Dear Father Joe: My husband died this year, and I am so angry with God.
Dear Father Joe: My husband died this year, and I am so angry with God. How do I move past that AND forgive God for taking the love of my life away?”
I’m so sorry. I can’t imagine the grief. I’ve lost family, and I’ve lost friends, but to lose a spouse is a pain I can’t fathom. Please know that I am going to pause when I finish this article and pray for you and for all who have lost a spouse to death.
I want to be as clear as I can on this point: My goal in writing this is not to make your pain go away. You will never hear me say “Don’t cry!” To deprive you of the pain of this moment would be a disservice to your husband, whom you loved so dearly. There is no silver bullet here, nothing to make the pain and sorrow go away. There is only an insertion of Christ into our pain, which can inform it and strengthen our hope when human reasoning could never do so.
And hope really is the key. By hope, I don’t mean optimism. I mean the virtue of hope, which has a fancy definition that I will share with you, followed by one that is (I hope!) a bit easier to understand:
“[Hope is] the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit” (CCC 1817).The key idea here is that hope is a gift God gives us that we can strengthen by calling on the Holy Spirit. The gift is a trust that, if we let Him, Jesus will do what He promised: Get us to heaven, where all wounds will be healed.
Your pain right now is a testament to your love. You loved your husband and were loved by him. This was a gift that challenged and sustained you your entire married life. If you’ll excuse the wording here, did that experience of marriage feel temporary? Did it feel like something that will come and go? I doubt it. I think to you, within that flawed but lovely experience of human love strengthened by divine strength, you sensed the eternal.
Your sense was and is correct. Love is God, God is love, and covenants are forever. You who stood with your husband in a sacred place and pledged this covenant experienced something remarkable: God entered your human love and added His divinity to it.
Hope, in this moment, is the voice of God in your heart that tells you this is not over. This is an interruption, not a termination.
Through calling on the Holy Spirit and trusting in the words and actions of Jesus, you can believe and know that you will see your husband again when “the love of Christ, which conquers all things, destroys death itself” (from the Catholic funeral ritual).So, what do you do with your anger?
First, I think you should make sure to express it to God. It’s not like God does not know it, so there is no sense in hiding it or even being ashamed. God sees your anger and longs to heal it, but He cannot do so until you give it to Him.
Think of the Mass. Every day, we bring before God bread and wine. We present them to Him and pray. As we pray, He transforms that bread and wine into His very self, and that would be enough for us to praise Him forever. But God goes beyond that: After He transforms them into His self, He gives them back to us, so that we can be transformed.
This mystery of love is right at the heart of Catholicism, and it, too, can serve to strengthen our hope. If God can do this to bread and wine, what can He do to my pain, which comes from love?
What you are experiencing now is awful. It is painful, and I’m so sorry you are enduring it. At the same time, I want to be clear that this is how saints are made. There is no way to grow in faith, hope, and love without pain. To deal with the pain, I invite you to not only give that pain to the Lord but to ask for the grace to reach out and find ways to serve.
The human person was not created for itself; it was created for God and others. When we meet the dark reality of our mourning by reaching out to God and others, we will see the slow, gentle process of healing begin. We will see that our pain and anger are not impediments to holiness but invitations to it.In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells us, “Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Ultimately, this is our hope. You are mourning, but you will be comforted. Your human love was infused with divine love, and it is eternal; the pain that this love is causing you now is temporary.
You and all who mourn are in my prayers.
Enjoy another day in God’s presence.