Faith that Bears Unbearable Grief
A father's struggle to pray for his child's healing is one of the most difficult experiences he can face.
As a father whose son was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor, the thought that I might have to preach a funeral sermon for, and then bury, my twelve year old son is one of the most unbearable experiences of my life. The pain and sorrow that come with such worry is indescribable. Yet, for some, the struggle becomes even more difficult when they must turn to prayer in the hopes of healing their child. In such moments, a father's faith and trust in God are tested in ways that are difficult to fathom.
C.S. Lewis, a devout Christian, wrote extensively on the topic of suffering and pain, and his works provide insights into the experience of a father who is struggling to pray for his child. In particular, his understanding of the nature of God and the role of suffering in the Christian life is relevant to the struggle of a father who is praying for his child's healing.
Similarly, in Reformation Lutheran theology, the concept of sola fide or "faith alone" is central to a Christian’s understanding of suffering, prayer, and salvation. “Faith alone” means that salvation is a gift of grace that is received through faith in Jesus Christ, not through any works or merits of our own. However, this does not mean that the Christian life is free from suffering or struggle. In fact, suffering is seen as an inevitable part of the Christian’s life, because we live in a fallen world and are subject to the consequences of sin, such as suffering, illness, and death.
When a father is faced with the prospect of losing a child, his faith is put to the test. He may feel angry, confused, and overwhelmed by his emotions. He may question why God would allow such a tragedy to happen to his family. He may struggle to find the words to pray, or he may feel like his prayers are falling on deaf ears. In such moments, the father turns to God in faith, trusting in His promise “to be an ever-present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1).
“Faith alone” means that salvation is a gift of grace that is received through faith in Jesus Christ, not through any works or merits of our own.
In his book, A Grief Observed, Lewis describes his own struggle with faith after the death of his wife. He writes, “Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not ‘So there's no God after all,’ but ‘So this is what God's really like. Deceive yourself no longer’’ (Lewis, A Grief Observed, 31). This passage speaks to the fear and doubt that can creep into the heart of a father who is struggling to pray for his child. He may fear that God is not listening, or that God is punishing him or his child for some sin or mistake.
However, the father must remember that God is a loving Father who cares for His children deeply. He is encouraged, and even commanded, to trust in God's goodness and mercy, even when it is difficult to understand. In his book, The Problem of Pain, Lewis writes, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” (Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 91). This passage reminds us that God can use our suffering to draw us closer to Him and to reveal His love and mercy to us in new ways.
Martin Luther’s statements about what he called the “theology of the cross” are also relevant to the experience of a father who is struggling to pray for his child's healing. This theology emphasizes the paradoxical nature of the Christian faith: that God's power is made perfect in weakness, that life comes through death, and that true glory is found in the cross. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).
The theology of the cross challenges us to see God's power and love at work in the midst of our suffering and weakness. It reminds us that even when we are at our lowest point, God is still with us and working for our good. As Luther wrote in his Heidelberg Disputation, "He is not righteous who does much, but he who, without work, believes much in Christ." (Luther, Heidelberg Dispuation, Thesis 25). In other words, it is not our own works or merits that save us, but rather our faith in Christ and His work on the cross.
For the father who is struggling to pray for his child's healing, the theology of the cross offers hope and comfort. It reminds him that even if his prayers are not answered in the way he hopes, God is still at work in his life and the life of his child to will and work good. It also reminds him that his faith in God's love and power is not dependent on the sincerity of his prayers, or how he judges the outcome of his prayers.
One of the most famous stories in the Bible about a father's struggle with faith is the story of Jairus, whose daughter was dying. Jairus was a synagogue leader who came to Jesus and begged Him to come and heal his daughter. Jesus agreed to go with him, but on the way, they were interrupted by a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years. When Jesus stopped to heal her, Jairus received word that his daughter had died.
In that moment, Jairus must have felt devastated and hopeless. He had put his faith in Jesus, and yet his daughter had still died. But Jesus said to him, "Don't be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed" (Luke 8:50). Jesus encourages, and even commands, Jairus to trust in his love and power, even when it seemed like all hope was lost. And in the end, Jesus raised his daughter from the dead.
This story reminds us that even when we face the greatest trials and challenges, we can still put our faith in Jesus and trust in His love and power, a power that can raise the dead to life. And we may not always understand why things happen the way they do, but we can trust that God is still in control, still remaining faithful to his promises to us, and always working for our good. As Paul wrote in Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."In conclusion, a father's struggle to pray for his child's healing is one of the most difficult experiences he can face. It challenges his faith and trust in God, and it tests his understanding of the Christian faith. But through the works of C.S. Lewis and the theology of Martin Luther, we can see that God is still with us in the midst of our suffering and weakness. We can trust in His love and power, even when it seems like all hope is lost. And we can find comfort and hope in the story of Jairus, who put his faith in Jesus and saw his daughter raised from the dead. May we all have the strength and faith to trust in God's goodness and sovereignty, even in the darkest moments of our lives.