Posts tagged: Grief

Placing Responsibility Where It Belongs

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By Paula Marolewski, July 11, 2010 4:25 pm

I am deeply grieved today as I write. And the reason is this: at this very moment, people are turning away from God and sinking into despair, their faith in shambles, bitterness and grief clutching at their chest, because they don’t understand – or perhaps want to accept – two simple words:

Free will.

Two short words. Easily defined. Even the theology behind them can be stated in words of single syllables:

Free will means I can choose what I want to do.

So where does the doubt come in? The despair? The broken faith? The bitterness? The grief?

It comes here:

Suppose you have a friend or family member who is making choices that are wrecking his or her life. Maybe it’s drugs. Or alcohol. Promiscuity. Pornography. Wanton spending. Staying in an abusive relationship. The list goes on and on. The bottom line is this: their life is in chaos, they are screaming out in agony, they may actually be on the short road to death and even hell, and you love them with all your heart.

What do you do? You advise, you plead, you intervene, you act. And you pray.

And then … nothing happens. Nothing changes. The pain in the other person’s life just goes on and on and on.

And you pray.

Still nothing happens. Nothing changes. The pain is worse than ever.

And you pray.

And … nothing … changes.

Then comes the day when you stop praying. When the despair sets in. When the doubt that was creeping at the edges of your consciousness springs into full bloom.

You find yourself doubting God’s love. His power. Even his existence.

You bitterly resign yourself to “whatever he wants.”

Your entire spirit collapses within.

And maybe, you even hate God.


Because God didn’t do what you wanted him to do. Because God didn’t save your loved one. Because God didn’t work a miracle in the other person’s life.

And surely, that would have been for God’s glory and the other person’s good, wouldn’t it? Your prayer wasn’t selfish. It wasn’t focused on you. All you ever wanted was for the other person to be saved, to be happy, and to give God the glory for a beautifully changed life – delivered from all the pain and garbage they had been experiencing.

What was wrong with that?

Here’s the answer:

There is nothing wrong with wanting those things. That is, indeed, what God wants, too. He doesn’t want your friend or your family member to be caught in the web of pain. He longs to deliver them.

But here’s the catch:

We’re talking here about a loved one whose pain is the direct result of the choices they are making. This isn’t about someone in pain because (for instance) they have cancer and God has not brought healing. A person with cancer didn’t choose his or her illness in any way. Today, we’re talking about people who are making poor, unwise, or sinful choices that are directly impacting their lives in a negative way.

And because we are talking about choices, we are talking about free will. And free will is always, forever, and exactly that:


That means … are you ready? … God can’t change their life unless they choose to let him do so.

God … can’t?

Correct. God can’t. Because that is the nature of the gift of free will. When God gave us free will, he gave it to us with no strings attached: nothing and no one, not God himself, can impose their will on us. We are truly free to choose. All the time. In every circumstance. Period.

But, you say, God is all-powerful!

Correct again. God is all-powerful. But he also obeys his own rules. Because he gave us free will, he limits his power in that respect. He will not use his power to overcome our free will. Otherwise, free will would no longer be free.

Let’s bring this home:

When a friend or family member is choosing a destructive path in their life, you can pray that God would do everything that is within his sovereign power to influence, guide, and direct them toward repentance and healing. That might mean that:

  • God would pour out his grace on them.
  • God would entreat them constantly through his Spirit.
  • God would remove the veils of deception from their mind.
  • God would give you and others words that would speak to their heart.
  • God would order circumstances to influence them.
  • God would convict them concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment.
  • God would place a yearning for himself in their souls.

And so much more! God is all-powerful – and all these things are well within his power! You can therefore pray for all these things and look for them in the person’s life. I am sure you will see God moving in these ways.

But there is one thing that you must remember at all times: God can do and will do all these things when you pray. But he cannot do one thing: he cannot force them to change their life.

God can pour out his grace, his love, his power, and his truth on the person: but they can still choose to refuse his grace, ignore his love, disparage his power, and spit on his truth.

Or, they can choose to respond to his grace, accept his love, delight in his power, and embrace his truth.

It is their choice. It is not God’s choice. It has everything to do with them. It has nothing to do with God.

That is the nature of free will. We are truly free. We can freely choose evil and hurt and pain and folly, just as we can freely choose good and healing and joy and wisdom. 

So if today you feel like turning away from God, if you are doubting your faith, if you are in despair because God hasn’t answered your prayers in saving your loved one from a destructive path, or if you’ve already turned your back on God … remember this. God hasn’t failed you, nor them. He is doing everything he can to speak into their lives.

I know it hurts. I know you are grieving and in pain. I know you are anxious for them. It is right to feel all those things, because you love them. And though you may not realize it, God feels all that, too – much more than you ever can. He loves the person you are praying for with all his infinite love … the love that brought Jesus to Calvary.

But we are free. We are always free to choose our way.

Therefore, the final choice to change is, and must be, their own.


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

Why am I in Pain?

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By Paula Marolewski, July 11, 2010 4:21 pm

It’s easy to get tied in mental knots when we are in pain. Sometimes we assume that God causes all our pain, or that all pain is the direct result of our sin. If you are in pain today, consider the following – I hope it will help restore your theological balance, and therefore your ability to move forward through your pain:

  • Some pain is simply the result of the world being fallen. Things like sickness or natural disasters, over which we have no control. When catastrophe strikes, the good and the evil (and everyone in between) all suffer together.
  • Some pain is the result of our past decisions. There are consequences to our actions. Some consequences take years to work through and work out. But don’t ever think that God is up there gloating that you are in pain, or saying, “Well, he/she really deserves this!” No. Nix. Never. He was – and is – so concerned about helping you (no matter what the problem is that you are facing) that he sent Jesus to die for you and rise from the dead, so that you can have the power of the resurrection itself working on your behalf. 
  • Some pain is the result of other people’s sin, like when one spouse abuses another the other. God doesn’t cause that: he doesn’t want it; he doesn’t desire it. He permits it because that was the cost of giving us free will. To step in and prevent us from hurting each other would, in fact, be negating the freedom of action that was his greatest gift to us when he made us in his image. But his heart breaks every time we hurt each other, and he stands ready and waiting to help us when we call on him. 
  • And occasionally – just occasionally – God may actually send pain our way by his direct action. If he does, we can be sure that it is always for our own good, and that he never sends pain without also sending the grace to see us through it.


God is with you in your pain. He loves you. He will see you through.


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

Unsearchable, Unfathomable

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By Paula Marolewski, May 3, 2010 10:26 am

Dedicated to the memory of Denton Conklin.

In Romans 11:33 we read, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!”

I’ve thought about that verse a lot lately. In July 2009, a good friend was killed instantly in a head-on car crash. He left behind a wife who suffers from a severe physical disability, and two children. He was a wonderful husband. An incredible Christian. A loyal friend.

And I ask God the age-old question:


Why did this happen? What purpose did it serve? Wouldn’t more glory have been brought to Jesus through my friend’s life and service on this earth? What of his family? Don’t you see their pain?


I don’t believe we will ever know “Why?” to many of the questions we ask. Especially when we are talking about deep things … the loss of a job, a spouse, a child, a friend, a ministry, a dream. We cry out in agony, “Why?” but heaven does not answer.

Why this divine silence? First, because of this simple truth: God’s ways, wisdom, and knowledge are unsearchable – unfathomable. He is God. We are not. I doubt we could understand the answers even if he were to tell us.

Second, because we are then presented with an important decision: will we choose to trust, love, obey, and praise God, even when we never know the “Why?” behind the tragedies we experience? Will we place our faith in his character?

Or, will we make our love for God conditional upon our understanding of him? If the latter, then aren’t we actually making ourselves equal with God – demanding that we know all that he does, and perhaps even requiring him to submit his decisions to us for our approval?

We can harbor bitterness and resentment against God when he does not answer our agonized “Why?” Or, we can by faith turn his very silence into a reason for praise, even though that praise may be mixed with tears:

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!”


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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A Meditation on Grief and Loss

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By Paula Marolewski, October 8, 2009 8:24 am

The following is the first of seven meditations on grief and loss. I have purposefully left out any reference to what I experienced that brought on this grieving period—simply because it is grief that is the focus.

This is not a dissertation on grief or a psychological examination of it. It is the lived experience; the image of the soul; the weeping of the spirit. In it, I hope you will find a voice for your own suffering, and hope in our faithful God.

To read the other six meditations in this series, please download the free ebook Kaleidoscope from Sink Your Roots.


Healing takes place slowly. Like the measured tread of weary feet, the soul struggles to find the equilibrium of normalcy again. Tries to recall what it is to think without pain, to remember without the stab of memory. Faith seems too much a distant dream, and the thought of hope brings only  the swirling chill of November air, bleak and grey in the twilight.

And so I walk. Step by step, and step by step. I walk along fields of corn, whose dry husks and stalks rustle and clack softly in the wind. I walk beside trees and see the autumn reds and oranges grow luminescent in the golden hues of the setting sun. I walk on the edge of streams and listen to the chuckle of the water as it skips over stones, and bubbles in festive solitude.

I walk. It is a simple act that reaffirms life. My mind trudges in an endless rut of pain, remembering and hurting, remembering and hurting. Questioning in anguished silence.  Ceaselessly re-living the moment of separation: joy lost; dreams destroyed.

But I walk. My eyes, though drawn, can still see color. My soul is lost in the grey land, where stark images of black and fearful white shimmer momentarily before being swallowed up in the never-ending grey. But my eyes can still see the October blue of the sky; can still behold the rich russet of the leaves; can still pause to commit to memory the laughing golds of black-eyed  susans seen peeking out between a thousand beige-toned and fluffy-headed grasses.

It is there, imperceptibly, that color begins to return within.

I walk. There is a voice I will never hear again; words held sacred whose syllables will nevermore fall on my ears. Perhaps more than all else, it is that silence which is unbearable. It  is with words that we make ourselves known; with words that we understand that  incomprehensible reality which is another human soul; with words that we move heaven and earth by swearing an unbreakable commitment before the throne of Jehovah-God.

Is it a wonder, then, that loneliness is spoken of as silence?

But I walk; and crickets chirrup a continuous foundation for my soul to build upon. Deep among the cornstalks, squirrels rustle as they busily forage the hardened kernels. And listening still, high above, killdeer cry with the voice of empty meadows, answered once and rarely by the shrill creel of the wheeling peregrines.

It is the only voice I can hear; the only whisper that can truly comfort.

And so I walk. Each step is a happening; a drop of reality. The curve of the world is solid against the soles of my feet, and its roughness and smoothness anchors the soul of my self. Leaving  the path, the dry, cropped grasses crunch under my steps. A pause; a kneel on cold-hardened  ground; fingers extend to touch the silken whisper of milkweed wishes, or to pet the barred back  of a reluctant woolly bear.

It fills my body. It comforts my hands that will not be held again. It embraces my soul that will not be touched again.

I walk. Step by step, and step by step. And the smell of autumn—the rich humus of leaves returning to the soil with the promise to live again after winter’s frost—fills each deep inhale with the promise that all life shall be re-born. Not without trials, but with the surety of every step.


© 2008 Paula Marolewski,

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