Next month, I will be approaching the 1 year anniversary of my aunt's death after her battle with cancer. Last year, her death plunged me into a darkness I've never known. For the first time I felt like I couldn't talk to God. I didn’t have the strength, nor the desire to pray. Quite frankly, I was tired. In the last six weeks of my aunt’s life, I found myself as the middle man between my family and her healthcare team, and it was mentally and emotionally exhausting. I was prayed out. My family prayed long and hard. We believed, we fasted...and His answer was no. I was heartbroken and angry at God, disappointed and devastated.
Have you ever been there? Feeling utterly hopeless, lost, and alone, surrounded by gloom? So how do you find your way back? Psalm 139:12 says “but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you.”
You may not be able to see God in your dark place, but He can see you. He’s right there with you. Whether you want to talk to Him or not, He won’t leave your side. And even when you're furious with Him, He will patiently wait for you. There is no systematic way to deal with grief and loss. The process of mourning is as unique as those we have lost. That being said, there are definitely healthy and unhealthy ways to cope. Here are 4 things that God led me to do, to help me navigate the darkest time of my life and if God forbid you are experiencing loss, may they be helpful to you as well.
1. Get around people who are spiritually strong.
“ Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever. So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”
- 1 Thess. 5:10-11
When I was too weak to pray, I leaned on my family and friends. I surrounded myself with people who spoke words of faith and encouragement when my thoughts were drowning in agony and doubt. They prayed for me and with me until I finally got the strength to start talking to God again.
2. Be brutally honest.
“When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.” - Psalm 32:3
Be honest with yourself. Be honest with those closest to you and when you’re ready, be honest with God. You will exacerbate your trauma if you try to suppress it. Don’t sugarcoat, downplay or ignore your feelings. Instead, acknowledge and validate them. Hold them up to the light. It’s only then that the truth of God’s word can begin to mend the broken places and comfort where it hurts the most.
My family grieved openly together after we lost her. In the weeks leading up to her death, we began meeting on Zoom on Saturday mornings for family worship - because you know, Covid. The Saturday after she passed, we didn’t ignore the elephant in the zoom (I couldn’t help myself). We sang and prayed as usual and then we shared all of our anger and frustration with God in a candid and brutally honest way. It was a safe place to wrestle with the tough questions. We were broken and weeping and vulnerable - together. Talking about our disappointment at unanswered prayer was deeply therapeutic. It was in this moment of worshipping with my family, crying and being together that things began to turn. There was a little more light now.
3. Make a decision to trust Jesus, especially when you can’t trace Him.
“Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him...” Job 13:15
I’ve never been angry at God like this and I’ve certainly never given Him the silent treatment. And yet, at the height of my anger, when my anguish was deepest, I knew I would not leave Him. You see, I made a commitment to love and follow Jesus, and in the earliest stage of my grief, even as I could feel myself slipping into dark and unfamiliar territory, I doubled down on that commitment. Regardless of how long I would feel this way, I wasn’t going anywhere. Because honestly, where else would I go? He has the words that give life (John 6:68). He’s the only hope I have of having joy in this life and seeing my tatie again in the next. So no matter how long I would be upset with God, I determined I would not give up my faith in Him.
4. Worship lights the way out.
“I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak his praises.” Psalm 34:1
Worship will light your way out of the darkness. Sing. Sing even if you don’t feel like it. If you’re too weak to do so, get around people who are praising and worshipping God. This is the worst time to abandon worship. With time, your strength will begin to rise. I know you don’t want to hear it. But, read. Read His word, even when the verses seem to be mocking you; when they seem to be a glaring contradiction to what you’re experiencing. Don’t give into the bitterness, because it can consume you and create a seemingly insurmountable gulf between you and God. Finally Pray. Even if it’s just to say, “Lord, I can’t talk to you right now.” Worship prepares your heart to receive the comfort and presence of God and puts your circumstances in the proper perspective. The truth is regardless of the situation, what we have is more than we deserve and God is still worthy of our praise.
I didn’t recognize it at the time, but God never abandoned me or my family. He heard our prayers and He was prepared to be there even as some of us were furious at Him. He taught me the importance of having a community that is spiritually strong, being brutally honest with my emotions, making a commitment to stick with my faith no matter what and lifting my heart in worship.
So, We’d love to hear from you. How did you find your way back to God after wrestling with loss, disappointment and doubt?
About the Author
Kelissa Delva was born in Haiti and grew up in South Florida. She has a BSN from Barry University and is a registered nurse. She also has a BA in Religious Studies from Burman University in Alberta, Canada. She is passionate about helping teens and young adults on their discipleship journey and has been an active youth ministry leader since her teen years. Kelissa has been married to the love of her life, Scott for about 5 years.
She is currently taking a break from nursing to answer God’s call to be the religion teacher at Miami Union Adventist Academy; where she has served for four years. Her latest project is Life Full and Free, a Christian lifestyle blog which she began to dispel the myth that being a christian is boring and miserable. Instead she wants to show the world that Jesus has come to give us an adventurous, abundant and free life.