover what is straying. Acknowledge the weakness of your faith and lean on the divine Word as your staff.”
May the God that created the Universe keep watch over those of us who mourn, or weep this day. Give us all peace, rest, and balm for the suffering. We ask this for the sake of your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ.
Lewis, C.S., A Grief Observed.
Gerhard, Johann. Handbook of Consolations: For the Fears and Trials That Oppress Us in the Struggle with Death.
Matt is a proud husband and a father to two young boys and a teenage daughter. He works for the Department of Defense in a variety of Information Technology roles. In his free time, he loves studying Anglican and Lutheran theology, and has founded the website www.lutherananglican.com to showcase some of his favorite theologians of the past and present. He attends Church of the Messiah in Fredericksburg, Virginia.