Philosophers have wrestled with this problem of suffering through grief for as long as there have been philosophers. Jesus walked straight into the midst of this philosophical turmoil. He walked in and declared that tribulation of all kinds is to be expected in this life.
Then He said: “Follow me” through it. That would seem to end the turmoil and confusion, but it hasn’t. And only those who are willing to think it through realistically, in the presence of the One who has lived through both grief and death, can come to accept the suffering without bitterness.
Eugenia Price, No Pat Answers
Everyone suffers – even if I feel like I’m the only one in the world who is living a miserable life – I am not. Even when it feels no one else in all the world – or even my small part of it – is as miserable as I am – I need to, somehow, remember to look up and away from my misery if only for a moment and see that I am not the only person in turmoil. And to remember that this present pain and grief and misery does not have to be forever. It may feel like ‘forever’ but it isn’t – if I don’t want it to be.
God has gifted me – and everyone else in the world – with free will. Whether I remain in my misery is up to me. I can choose to go through it – not become bogged down and stagnated by the pain. No one makes me sit and wallow in my own grief. No one but myself.
When I choose not to move through the pain, when I choose not follow God through the misery then I am choosing to sit in a hell of my own making. And even if I blame God or the government or my spouse or my children or my job or the stranger on the street – it is still my choice to be where I am.
If I hate my life or what it has become or where it is going I have no one to blame but myself. I can scream and yell and become violent with myself or others but it won’t do any good. I am the one with the choice.
Which will I choose today?
He waits until we are able to think and then begins His actions through our sorrows.
¶The lengths of God’s waiting time vary according to the personality of the one who has come to Him for help. The variant is not on God’s side; it is on ours. He is always ready to begin the redemptive process. After all He is a Redeemer God. The variants are ours because we are all different in the swiftness or slowness with which we grasp truth and are able to act on it.
Eugenia Price, No Pat Answers
I have recently begun reading as many Ray Bradbury novels/short stories as the library has on their shelves. I thought I had never read him before but the more I read the more familiar some of the stories are to me – it seems I read him in the deep past and can remember not being too impressed. But now, they are seem new and fresh to me, even though they were written 40-50+ years ago. When I read some of his work before I don’t think I was ready for it. I didn’t understand it and was confused by the words and themes. But now that I am older, have a few more books and years under my belt, and not a bit wiser – now when I read it I am enthralled and captivated by his poetic prose. Mr. Bradbury’s writing is the stuff of dreams. Perhaps my brain or imagination was too bogged down with pain to really take in what he was offering. Perhaps there was just no space in my head to take on someone else’s world.
I have to wonder if that is what God is waiting on to act in our lives – not just our request, but our readiness and willingness to accept His Help – no matter what form it takes. When I pray for the healing of an injury or an illness of either myself or a loved one, am I truly prepared, willing and ready to accept His answer? After all, that answer might mean the Ultimate Healing – moving on into His Eternal Presence.
When I first read Ray Bradbury I wasn’t ready for the beauty of his words and world. Now I am and I savor and appreciate those same words – words that haven’t changed – I have changed.
When I ask God to help me, He hasn’t changed from one year or one day to the next – it is I who have changed. Perhaps I am ready now for the work He wants to do in me. I wasn’t ready before. I wasn’t willing. I was afraid of the consequences. And maybe I’m still not ready for all of the work; but I am ready for some of it and He knows just what I am ready for.
…I have too much of the vanity of human affairs to expect felicity from the splendid scenes of public life. I am still determined to be cheerful and to be happy in whatever situation I may be;
for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our disposition, and not upon our circumstances.
We carry the seeds of the one or the other about with us in our minds wherever we go.
–Martha Washington, Letter to Mercy Otis Warren, December 26, 1789.
William O. Foss, First Ladies Quotations Book
Each morning upon awakening I have a choice – to be cheerful and happy or to be miserable and grumpy. More often than not I choose to be miserable and grumpy. That is my natural state of being. For some souls, their natural state of being is happiness and cheerfulness. And people like that can drive me crazy! (I used to have a roommate that was like that – my goodness cheerfulness is hard to take in the morning!) Later, after I’ve woken up a bit, then I am able to make the choice to be cheerful despite my circumstances.
I do agree with Martha Washington, that we make up our minds as to how we want our lives go – at least as far as we look at it. Like everyone on this planet I have had days (weeks, months, even years) when the world seems to fall down around me and inside me. Some of that time is spent in justifiable grumpiness and misery; after all, to deny the emotion is to just postpone its expression.
But at some point the misery just becomes a habit and is no longer of value. I have to choose to be happy and cheerful. So even if I don’t feel like it, don’t want to do it yet know I must do it, I put a smile on my face and try to be cheerful. This is my first step toward understanding a lesson in joy.
I don’t just want to be happy or cheerful. That smacks of hiding behind a mask of false emotion. But in order for me to get there – to get to joy – I must be willing to receive it; and for me to be willing is to be cheerful and try to find the bright side of my life. I often look to my furchildren for both joy and happiness. They make me laugh, they comfort me, and express their love to me in their own unique ways.
I guess what I’m really saying is each of us has a choice – a choice to sit in cow dung or to get out, take a shower and get on with life. What will you choose?