When Julia’s son died in an accident, she felt devastated. She couldn’t believe what had happened. She bargained and pleaded with God. She hoped each night that she would wake up and discover it was all a bad dream. Then one morning she awoke knowing he was gone, and waves of anger replaced the pleading thoughts. She was angry with everyone, but especially with God. “I don’t deserve this!” she raged. “How could you do this to me?”
Her anger frightened her. How dare she be angry with God? She felt ashamed. She knew that in her church people believed God was loving, all-wise and powerful. He would not permit anything truly bad to happen. Who was she to question His goodness? She tried to tell herself to accept her loss and to move on, but the feelings of anger didn’t go away.
She began to shut down emotionally and withdraw into herself. She resigned from coordinating costumes for the Christmas tableaux, and she couldn’t bring herself to go to church. Her friends noticed, and one of them offered to take her to the bereavement group that met at the church on Tuesday evenings.
She wasn’t planning to say anything that night, but as she listened to others speak about their losses, she decided she could talk about the loss of her son. As she spoke, all the anger came to the surface, and with tears she explained she felt betrayed by God and incredibly angry at Him.
The facilitator, Janna, put her hand on Julia’s shoulder. “It’s okay to be angry at God,” she said. “He loves you and your son, and He understands your grief. He expects you to be angry, especially in the beginning.” Janna went on to tell Julia that in states of loss, people often speak angrily at God or say hurtful things to others. The Writings for the New Church explain that the angels do not notice it when we speak out in anger toward God during states of trial. They understand that the person is stretched to the limit, and those words and feelings do no harm (Secrets of Heaven 8165).
“And remember,” Janna said, “how Jesus himself, in the throes of temptation, cried out, ‘My God, Why have you forsaken me?’ If even Jesus would speak against the Father in trials, would He not understand and forgive our anger when we are faced with terrible loss?”
Janna told Julia that it is normal for people to go through spiritual trials as a result of a loss, to question their faith, and to go through denial or anger toward God. She had seen many people become much stronger in their faith after they had worked through the loss. She said, “I think it is part of the process. The Lord didn’t will the death of our loved ones, but He is able to use these life-shaking events to help us grow spiritually.”
When she went home that night, Julia promised herself that she would honor the journey she was on. She knew her tears were good for her; they helped her to connect with her deep love for her son and her sense of loss. She also decided to accept the anger, just as she accepted the tears, and to allow the feelings to come. She told herself that the angry words and thoughts actually came from her love of her son and her love of God. They testified to her need to understand and accept, and God would give her that in time. She believed God would forgive her, and she prayed to be able to forgive herself.
By Rev. Glenn Alden, pastor of the Sunrise Chapel in Tucson, Arizona