Monday, August 10, 2015

faith, loss, and comfort

I was recently re-reading A Grief Observed, the journal that C. S. Lewis kept and eventually published after the death of his wife, Joy Davidman. I had forgotten this, but the foreword in my edition was written by Madeleine L'Engle. Now, the last time I read this book - it's been close to a decade - I probably didn't know much about Madeleine L'Engle. I know I hadn't read any of her books at that time; I may have been aware that she wrote the classic, Newbery winner A Wrinkle in Time. But today I have read a handful of L'Engle's novels, and I'm married to a woman who adores her writing, and so it was a pleasant surprise when I saw her name on the cover. She wrote this foreword just two years after the death of her own husband.

There was one passage in particular that stood out to me as I read (re-read, I guess, but I didn't remember a thing about it) the foreword. L'Engle suggests that a grieving believer is left with faith and assurances more so than answers or 'facts' about their loved ones. She quotes Lewis: "Don't talk to me about the consolations of religion, or I shall suspect that you do not understand." Then she goes on:
For the true consolations of religion are not rosy and cozy, but com-forting in the true meaning of that word: com-fort: with strength. Strength to go on living, and to trust that whatever Joy needs, or anyone we love who has died needs, is being taken care of by that Love which began it all.

For Madeleine L'Engle, religion doesn't comfort you in the sense of making you feel better in the face of loss - religion offers you the strength (fortis is Latin for 'strong') to keep going and to entrust your loved one into the hands of Love (1 John 4:8).

How has your faith or your faith community brought you comfort in the face of loss? Have you found faith to provide strength and trust, or another kind of comfort?