The first two weeks of summer have been full of tragedy in our community. A boating accident turned a family of 5 into a family of 2 and took the life of a 13-year-old family friend as well. A few cities over, a plane crash made orphans of 3 sons whose parents, sister and brother didn’t survive. One state away a father with ties to our community accidentally ran over his 9-year-old son. These are tragedies that take your breath away. These are tragedies that make your heart ache to even think about- so I can’t imagine what they are like to live through. These are tragedies that send you to your knees, and cause even the most faithful among us to pause and ask the question– Why? If there is a God, why does He allow such painful and devastating things to happen to His children?
I won’t pretend to know for certain the answer to that question. But, as I have watched loved ones go through incredibly difficult trials, I have come to see that there is most definitely a purpose behind suffering. Knowing that doesn’t take the pain away or make everything ok again- but understanding that there is a reason and a purpose behind it is really the only thing that can make it worth enduring.
I believe we are all children of God and as such, we have His love inside of us. It is part of our purpose here on earth to learn how to let that love lead us in all our interactions, thoughts, words, and actions. I want you to picture for a moment a world without any suffering. A world where everything goes perfectly for everyone. A world where everyone has everything they could ever want. As wonderful as that sounds, I believe if this were the case, pride and selfishness would fill our hearts rather than love, and God would be forgotten. Our hearts would not be drawn to each other and we would think we were the creator of all our blessings.
Maybe I’m wrong. But it seems under these conditions we would become very self-centered and caught up in our own little world– no one else would need anything from us, so we could spend our days just making sure we were happy, entertained, and comfortable. But our ability to love and feel true joy would be limited because one of the laws of the universe seems to be that there must be opposition in all things. We can’t know what true joy is and appreciate it until we have experienced its opposite.
In the midst of tragedy, I have observed some of the greatest love I’ve ever seen manifest. For some reason, watching others suffer seems to draw out the most loving and tender feelings we possess as humans. We are moved to act, to lift, to help, to reach out, and to ease another’s burden. It is sad that suffering seems to be the most effective tool to draw these heavenly characteristics out of us. It would be ideal if we all just loved and served without prompting.
Love is at the very core of who God is, and we should strive to make love the very core of who we are. Have you noticed how all our selfishness and worldliness can miraculously be dissolved the moment we witness the suffering of another person? When we tune into what they are going through, we forget our own struggles that now seem trivial in comparison. I have wondered if perhaps we agreed before coming to earth to go through certain trials because we knew it would help ourselves and others grow in our capacity to love– and that is the whole purpose of our existence.
Taking the time to serve and lift someone who is struggling is the fastest route to experiencing true joy and the quickest way to change our hearts. Service is the key that unlocks the divine love that exists in each of us. Without the opportunity to serve, it would forever stay locked up inside of us. As difficult as it can be to be the one who is in need of love and help from others, please realize what a blessing you are to those who have the opportunity to reach out you and let them offer their hearts to you in acts of service.
The hope we can hold onto in times of trial is that somehow, through tragedy, God can work miracles in the hearts of those who mourn and those who choose to mourn with those who mourn. When we turn to God instead of to bitterness, He uses the experience to refine us and help us become who we have the potential to become as His children. He can take our heartaches and suffering and, with His wisdom and power, transform them into blessings that ultimately work together for our good– if we let Him.
Suffering humbles us, strengthens our relationship with God, strips away our worldliness, focuses our thoughts on eternal things, re-charts our course to align it with God’s will for us, and brings us out on the other side a more compassionate person with a quiet inner strength that can only come from seeing God’s hand in our lives as we endure in faith. Through suffering, if we turn to God, He will show us that He knows our name, knows our sorrows, and that He is there waiting to walk through them with us.
If you are the one who is suffering, please know that though your heart feels like it has been ripped wide open and your ability to feel pain has been taken to a whole new excruciating level, God has the power to fill that new cavern in your heart with love and joy that you previously could not have experienced- and He will, in time– if you turn your heart to Him.
Though you may feel surrounded by darkness right now, know that the sun will rise for you again. Search for that first glimmer of light and when you find it, cling to it until it has a chance to grow and brighten the world around you. The pain may never completely leave you in this life, but you can have hope that, with God’s help, instead of it being at the forefront of your mind and in your heart affecting every breath you take, with time and healing, the pain will fade into the background. And you will learn things and gain things from this experience that you could not learn or gain in any other way.
I have witnessed this firsthand watching loved ones face their heart-wrenching trials with faith. At first, the only thing they could do was take life one minute at a time to get through the pain, but as the years have passed and they have allowed the Lord to lead them along one step at a time, they have found hope and joy again beyond what they could have imagined. And they have the hope and promise that all they have lost will be restored to them a hundred times over in the eternities if they put their trust in God and keep moving forward with faith.
With new found empathy, you will be able to influence and lift countless others who you will encounter throughout your life who are suffering– and this will fill you with joy and purpose. You will be a more effective instrument in the Lord’s hands to ease the burdens placed on other’s backs and to help them have the courage to move forward because you will be a walking witness that there is still joy to be had in this life no matter the trials we may be facing at this moment.
My mother used to recite this poem to me and it gives me courage when I’m struggling:
In the furnace, God may prove thee,
Thence to bring thee forth more bright,
But can never cease to love thee,
Thou are precious in His sight.
God is with thee, God is with thee.
Thou shalt triumph in His might.
So, don’t give up. There are brighter days ahead. Be patient with yourself. Trust in the Lord’s path for you and walk it one step at a time until you find the hope and joy that is waiting for you as you endure in faith.