If you're a Christian with a loved one who has suffered a devastating loss, don't assume that he or she will share an impending spiritual collapse with you. Anticipating and answering the question "How could a good God allow this?" may mean the difference between a lifetime of atheism and saving faith.
Consider my experience, recounted in this excerpt from my spiritual memoir, Heaven Without Her:
"What exactly are you supposed to do when that fairy tale has ended, when happily ever after is no more? No one had warned me about this.
“'Now do you understand how important it is to believe in God?' Mom asked me a few days after the funeral, as she helped pack my things for my return to school.
"We were in the big bay-windowed middle bedroom of the house on Quincy Street, the room that had finally been deeded over to me a few years earlier, when Andy had officially grown up and left home. It was a bright and cheerful room with flowered wallpaper and window seats and bookcases holding everything from a complete set of Nancy Drews to respectable collections of the Black Stallion and Tom Corbett Space Cadet series.
"I didn’t respond. It was hardly the time or place to discuss religion, in my opinion; as far as I could see, this God of hers had failed her big time.
"She sighed softly, sat down on the bed and gazed out the window. I concentrated on arranging my best dress neatly in the red suitcase, one of the set my parents had given me just a few months earlier as a high-school graduation gift.
“'I’m so sad,' she said finally, almost to herself.
"Indeed, she looked as though she had been weeping for days, although I hadn’t seen much of it; women of her era apparently kept their grief to themselves, so she had done most of her crying in the privacy of their bedroom.
“'But I know that your father is in heaven now,' she added, returning to the task at hand by folding my favorite pair of Plushbottoms jeans, 'and it’s better there than anything we could possibly imagine. And I’ll be there with him one day. We’ll all be with him again.'
“'I suppose,' I said, letting her have her little fairy tale. But in my heart, I refused to buy into it. I knew there was no proof that any of it was truer than what the Brothers Grimm had imagined. After all, science had shown that there didn’t even have to be a God at all. Hadn’t the theory of evolution been proven the mechanism that brought everything into being? And if there was no God, there would be no heaven, which meant my dad had probably just plunged into non-existence, which in turn meant that I would never see him again and that life was, in the end, futile.
"Thanks to thoughts like these, I didn’t handle the aftermath of my father’s death any better than I handled the fact of it. I used it as an excuse to turn my back on my hometown boyfriend and friends and just about anyone and anything capable of reminding me that there had even been such a dream of living happily ever after, somewhere out there." (Heaven Without Her, pp 14-15)