Question: I lost my 22-year-old daughter to a possible heroin overdose. I won't have the answers until the medical examiner's office speaks to me in a few weeks. I found her on the floor of her bedroom. A syringe was found in her bed. She'd recently come home from rehab. While she'd only been back a month, I thought we were doing all right. Relapse was always a concern, but I never thought I'd lose her. I spoke to her that morning. She was excited about a job interview and we were getting a Christmas tree that afternoon.
I was happy to have my daughter home. Hearing her snoring in her bedroom each evening gave me a peace that every mother knows — she's safe, she's home, we're going to be OK. I prayed every night, asking God to watch over her, to keep me and the family strong. Every time she walked out the door, I'd pray again; worry was a constant.
I haven't prayed since her death because God took my girl and I don't understand why. My mom died a few years ago from cancer. She was my best friend. Although difficult, her passing was more the natural order and I made peace with it. I also went through a painful divorce but was able to carry on. I remember thinking, "God only gives you what you can handle."
Why God took my child, after all our efforts to save her, I'll never know. This beautiful, intelligent, struggling girl was so loved. A caring, gentle soul, she was sick. As her parent, it was my job to get her better. No matter how long the struggle, I was willing to face it. Why couldn't God give me that chance?
I'm left with wonderful support groups that want me to speak, and incredible detectives who are investigating the drug dealer my daughter met the night before her death. The support has been helpful to me and my family, and I'm thankful for it. Now, tell me how to put my thoughts in order, to not hate the drug dealer who might have poisoned my baby, to believe in God and pray again.
— D., via email@example.com
Answer: I pray that God might receive the soul of your daughter in heaven. I pray that you might continue to find comfort from friends and other parents who've lost children to drug abuse. I'm not praying now that you'll find your way back to God.
I hope you do regain your faith in time, but grief has broken your spirit and made it difficult to find your way home to God. This is not the time to offer some facile theological defense of a good and powerful God. You need comfort, not religious lecturing. I pray that you might find comfort wherever you can.
I do see in your bewilderment and pain the beginning of healing that, I pray, in time will return you to your previous piety — not because God needs another worshipper but because you were religious before and that's your natural spiritual state. To lose your faith and daughter is like suffering two deaths.
I will share my beliefs about God and death, not to provide a defense of an accused God, but simply to explore what your faith actually teaches about God's providence.
God does not save us from death, no matter how we act. God gives us a way to live that will save us from some forms of death if we follow that path of righteousness. God gives us a choice: "I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live." (Deuteronomy 30:19).
God offers us a choice, not a promise. If we make the right choice, we'll be protected from some forms of premature death. Drug abuse is an addiction, but one that begins with a bad choice. That choice for death is tragic but it is on us, and not on God. God gave us free will to make of our life what we will it to be.
The only way for God to protect us from everything would be to take away our free will, an impossible choice for a good God. God is our teacher about life, not our guarantor of life. God grieves with us when we choose death over life and remains our savior and comforter if we reach out to God.
What God wants of us is what any morally sensitive, life-affirming, rational person should want. We should follow God's words because they are life-giving. We follow God the way a compass needle points to magnetic north; God's words point to moral north. Your daughter died not because she was immoral but because she was sick and couldn't find her way to moral north. That's not fully her fault, but it's certainly not God's fault.
God doesn't promise a comfortable life without pain or loss. Rather, God promises that if we turn to God in our suffering, God will not abandon us to despair. Turning to God is our way of affirming that hope, healing, love and nurture need not be defeated by the world's seductive evils.
The notion that God took your daughter is true in the sense that all life and death is in God's hands, but it's not true in the sense that our lives are ultimately the sum of our choices. Choosing life is not a single act, but a journey and daily struggle.
I pray that your daughter's journey continues in a place where her soul can find peace and that your journey will continue secure in the faith that we will not be separated forever from those we love.
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