While visiting my home church, I learned that a dear friend had committed suicide. I went to see his wife, and, not finding her at home, I scribbled on the back of one of my calling cards:
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not reply on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3: 5-6)"
There are times when there is no satisfying answer to the "why questions." All we can do is trust in God and stop trying to figure out all the whys and wherefores based on our own limited, finite knowledge and wisdom.
The Book of Proverbs imparts words of wisdom to all those who humbly desire wisdom, and with the imparted wisdom make changes in their lives. Proverbs 3: 5-6 tells us to rely on God when we cannot make sense out of the nonsense events of life, like the death by suicide of a loved one.
What does it mean to rely on God? In one way, it means the same thing as relying on a human being: having someone you can depend upon; someone who will keep promises, will not betray your trust, will be there for you and do whatever it takes to provide support, encouragement, empathy, and will show genuine concern for your welfare.
But then reliance on God means so much more than that. It's like comparing my meager income with that of Bill Gates or Ted Turner. The comparison is enough to blow one's mind. Relying upon God makes available the vast resources of God's storehouse, which we can apply to that crisis event that we cannot understand. Since we are created in God's image, we have in finite ways what God has in infinitesimal ways. Most of us have a little wisdom. God is all-wise. He is the source and ground of all wisdom. God is aware of everything and knows all about each one of us as if there were only one person to love and care for. God will always hear our cries for help and send a "host of angels" to "feather" us and in all other ways support us until we are "healed" from this terrible event.
When tragedy strikes, we are at first numb and in shock. Then we start to vacillate between feeling angry, guilty and sad. We clench our fists and pound on the table. The next moment we are weeping uncontrollably like a child. We turn to God, but at first there is nothing but silence. We think God has deserted us, but then come telephone calls and neighbors and friends. Later, food, cards and letters. Then it hits us: Maybe God has not left us to fend for ourselves after all.
After a devastating fire where we lived, I will never forget my oldest cousin bringing us a quart of freshly squeezed orange juice. She knew my mother loved fresh orange juice.
To rely upon God during times of traumatic losses means to entrust this loss to him. By so doing, we free ourselves from the burden of trying to figure out the why and the wherefore. No, we will not be completely free from the pain, but we will be sustained by this act of faith to stay on our feet and not blow up in presumptive bitterness and frustration. We do not give up. God gives us the ability to stand and hold on one day at a time.
God is our very help in time of trouble, but often he is there as mystery; for his understanding is beyond our comprehension. Yet, as mystery, he is not remote and distant. He is the one who gives power to the faint, and to the person who has no might he increases strength.
Whatever our circumstances right now, let us call upon God for help. He will give us the wherewithal to carry on and to do what we know we need to do but lack the will to do. God is able to do it, being Almighty God, and he is determined to do it, being our gracious and loving heavenly Father.
Gene Norris is a Presbyterian minister and chaplain at Columbia-Augusta Medical Center.