I went to school in a very small town. This means, that between kindergarten and the time I graduated high school – I knew a whole lot about my classmates.
I know that Riley’s mom left their family when Riley was five. I know that Riley’s mom leaving broke his heart. I know that Kathleen’s parents got divorced when she was in high school. I know that this divorce made Kathleen bitter and angry. I know that Jake’s mom died when he was a baby, and he grew up with an alcoholic father. I know every day that Jake went to school he was laughed at, made fun of, and belittled. I know that every single person I went to school with had multiple painful events happen in their lives. I know that none of us goes through our lives without suffering.
In the past few months, an amazing family that I know has suffered some tremendous losses. When I think of the pain they feel, my heart aches. I couldn’t sleep at all last night, because I kept thinking the same thing that they were probably thinking…. “Why? God? Why this family? How do we go on?”
When I think of all of the pain I have watched people experience, one person stands out above the rest. Several years ago I met a man named David. When I met David, he was on top of the American Dream. He was just finishing grad school, he had just married a kind woman, and his wife had just given birth to a son. Three years later – David lost absolutely everything. One week after starting his new job – he was let go when the business suddenly closed. A few months after that, David found out his wife was having an affair. David and his wife tried to fix their marriage, but their relationship ended in divorce. Less than a year after getting divorced, the worse thing hit: David’s son died unexpectedly. In a very short amount of time, David went from everything – to nothing.
I watched David’s life unravel before me. I thought then what I thought last night, “Why? God? Why this man? How does he go on?”
A few years ago I volunteered at hospice, where I would go around and talk to patients that were dying (geez, I promise I’m not trying to make this super depressing – it gets better). Jan was one of the first patients with whom I visited. I asked Jan “How are you doing?” and she said, “You know, I feel so very alone, but I have all of these CDs that talk about dying and being alone. One of the CDs said it is good to feel alone, because you can only feel alone if you have experienced love.”
I am not sure why some people get the short end of the stick. I don’t know why some people experience more death, more pain, more suffering, more hurt. I don’t know why there are some people that are rich, some that are poor, and why there is so much inequality in the world.
However, there are three things for which I am certain.
First, I am certain that the only reason I know pain, is because I have experienced joy. I am certain that the reason I can enjoy life’s mountains, is because I have swam through the valleys.
Second, I know that there is always redemption: in this life and in the next.
David’s life unraveled before my eyes. However, somehow, David remained faithful to God. I hope that if I were in David’s shoes I would have as much faith. David kept going to church. David kept praying. David wrestled with anger, and hatred, and every other emotion you can imagine. Although David’s life was never the same, it went on. Today, David is happy. He has a job. He has new people that love him. Although life can never replace what he has loss, his loss is redeemed with new things. Where he felt loss, he now has peace. Where he felt anger, David feels calm. Beyond right now, there will be redemption in the afterlife. All we have lost will – somehow – be redeemed. I have faith in that.
Third, I know when to go on. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I suffer from severe depression. Several years ago I tried to commit suicide. The day after my failed attempt I woke up in a hospital and felt like crap (um, as expected). The moments after I woke up, I decided to do something important… I just stayed still. I stayed very still and I looked down at my chest. Amidst everything I was feeling, and amidst beeping machines and loud hospital tvs, I heard one of the most important things in the world – my breath. I had tried to end everything, but my lungs didn’t let me. A few hours beforehand, I didn’t want to be alive, but my chest kept rising and my lungs kept filling with air.
As long as there are air in my lungs, I am meant to be here and I am meant to go on. I am not always sure why. Sometimes I don’t feel important. Sometimes I wonder if I am contributing to the kingdom. Whenever I feel self-doubt – I lay still. In that quiet moment, I find the peace that surpasses all understanding. If God can fill my lungs with air, He wants me to go on. Not for me – but for Him. So I do. I might be angry, or hurt, or full of pain; but none of this is for me. Everything is for Him, and if He wants me to go on, I do and I will.