God needed another angel in heaven?

** This is the final part of my series on Christian cliches. I really hope that you’ve enjoyed the series and if you missed any part of it click here to view all 7 post.  I may revisit this concept again in the future but for now I will leave this series here.**

This is an example of another well-meaning but insensitive Christian Cliche that I have heard [primarily] in funerals is “God [just] needed another angel [in heaven]”.  Honestly  I have heard the argument as an explanation for why people die.  I initially did not question this thinking as a child, seeing adults as wise authority figures and religious statements as beyond question.  As I grew and became an atheist this sentiment began to deeply disturb me and since I received Christ that sentiment has yet to leave me.

These words are meant to soothe and heal, but they often fall shallow and empty on hurting hearts.  Why?  Not simply because they are tidy explanations for the confusing mess of tragedy, explanations that don’t ever feel very satisfying in the midst of great grief; but also because these words are resisting or attempting to eliminate the deep pain of sorrow.  In our grief, we often don’t need encouragement, or simple answers, and we don’t need to feel “happy” right away; what we need is the open-hearted presence of another and the unspoken assurance that the pain we feel and the confusion we experience have room to find expression.  In grief, we need to know that our pain and confusion do not make us unacceptable or unworthy of love.  The greatest gift in grief is the permission, the space, and the support to feel what we are really feeling; and to say it honestly in the company of others.

The problem is we as people who care for those who grieve, we have a hard time being with people in their pain; we have a hard time letting them weep, or letting them complain; the wreckage of bitter words unsettles us; so we search for words that will help them figure it all out in their head or that will alleviate their terrible suffering.  With our words we stop paying attention to the grief of another and speak out of our own insecurity or discomfort.  The path of silent listening and compassionate presence before the pain of another; the path of letting the one who grieves scream, shout, and seek out God on their own; and the revelation that such bitterness and lament is not what we should avoid; but rather, that it may be the very birthplace of hope.

Job did not feel God’s presence.  But God had not abandoned Job.  God was there as Job screamed and complained.  And unlike Job’s friends, God let Job’s words land with all their force.

God makes room for our lament, because God knows when we form words, however bitter, angry, sad or confused; we give birth to hope, if only just a little.


About Jon Nelson

I am just a nobody trying to tell everybody about Somebody [Christ Jesus]!

Posted on October 16, 2012, in ...from Jon, Christian cliche, Theology and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Also, if you really look at it, it implies that God is a) selfish b) doesn’t really care about how it makes you feel and c) that he actively orchestrated this tragedy to fulfill desires of a). That’s nothing like the God I know. The God I know weeps when those close to him are suffering from such a loss (see Jesus at Lazarus’s tomb).

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