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Sometimes I make a list. It's an odd list. Perhaps you've made it too.

I make a list of how fortunate I am: I enjoy the freedoms of America. I have access to great healthcare. I live in a beautiful and thriving region. I interact daily with faithful, Christ-serving people. I have never been homeless. I have always had access to food. I have gone to terrific schools. I have never gone to war, avoided gunfire or been near a landmine. The public services in my community are excellent. And we have great state parks.

Parents Left Behind

What: Grief seminar

When: 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Aug. 25

Where: Central United Methodist Church, Fayetteville


You could say "fortunate." You could say "blessed." You could say "to whom much has been given much will be expcted." But the fact is, many of us are safely tucked into a life of extraordinary opportunity and prosperity.

The media I devour shows me another perspective. Refugee camps. Drought-stricken communities. Cities destroyed by urban warfare. Families displaced by natural disasters. So I wonder about those people. How have the crises they have faced changed them? Their outlook? Their hope? Their faith?

It's no secret that a sudden tragedy can be stressful, but it can also be a spotlight. An overwhelming tragedy can reveal who we are and what we believe. For the person who believes in a just and compassionate God, a tragedy can be extremely difficult to reconcile. "Why did God do this to me?" or "I've been faithful, this wasn't supposed to happen."

I have facilitated a monthly support group for grieving parents for more than years. It is a stunning sadness. Their lives will never be "normal" again. Everything is changed. Even their faith. Most grieving parents I know have to completely rebuild their faith in God after the death of their child. That can be an excruciating process.

If you know someone who has lost a child or faced another disorienting tragedy, do not be surprised if they begin to question beliefs they've held their entire lives. Listen to them. Let them put words to their doubts and disappointments. Be patient. Avoid pushing them back into the faith they had before their loss. (Don't worry, God can take it.) Walk with them as they rebuild their faith -- and, who knows, you might learn something, too.

On Saturday, Aug. 25, a local group of grieving parents is hosting the fourth "Parents Left Behind" conference. Empathetic workshops and conversations will be offered -- including how such a painful loss can affect our faith. It is critically important to have a safe place to rebuild our faith and our lives.

I hope you never face these earth-shattering tragedies. But that is naive, isn't it? Yet, whatever happens to you, I hope that your faith will be resilient, adaptable and meaningful.

The Rev. Steve Sheely is pastor of Rolling Hills Baptist Church in Fayetteville. Contact him at

NAN Religion on 07/14/2018

Print Headline: Rebuilding faith, lives

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