When a person experiences great loss, grief is a very healthy and normal reaction. There are times when grief can trigger depression. However, when the sadness is severe enough to disrupt a person’s life, it becomes depression and would be considered a mental illness. Talking to a trusted pastor or counselor can help a person to discern whether his or her sadness is normal or if depression is beginning to take root in their life.
Naomi is an excellent example of someone whose grief could have turned into depression because of life’s circumstances but it did not. Death had taken her husband and her two sons, leaving Naomi with no other choice than to return to her homeland. In Ruth 1:13, Naomi told her daughters-in-law that “the hand of the LORD has gone forth me.” Naomi discouraged the girls traveling with her; after all, God seemed to have it out for her. Despite Naomi’s words, Ruth solemnly swore to follow her anyway. Once they reached Bethlehem, Naomi changed her name to Mara because the Almighty had dealt bitterly with her. Naomi means “pleasant” whereas Mara means “bitter.” If God was in control of everything, didn’t that mean that He was to blame for all the bitter things she had experienced? If God loved her, why would he have let these things happen?
Have you ever been in a place when all you could cry out to the Lord is “Why?” When Michael died, I was overcome with grief. Life as I knew it had ended. How in the world would I go on? I did move on, one day at a time. The same was true for Naomi. While Naomi experienced great hardship and sadness, she did not despair. She made a plan to return to Bethlehem. She kept going; she did not give up. She was uncertain what she would find in Bethlehem, but she knew God was with the people there. She may have known her hope would come from the Lord, but she also blamed Him for her current troubles. She blamed God for emptying her life and making her bitter. Ever been there? Ever felt angry at God because of the blow’s life’s dealt you?
Its crazy how we can believe in God’s sovereignty and His goodness with our minds, yet our emotions can roar with anger toward Him at the same time. “Why God? Why me?” I must have asked myself this a hundred times, after all, I’d given my life to serving Him. Now what did I have to show for it? My husband was dead and I was left behind as a single parent with no job. Was I angry? You bet I was!
While Naomi saw God as sovereign, she failed to see His grace. By the end of the book of Ruth, Naomi came to see the merciful side of her Creator, but in the midst of her suffering she could only see his wrath. God had a plan to not only take care of Naomi, but also to use Ruth in the lineage of the Messiah. Had Naomi’s sons not died, Obed would never have been born. God had a purpose in Elimelech’s death; it was not in vain.
I can honestly say today that Michael’s death was not in vain either. God has taught me so many lessons that I would have not learned otherwise. I too have come to see God’s grace in the midst of my own personal pain. God continues to use Michael’s death to touch others and to shape me. He has not only restored my joy but He has multiplied it.
If you find yourself overcome with grief, hang in there. Take things one step at a time and know that your loved one’s death was not in vain. God has a purpose and plan for everything and He is Good and Gracious. You may not see it now, but He never changes. Hope, my friend. Hope!