When disaster, loss or severe illness strikes, the first thing our grieving hearts usually ask is “Why?” Why is this happening to me? Why did this happen to my loved one? Why did this happen now? While we may never receive an answer from that nagging question, (or a satisfying one, at least), there are things we can learn from those disasters and the grief that often accompanies them.
~ Life is hard. Really hard. Sometimes it doesn’t seem like it’s worth living. Sometimes all we seem to be able to do is cope. A friend of mine divulged her innermost feelings after learning she had a brain aneurysm in a dangerous place in her brain and had to undergo risky, new surgery to correct it. (Which, by the way, involved removing her right eye without damaging the optic nerve, clamping the artery behind it in her brain, and reinserting the eye.) “If I didn’t believe in God, love Him, trust Him, and know that He was in control, I’d commit suicide. What’s the point of living this hell if there is no point? I’d end it.” In a nutshell, God was the only thing that kept her going. And she survived to spread the word about His greatness during the ordeal.
~ We have less control over our lives than we thought. In fact, we have very little control. On any given day we could awaken to disaster. Yesterday we were vibrant and full of health. (Or at least we thought we were.) Today we get a call from our doctor telling us we have Stage 4, inoperable cancer. We visit our doctor, who looks at us with a pained expression and says, “You have six months. I would suggest you get your affairs in order.” Or we get a visit from a policeman and the police department’s resident grief psychologist, telling us there’s been an accident…and your mind goes number after they tell you your daughter’s not coming home. Ever.
Realizing you lack control can at first be unnerving. But it can also be liberating, knowing there is Someone in control, and He knows exactly what’s going on. We suddenly understand that our life is really not our own, and that’s not so bad. When we’re allowing Him to order our lives, His way of having us live gives us more freedom to relax and enjoy the years we—and our loved ones— have been given. It is a simple faith that allows Someone else to worry about the big picture instead of us stressing over it.
~ We learn to be thankful. Thankful for what we have. Thankful for what we had. Thankful for what we had that we didn’t realize we had. (That, unfortunately, may initially add to our sorrow, because we no longer have it, though.) If we do not allow our hearts to become bitter, we can have hearts overflowing with love and thanksgiving. We usually love better and more deeply and have more compassion for our fellow man.
Recently, after teaching at a writers group, one of the members said to me, “I hope I don’t embarrass you by telling you this, but it’s so much fun to watch your eyes when you’re talking. They sparkle, they’re so expressive and bright.” I told her that her comment wasn’t embarrassing, and that I very much appreciated it. Then I added, “Actually, I appreciate it more than you can imagine. When we took family pictures seven months after our daughter Victoria died, I looked at those pictures and noticed how flat and pained my eyes looked. They looked dead. And I wondered if there would ever be any life in them again. So, thank you, you have no idea how much that comment means to me.”
I am thankful.
~ We learn that pain, loss and grief sometimes make us better, stronger people. Our faith deepens, our love for God magnifies, and, in turn, He magnifies Himself in our lives.
Time after time I talk to people who have suffered immeasurable pain, loss and suffering, and most of them say the same thing: “I was so close to God during that time, it was wonderful. And I am so much closer to Him now.” One man stood up and boldly told a group I attended about the horrendous head pain he experienced following his brain tumor surgery and recovery. Then he added, “I was never so close to the Lord as I was then.” Tears streamed down his cheeks as he added, “I wish I could go back there.”
Several in our group nodded, with recognition and agreement flickering in our eyes. We were a little like-minded fraternity of grateful sufferers.
~ Finally, we often learn that there is evil in the world, and there are evil forces that want to destroy us emotionally, physically and spiritually. Your pain, suffering and grief may be collateral damage of the war raging between the spiritual forces in the heavens and on Earth. Don’t ever forget we are living on a battle ground.
Undoubtedly, you can think of more things learned through suffering, pain, grief and loneliness. What can you add to this list?
Next week: Finding light in dark, windowless rooms; or another way to look at the darkness of fear and grief.
Until next week,
Thanks for joining me!
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/15390598@N08/4840832633">Roadside</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">(license)</a>