It’s alright to be human

January 17, 2017 — 10 Comments

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One problem with many teachers and preachers of religion is that they make it seem like it’s not alright to be human. Or at least they come across that way sometimes. Like it’s not alright to have human feelings, to think human thoughts, or to make human mistakes, and that it must all be glossed over with “faith” or some type of behavior modification in order to find favor with God.

But I agree wholeheartedly with Walter Brueggeman: “All theology that is pre-pain must be treated with suspicion.”

Allow me a personal illustration: It’s been almost seven years since I lost my dad to cancer. And yes, I know he isn’t “lost” to me. I know he is “in a better place.” I know he will “rise again.” But you know what? Seven years later and it still isn’t fair. Seven years later and it still makes no sense.

Some guys my age have their dad with them and couldn’t care less. Some people wish for their father to be dead and yet find him in perfect health. Not me. I wish for my dad to be alive and find him dead in the ground.

I remember sitting in the hospital room with dad, talking about the future. Him saying he wanted to see my kids play t-ball. But what happened instead? He died. And my family fell apart in the wake of his passing. That shit’s not fair.

Forgive me, then, if I don’t gloss it over with trite cliches about God being sovereign and all things working for my good. Nor will I do such a thing with other people in the throes of their sorrow. Do I believe that stuff to be true? Yeah, I hope in Christ. But I’m a human being, and that’s alright. It’s alright for me and it’s alright for you, too. You’re a human being. Don’t feel bad about it.

Not long ago I read A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis. It is a remarkable little book that Lewis wrote in the wake of his wife’s passing. It is mostly a compilation of journal entries or the like which detail the raw emotions he felt as he grappled with the tragedy of losing his lover. As I understand it, Lewis originally published the title under a pseudonym and only revealed himself as the author after concerned friends and family would not stop recommending the book for him to read!

Anyway, it is a fantastic little read that I highly recommend, especially for anyone dealing with grief. I resonate wholeheartedly with Lewis’ frank confession: “Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand.”

Some of you have experienced grief and sorrow beyond measure. I don’t understand your experience in the least, but I feel your pain in my own way. All I can say is, you are human and you’re not alone. And it’s alright.

10 responses to It’s alright to be human

  1. Andrew Wehrheim January 17, 2017 at 6:40 pm

    reminds me of the R.E.M. song Everybody hurts

  2. Josh, thanks for this little gem. It really touched me.

  3. Josh,

    I remember similar feelings when my wife passed away. I knew without a doubt that God would work it together for good. But, there is still a grieving process, a mourning of the loss. There were times of random emotion (usually tears) that would just overwhelm me. To deny that is to deny being human. And, everyone moves through that process by the grace of God.

    Good post. Always appreciated how get to the crux of the real issues of life.

    • I can’t imagine losing my wife, Steve. We all suffer our own unique kinds of loss, don’t we?

      • Yes we do.

        I was married for “only” 16 years. It’s hard for me to contemplate losing your spouse after 30 or 40 years.

        This March it will be five years ago my wife passed away. She battled cancer for six years. She was a walking testimony. Basically you would never have known she was sick though. She touched so many people. The night before the funeral there was a line out the door for the viewing for three hours. Many, many of the people I had never met. It was amazing the impact she had by living for God through the pain she was dealing with.

        I learned so much about God from the whole experience, particularly during the last week of her life. Too much to even write about here.

        Six weeks later I had met my wife through a God-ordained appointment. I was married again six months after my first wife passed away. It’s so amazing what God did for me and my son.

        It has been a tremendous faith builder. Maybe I should blog about that.

  4. Thanks, Josh. You’ve probably heard that our friend, Kathy (an FOR friend and more) lost her daughter, Andrea, to a heroin overdose Sunday morning. I have tried to think of how to do something to “help” Kathy with this horrible grief. After reading your post, I decided to get C.S. Lewis’ book, read it myself, then pass it on to Kathy. But, you’re right, all the platitudes about God and “his plan” and the “better place” don’t help and actually miss the mark. In a way, those kind of comments may even be shut down remarks despite our best intentions.

    • You are right about that, Lorry. I shudder when I think of all the times I have spoken pretentiously to other people in their suffering. And I had not heard that about Kathy. I hope Lewis’ book can bring her some comfort.

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