It has been a long and brutal year rediscovering how to live with tremendous feelings of grief, pain, and heartache. I could go on about how much joy Emilia has brought our family – how glad we are to have her in our lives (even though she isn’t physically here) – and recount all of the great things that have come about through her memory and the love she shares. What I rarely express is how I would so eagerly trade it all to share one more beautiful moment with her. I still struggle with a rollercoaster of emotions. I grapple with the difficulty of living life attuned to our vulnerability; to the idea of bad things happening to good people. I am trying to align the two worldviews of a merciful God and an all-powerful God. It has been one year without Emilia and I am still learning how to live without her.
I feel as though I have never been able to fully rely on God through my hardship. I don’t always receive comfort in reading His word – and sometimes it’s the devotional Christian passages and phrases that bring the most anger to my grieving heart. “God has a plan and this was His will.” “You are never given more than you can handle.” “Time heals all wounds.” To me, these are empty words and lousy justifications trying to assign some larger divine reason to why Emilia died. One expression that has been cast my way many times and has recently weighed on my heart is, “Everything happens for a reason.” No matter the strength of my faith, no matter how many people disagree with my point of view, I will never believe that God chose for Emilia to die and for me to live with this pain. If God truly loves me, why would he choose this? What divine goodness or reason could justify the horrible things that happen around the world every day?
In my search to debunk this frustrating philosophy, I stumbled upon an article written by Christine Suhan entitled “Quit Saying Everything Happens for a Reason”. Christine describes how she believes that God can make everything beautiful, but that everything does not happen for a reason. To summarize, as humans, we search for years to find a perfect answer to why tragedies happen. We seek to make sense of a situation that in actuality will never make sense, in the hope that we may find a reason that brings an end to our pain. Her uncomfortable life truth is that:
“Sometimes bad things happen for no reason other than we are human beings having a human experience. Pain, heartache, grief, loss, disease, and death are inevitable parts of the human experience.”
– Christine Suhan
I have moved through life feeling a sense of entitlement. When it doesn’t go my way, I search for a reason to explain why I personally am being wronged. I need to remind myself that God never plans for us to hurt. His will is not for people to die, be abused or taken advantage of, or to struggle through major hardships. God does not will upon us evil, pain, or sorrow. Rather, doesn’t it make more sense that God’s will for us is to draw nearer to Him, especially in our times of grief? I believe that God hurts with us and seeks to heal our hearts. He wishes us to use our life experiences, however charmed or traumatic, to share His message for the greater good.
“Not everything happens for a reason. But in everything that happens, there can be a reason to bring hope and healing to others. God can use our pain for a greater good if we choose to let him in.”
– Christine Suhan
Beyond what is factual, I may never know why Emilia died, or why anything in my life happens the way it does. I’d like to believe that there is simply no greater reason behind it at all – that it is only one of the unavoidable tragedies that accompany the human condition of life in an imperfect world. What I do know is that God loves me and my family (including Emilia) and that we do not mourn alone. God never chose for Emilia to die, or for our family to live in pain, or for the multitude of other hardships that everyone has faced or will face in life. I know that God wants me to use my pain to honor and remember Emilia. Nothing I may do will bring God more satisfaction than watching me share my story of love, pain, grief, and joy in the hope that it may help another.