Most of us know someone for whom life has been particularly hard. Maybe they live with chronic pain, have faced the loss of a child, or have faced multiple adversities. Perhaps you’ve been in this place too. If so, you’ll know that dealing with these challenges can be spiritually depressing. We want God to intervene, but He hasn’t. And that can leave us feeling sad, lonely, and angry.
Last year I received two pieces of extremely sad news within a few hours. First came the news that a dear friend died of a sudden heart attack. Steve, who was only 60 years old, was a good man who loved Jesus and his family. A few hours later brought the tragic news of a dearly loved couple whose marriage collapsed under the weight of an adulterous affair.
Their faces are wrung with anguish. Bloodied survivors of a terrorist attack stumble out of their Kenyan campus. German families grimly gather at a crash site in the French Alps. Nepalese parents dig through rubble, desperately calling the name of their lost child. As long as we live in a fallen world, humans will have moments when it seems we can’t go on.
A euphemism is “a polite expression used in place of words or phrases that otherwise might be considered harsh or unpleasant to hear.” Instead of saying, “We ended our dog’s life,” we say, “We put our dog to sleep.”
Our young daughter has developed the habit of singing whenever I cut her toenails. Her musical expression seems to shift her focus from the instinct to pull her foot away to the joy of happy melodies. Research has proven the physiological, neurological, and emotional benefits of singing. So belting out your favorite tune will help elevate your mood, boost your immune system, and benefit your brain.
It was a great tragedy for our whole community. My daughter’s first-grade teacher died in childbirth, along with her baby. She was just 36 years old. It broke my heart to see her in a casket with the baby in her arms.
For two of my friends, this yuletide season will be a difficult one. They’ve both lost loved ones during this period, and the festive season reminds them of the painful absence. Sometimes it’s hard to feel joyous during Christmas.
When a family member of two of my co-workers was killed in a construction accident, the love for this outgoing outdoorsman, faithful husband, and father of two was on full display. The country church he called home couldn’t possibly handle all the mourners, so the service was moved to a larger sanctuary. Friends and family flooded the church building! And the unspoken message of the abundant attendees was clear: Tim Dougherty touched many lives in a way that was uniquely his because he lived life with his strong, loving arms wrapped around his family and friends.
Finishing up a long day’s work, I pressed the touch screen on my computer one last time and saw a date that was very familiar. Just like that it hit me: Today is my dad’s birthday. Quickly my thoughts went to my mom. Widowed 20 years ago, my mother is a living testimony of God’s provision and strength for those who come face to face with life’s hard unpredictability.
Some dear friends of mine lost their little boy, Raphael, to death after just 8 weeks of life. Although my heart broke for them and I longed to be a comfort, I had no idea how to ease their pain.
Taking his dark, weathered hands in mine, we bowed to pray. As a custodian (him) and as a teacher (me), our different life experiences intersected in my tiny office this week. His mother had been sick for some time, and the disease that had previously been confined to one area had now spread to her entire body. Confident of God’s ability to heal, we prayed for Him to restore her body—and we also asked for the miracle of comfort that supersedes death. Tonight, her son sits by her bedside and knows he will soon have to say goodbye. For now, anyway.
Near the closing of the film Forrest Gump, Forrest is standing alone at the foot of the grave of his dearly beloved Jenny: “You died on a Saturday morning. And I had you placed here under our tree. . . . Momma always said dyin’ was a part of life. I sure wish it wasn’t.”
A few months after his son’s tragic death, my friend told me that people who had been close were now avoiding him and his family. He said it was as if people no longer wanted to be around them. I asked him why he thought the poor comforters were acting this way. His answer troubled me, for I knew it was the hard truth: “When people don’t feel they can fix a situation, they try to pretend it’s not there. They feel embarrassed.”