Monday, July 19, 2010

Lessons in Suffering: He Is There


"Who will tell whether one happy moment of love or the joy of breathing or walking on a bright morning and smelling the fresh air, is not worth all the suffering and effort which life implies." -- Erich Fromm

I have heard people express discomfort to feel the world rushing by when they are in crisis -- to know that life keeps going and Earth keeps turning even when their own world is in turmoil. I experienced this odd sensation myself a couple of years ago when Joe became very ill and was rushed from our small community hospital to a more metropolitan facility for emergency gall bladder surgery.
Following the ambulance through rush-hour traffic, it was difficult to keep pace with the paramedics. I kept up with the ambulance for most of the drive into town, but the distance between us grew as traffic thickened and more cars crowded the lanes between us. As we approached the interstate, I watched the swirling red lights speed into the distance while I sat several cars back stopped at a red light.
Looking at the traffic stalled around me, I realized as a tear rolled down my cheek that no one in the cars around me knew that the ambulance weaving its way into the distance held the only man I have ever truly loved.
I looked at the drivers around me, considering where they were going. There was a businessman in the turning lane to my left, waiting impatiently to merge onto the interstate. Up since 5, he had endured a hectic day of meetings. He had put out one fire after another at the office all day, and he still had one more appointment before he could head home. Ahead of me, a mini-van rumbled with activity and chatter as several school-age children headed to soccer practice, their mother making mental notes about the afternoon's agenda as she called to the children to use their indoor voices. To my right, a young woman glanced at the clock, trying to decide if she should head to the gym as planned or give in to her craving for a caramel frappe instead. Her cellphone interrupted her thoughts, and she smiled to see that he did call after all.
All those people driving along life's highway -- focused on work; in the throes of raising their families; hoping this could be the start of something special. 
Feeling the world rush by me as I sat in traffic, I felt alone in my grief. And yet I felt strangely comforted as well. How many times had I crossed over that interstate before, my heart and mind full of my own thoughts and plans? Even in the midst of Joe's health crisis, I realized how blessed I am to have cruised through most of my life, blissfully unaware of the road blocks that lay ahead.

Realizing that Earth keeps turning even when we are suffering brings comfort when we realize that life can go on because God holds the future in His hands. The Bible reminds us that God is sovereign (Psalm 103:19), faithful (2 Thessalonians 3:3) and unchanging (Malachi 3:6). When we understand these aspects of His divine nature, we can trust His promises to care for us.
  • "God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1).
  • "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
  • "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).
  • "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze" (Isaiah 43:1-2).
When we find ourselves stalled along life's highway -- with traffic tangling, roadblocks looming, dreams crashing, red lights swirling in the distance -- we can feel comforted knowing that He is still in charge. And even in the midst of struggle, if we open our eyes, we will see that His blessings still surround us. Above us clouds roll across a beautiful blue sky. Wildflowers bloom along the roadside. And even on our darkest days, the sun will rise and set.
God knows. And He cares. Though the world rushes on, He is there. And that makes all the difference.

"[A]nd, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world" (Matthew 28:20).

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