Coping With the Death of Someone You Know

Just last night, in our town, a young teen boy died in a boating accident on a local lake.

I didn't know him, and he didn't go to our church, but many of the youth in our church did know him and were fairly close to him. As I heard the news late last night, my stomach churned and I thought to myself, "why did I sign up for this job again?"

Realizing that calls and questions and tears of teens and their parents would soon be coming my way, I just wanted to crawl in to bed and not come in to work today. Not only that, but this poor boy and his family. These thoughts of having to deal with others were in addition to the sadness I was feeling about the death of a youth, and the feelings many teens I know must be struggling with.

Many questions began popping in to my head:

"Why did this kid have to die?"

"How are the youth supposed to get a positive view of God with things like this happening?"

"What do I say to the kids when they come to me?"

"God, WHY MUST WE GO THROUGH THIS NOW? Or even at all?"

These are hardly even decent examples of the number and kinds of questions that so many teens must be having right now. Not even an example of the anger many are having, and the hate they are feeling toward God.

Why do these things happen?

What is God thinking at times like these? Well, these are the kinds of things I will try to address in this writing. Whether or not I do much justice to the subject is another thing, but it's what I'm feeling I must deal with, so I'm going to.

  • The first thing that I think is important to realize in situations like this, is that life is a precious, fragile thing, that can be taken from us in any countless numbers of ways. We could get ill. We could have a vehicle accident. We could get lost and stranded in the woods. We could get attacked by a bear. We could slip and fall in the shower. Something could just go slightly wrong with our biology. Sorry this paragraph is so glum. I don't write it to try to scare you, but just to kind of make us all realize how fragile life is and how easily, haphazardly, or freakishly it can be taken away from us.
  • The next thing I thought is that obviously, we must all die at some point. Not everybody can live forever on earth, and unfortunately, not everybody can even live to be old on earth. When I think about this on a broad scale, it makes me realize that God has a plan for everybody's life, and how long everybody is going to live. God tells us he has numbered our days before we are even born (Psalm 139:16)! It also gives me a sense for how powerful God is. We like to think how powerful he is when he gives life, or creates life saving miracles, but never when life is taken away. This makes us think of how cruel he is, and maybe even weak to not step in and save life in all cases. Though it is natural to have these thoughts when the death is close to home, these thoughts are greatly affected by our emotions, which can skew our views greatly.
  • Instead it is important to keep in mind the words of Job who says this; Lord has given and taken away (Job 1:21). In fact, though we'll see below how Job grieves and is angry at points, it's important to note that the first thing Job does when he hears he's lost everything, is Praises God (1:20-22)! Job just lost his family, his livelihood and his fortune, and he praises God! What an awesome example of steadfast faith in a time of despair, as is the rest of Job's story.
The book of Job is an excellent example of the natural path of thoughts feelings and emotions.

He had everything, and it was all taken away from him. You can read in chapters 3, 7, and 10 how Job is very upset with God, and just reams him out. These are thoughts that any one suffering loss would clearly have. And here Job is, yelling to God about them. It's a natural thing.

Then along the lines of what I was talking about before, Job talks a bit about how fragile life is. After expressing how he wishes to argue his case with God in chapter 13; he starts chapter 14 with the words, "How frail is humanity! How short is life..." read the rest of chapter 14 to see what he says. As time goes on, and his friends try to turn him completely from God, he stays true, and goes on to talk about God's wisdom in chapter 28.

Though it is still hard for Job and he continues to question God.

One of Jobs friends, Elihu, reminds Job of God's many wonderful characteristics in chapters 35-37, and then in Chapter 38 God gets involved. This is a great chapter, so read it! God pretty much says to Job, "What do you know? Are you me?" God continues this through chapter 41. And in Chapter 42 Job gives his love to the Lord, and the Lord in turn blesses Job.

This is briefly how Job handles his grief.

It is good to get things out. Grieve and cry and question God. These things are natural. However, be careful at how far you go. Before too long, you need to stop and count the many blessings that God has given you.

  • You also need to find people to talk with.
  •  If you don't talk, it will just get worse and last a lot longer than it needs to.
  •  It is good to talk with friends but you also need to talk with someone older. Someone you look up to in your church, a Pastor, a parent, a youth leader... somebody. They can help comfort your situation.

Having just come back from a week of camp for each group, middle and high school, this incident is probably the first test for many of those kids. They're on a spiritual high, loving God, ready for school, and then BAM! Something like this happens, with potential to send kids' faith into tail-spins.

I find it interesting, as I look back upon the High School week, that a common theme was endurance through hard times. There were many stories displaying proof that the hard times may be hard, but they bring many good things to light in many ways. That usually can not be realized fully until a long time after the event, looking back on what happened. But many of the kid's stories made them and others realize that through the bad, God does have a plan; and he has the complete and total power to bring good things from bad things.

 

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