When the Worst Happens
By Katie Harmon
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Matthew 27:46, KJV
As Christians, we are often encouraged not to worry. In fact, Jesus commands it (Matthew 6:25-34). It’s hard, but we try. We “give it to God.” We write verses about trust and faith on notecards and tape them to our mirrors. We pour our anxieties out in prayer journals and try to believe that God will shield us from the worst, and usually He does.
But sometimes, He doesn’t.
Sometimes the worst happens. Sometimes you lose the house. Sometimes you file for bankruptcy or divorce. Sometimes your spouse doesn’t make it home from work. Sometimes the nurse can’t find a heartbeat. Sometimes someone hurts your child. Sometimes it’s cancer.
What do you do when the worst possible thing you could imagine, the thing you “gave to God,” the thing you begged Him to protect you from, happens? What then?
Maybe there are Christians who easily accept the worst as part of God’s plan for them, who immediately praise God despite their situation, who never question His will or get angry with His decisions. I hope there are.
I am not one of them.
I can tell you from extremely personal experience that the very first thing you’re most likely to do is ask God “why.” The very first thing you’re likely to feel is a sucking void in the center of your chest, quickly followed by a burning anger.
Many Christians believe that it is a sin to feel these things or to ask God “why.”
I am not one of them.
When the worst happened to Jesus, when his friends turned their backs on him, when he was arrested and falsely imprisoned, when he was tortured and sentenced to execution, when he was on the brink of death, he said, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46, KJV).”
Jesus asked God “why.” And Jesus never sinned.
I am no one’s theologian, but I do know two things: 1) The questions and anger are natural and common human responses to trauma and loss. Repressing them or pretending you’re not feeling them will only hurt you more in the long run. 2) God can handle your anger and doubt. Plus, He already knows about it.
So what do you do?
The best advice I can give you is to do what David did. Tell Him how you feel.
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? Psalm 31:1, ESV
Vent your anger to God. Ask Him your questions. Don’t close off the lines of communication, because the one thing you need now more than ever is time with your Father...no matter what that may look like.
The second best advice I can give you is to find somebody to talk to - a friend, a pastor, a therapist. Getting professional Christian counseling was one of the best things I ever did for myself.
Your anger and doubt does not surprise God, nor does it alter his love or commitment to you. He will not leave you (though it may feel like He has).
He will not leave you in your grief either.
If you seek Him and seek help, He will bring you out of your pain.
Jesus, You know what it is like to feel that God has abandoned you. You know pain and loss better than anyone else. Come to us now and let us feel your presence. We know that you are close to the brokenhearted and comfort those who mourn (Psalm 34:18). Help us to let you into our grief, to give you our anger and doubt. Jesus, pull us out of the void. In your name, Amen.
© 2019 by Katie Harmon. All rights reserved.
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Originally published Thursday, 20 October 2022.