I’ve been pondering how life is filled up with rollercoasters lately. One minute you’ll be on the top of the world feeling like you are really getting somewhere. And then suddenly there is a sucker punch and you feel like the world just might swallow you or those you love right up. You find yourself asking the age-old question: why do bad things happen to good people? This question has been asked over and over again in all the world and from every walk of life as people try to make sense of things I think. Why can’t things be wrapped up nice and tidy like in the story books? God has promised “I will not forsake you.” So why does it sometimes feel as if He is so far away?
Some Dark Days
Lately I have been covering the good stuff over here on the blog. The glossy. Sometimes it’s trickier to share the more vulnerable. But there have been some dark days sifted in with all the good.
A Big Loss
My darling niece had a difficult pregnancy. A mass in the baby’s lung necessitated an in-utero procedure and so much worry mixed in with awe at modern medicine. The baby came early and was taken straight to surgery. Oh that tiny girl fought hard but she wasn’t able to recover and we lost her.
I have marveled at this beautiful young mother and father who have rallied together with extended family as they have grappled with this huge blow and taken in the love all of us are trying to funnel in. I have watched my sister-and-brother-in-law, (the grandparents), morph into a rock for everyone to lean on. The holding of a family together when they lose themselves for a little while I’m sure is such a delicate balance. The beauty of a family buoying each other as they grieve. Pink bows as a symbol. A home filled to the brim with people who love this family and that lost baby for a memorial. Tiny handprints. The only tangible piece of that baby they can keep. But maybe the love intertwined really becomes tangible in hearts as well: the strongest gift that can be given.
My dear uncle was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last month and was given only a few months to live. Those “few months” went much more quickly than anticipated and we lost him last week. My heart is aching for his family he left behind. And for my dad who has now lost another brother.
My cousin’s eight-year-old daughter passed away unexpectedly from a rare heart condition. I cannot fathom how this feels for a mother. How it feels for her siblings. How can human beings go on after a blow like this?
We found out Lucy’s dear friend’s mom has breast cancer. The type of cancer that has already taken three of her sisters.
I have been pondering the stages of grief. Any ways to buoy those I love wading through the unimaginable. Trying to pour my heart into the things we have dropped off, trying to somehow transform mere objects or food into some kind of holy offering filled with all our love.
But mostly praying that they can somehow see God in the darkness. And hear the whisperings of angels in the trees.
Dark days at home
Already wrapped up in the sorrow of these things, there have been some darkest of dark days for Lucy. She is a fighter. But we are all struggling with the darkness creeping in under the doorways and through all the cracks. Oh we put on happy faces, but sometimes there are distorted, grief-stricken faces hidden carefully beneath. Dave and I are at such a loss as to how to handle all this. We are wrestling with God on this one. How can we step away enough to let her have the independence she wants? How can we help her find success? And the companionships with friends she craves.
In the midst of my pondering, my churning heart, in church during Sunday School our teacher showed this video:
It was somehow just the straw that broke the camel’s back. I sat there with giant tears quivering in my eyes, willing myself not to start bawling. Those words from President Eyring washing over me.
“The Lord has promised, ‘I will not forsake you’.”
Art by Caitlin Connolly
I do believe this. That He will not forsake us. And also that “the heavens weep with us” (the title of that beautiful painting). Even when it feels as if God is far away. There have been so many miracles encapsulated right in the heart of the darkness. So many sacred things wrapped into the hurt and the shadows. But we have to be looking for them.
Breadcrumbs to help me understand
Back to the question posed, which is really Lucy’s question in different forms on repeat these days: why do bad things happen to good people?
And so I am always looking. Picking up the bread crumbs to help her make sense. To help me make sense too. So when I come across things like James 1:2-4 I take note:
Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations [JST=afflictions]: knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work.
Or Peter 1:7 where it says:
That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.
Count it all joy? Afflictions more precious than gold??
Sometimes I think it might take time to feel that joy or to recognize the golden threads. Some dips in that rollercoaster ride seem to have never-ending track down there. Some of the difficult things in life will some day be in our wakes. And some will be permanently attached.
But as President Eyring said in the video, “He has promised angels to bear us up on our left and right. And He always keeps His word.”
And I love Father Richard Rohr’s thoughts on this topic as well:
“The primal howl of existential suffering holds within it the lesson that we all must learn at some time in our lives: To heal from our suffering—not merely to ease or palliate it, but to transform it into the source and substance of our growth and wisdom—requires a journey through it.”Center for Action and Contemplation
God is in the details
I believe that even though terrible things happen in this life, often to such good people, God is in the details. He wants to help us transform beauty from ashes. Jesus, that little baby who was born in that manger all those years ago came to be “among us.” To help us pick up the broken pieces and work to lean in again.
He has gone through the deepest of the deep so that He can comfort our hearts when those inevitable “bad things” happen.
He has the power to heal us. Even if it takes a long, long time.
I believe God is a God of love. And we are praying each day that the holes left from all this loss can be filled with that power.