No doubt you have heard this before. It shows up in social media. Well meaning people tell it to suffering people. I know it is shared with good intentions. But is it helpful? Is it true?
All you have to do is look around you to know it isn’t true. Not everyone emerges stronger from difficulties. People are damaged, crushed and weakened by things that happen to them. People are bitter after an accident or serious disappointment. People do not recover after failures. People are devastated by grief. People remain emotionally scared from trauma, or bullying, or abuse. We don’t like to talk about it but plenty of us live our lives weakened by the scars we bear.
And because this phrase isn’t true, it also isn’t helpful. If I emerge from my trouble weaker rather than stronger, did I somehow not do tragedy correctly? This phrase ignores the reality of brokenness and can make the broken feel guilty.
The reality is that we are not promised survival. We are not promised sufficient strength. Good does not always emerge from evil. The world is a tragic place and too often evil seems to prevail. Ignoring this terrible reality doesn’t make it go away. And it certainly doesn’t help those who are deeply wounded by life.
I don’t need a platitude from you. I don’t need false assurances that everything will be alright. Don’t say this is part of God’s mysterious plan for me.
Listen to me. Acknowledge my pain and my weakness. Cry with me. Grieve with me.
And let me listen to you and acknowledge your pain and your weakness. Let me cry with you and grieve with you.
Remind me that God grieves with me. Remind me that God cries with me. And I will remind you.
The world and our lives can be tragic. And somehow if we honestly care for each other- one broken person to another- there is something beautiful and life giving here too. Beauty and tragedy, joy and sorrow are all part of life in this world and God is in the midst of it all. I cannot begin to explain this.
All I know how to do is to trust the Good News. The Good News is not that we overcome tragedy. The Good News is that this isn’t the end. It isn’t finished. The Good News of Easter assures us that tragedy, suffering and pain do not have the final word. Somehow our suffering is redeemed. Somehow we will be made whole. Someday the world will be set right.
So, let’s not offer shallow and unhelpful platitudes to each other. I don’t need that and I suspect you do not either. Let’s offer each other our presence and our support. Let’s remind each other of the Good News. Again and again and again until it comes to pass.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
‘See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.’
And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ (Rev 21;1-5, NRSV)