Another Open Letter to Pastor Joel Osteen
Dear Pastor Osteen,
From your recent Facebook and Twitter feeds:
“Don’t focus too long on trying to figure out why something didn’t work out the way you wanted. Keep pressing forward, don’t let bitterness take root, and you will come to a chapter in your future that will cause it to all make sense.”
“The enemy always fights us the hardest when we are closest to our victory. You’ve come too far to stop now.”
It's hard to tell exactly whether these posts and others like them are in response to the backlash from grieving parents all over the internet, but if so, I have to ask whether you or your staff, or whomever is posting these is thinking at all about the broken hearts of so many who are clearly saying to you, "Please listen to us!"
Just what if everything you think you know about pain, about grief, even about God, may not be exactly what you thought? The grief of a bereaved parent—indeed of any traumatically bereaved person--is not something that can just be “gotten over,” tidily swept up or under any rug or between the pages of the Bible. It is trauma. It is a depth of sadness and a constant yearning that can never properly be spoken of in words. It is a spiritual crisis unlike any other. And yes, perhaps it is true that God can know our hearts--if so, then God is the only one who can truly see this pain and not you or anyone else.
Grief is isolating. It is also pure unadulterated chaos—to the heart, mind, body and spirit. When you and others to whom the bereaved would wish to turn for support, for some semblance of empathy, insist that we should feel other than we do, even when that might also be our own wish--and no amount of prayer changes that, it serves only to further isolate and hurt.
God is love. If I know nothing else, I do know that. And I can plainly see that your actions of late do not communicate love. They communicate further isolation. Do you truly think there is nothing you can learn? Do you not know that Jesus humbled even Himself to sit with the brokenhearted? On His way to raise Lazarus from the dead, even He wept. He wept because He grieved. Why would He do that? He grieved because grief is a form of love. He loved His friend and He grieved. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.”
Pastor Osteen, why would you not wish to learn more of how to be an instrument of peace and of comfort. Since Jesus Himself spoke those words, why would you not think that perhaps these events are taking place because God is calling you out to learn more, to show love, to learn a kind of compassion that goes beyond what you have known previously? One does not have to be a bereaved parent to be compassionate and loving toward a bereaved parent. Do you truly see these thousands of bereaved parents as your enemies? Are you saying that it is the Enemy who is causing our grief? It’s very unclear. But what does seem clear is that your actions--failing to respond, blocking bereaved parents from your pages-- and even more, your inaction, are motivated not out of love, but out of fear. I ask you to move the way that love would move. When we move and behave the way love does, we can know that we are aligned with a higher purpose. I am praying for you Pastor that your heart will be unthawed and that you will lay down this armour of fear and hubris and learn from those who can teach.
As a bereaved parent, a licensed therapist with expertise in traumatic grief and bereavement, and a Certified Compassionate Bereavement Care Provider, I ask you to please consider taking Dr. Joanne Cacciatore up on her offer to gift your tuition in the CBC provider course. When we stop learning we stop growing. Ask yourself whether the Lord would want you to learn more about a large portion of His flock who need, more than anything else, love, non-judgmental support and leaders of faith who can truly sit with them in pain. It is not for you or anyone else to change the grieving person’s heart, but to witness and learn. I pray that you will move from love and hear the cries of the bereaved not simply as angry people who want to stay stuck in pain, but of hurt and marginalized people who want to be held rather than forced to heal before any healing that may be needed is ready to come.
With Love and Hope,
Karla Helbert, Mother to Theo
Licensed Professional Counselor, CBC Provider,
MISS Foundation Volunteer
Karla Helbert, LPC