Consulation

286There is richness in suffering.  Goodness.   Until my last breath I will wish this wasn’t my story, but I’m pretty sure with my first breath in heaven I’ll be glad that it was.

To be perfectly honest, I’m finally giving up on happiness.  It’s been mostly absent or worthless to me for over a year now anyway, wisping about like bits of sight that remain once you’ve closed your eyes. The thing about happiness is how elusive, how draining it is.  You can pour into it all the time and still not discover anything meaningful.  Tricks, habits, patterns, choices… over and over and you will never actually be happy. One more thing, one more action… I’m almost happy, but then of course I could be happier…

But suffering?  Perhaps we’re best suited for suffering. Brokenness, sadness, emptiness, longing… these things come naturally, we can’t avoid them if we tried. With suffering, the burden of ‘doing’ is entirely on God – the one and only who can fill the gaping hole that expands into eternity.

Some people get huge suffering, the kind that guts a life of all sense and reason.  Sometimes the suffering is slow, steady and additive. Sometimes we can go long stretches where pain is held out at arms length, but always – for everyone – we suffer. 

We have been promised suffering, and yet we still fight against it – still refuse to believe it. I look at my little girls and realize that God has promised them suffering too, that already their little hearts and minds know pain beyond what I would choose for them… or maybe it’s exactly what I want for them… Suffering so great, that God’s comfort is stronger, bigger, fuller, and more real than it could’ve ever been before.

God’s promise of comfort for those who mourn always seemed like a strange consolation prize. Because you missed out on Earth’s ‘happy’ you get God’s comfort instead – an ambiguous, vague thing that is somehow supposed to be special…

But what if the ‘happy’ we cling to, and expect, and desire… What if ‘happy’ is the actual consolation prize? What if suffering is actually the only path to real happiness?  What if God’s comfort IS the prize – the greatest prize? What if my capacity for joy and fullness is only possible because of my deep brokenness, my overwhelming agony, my great pain?

I know I could never be the person I am today without the loss of Graham.  I must take a long deep breath after a statement like this, let it sink in… let it hurt.  Many would assume that a truth like this makes his death ‘worth it’, and I say with quiet resolve – NO, not worth it. Only heaven can redeem his death – only heaven.  But there is some sort of strange meaning, some deep purpose.  Beyond me… beyond him… maybe it’s the story of Jesus entwining through us?

I don’t want this suffering, but I do want this God.

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4 thoughts on “Consulation

  1. Nikki Harris March 23, 2015 / 9:39 pm

    I read every one of your blog posts. To say I “enjoy” them doesn’t seem right—as I don’t enjoy to read that you’re experiencing pain. I do enjoy your writing and appreciate your journey through grief. I’ve never had a child, never been pregnant, so I can’t empathize with losing a child. My dad died when I was young, leaving behind a young family. I see so much of my grief process in yours, though I know it’s not the same. Thank you for your beautiful, honest words. I feel like my 24 year old journey of grief has finally found a kindred spirit, knowing the angst, confusion, brokenness, and anger (yet the odd conflict of knowing you are WHO you are because of it) were not so strange after all.

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  2. Gretchen March 24, 2015 / 4:38 pm

    There is so much here, Kristin. Happiness seems futile to me, especially after the loss of my boys. I’d questioned its merit ever since I was a teenager and couldn’t cross my own life experience with what the world promises regarding happiness.

    My mother suffers with progressive MS. She developed it in 1988, so it’s been a long, suffering-filled road for my parents and me. There is caretaker stress, constant medical crises/bills/logistics, loss of physical (and mental) abilities one by one, marital and family relationship fracturing, “friends” that disappear because of the difficult logistics of hanging out with a disabled person, chronic joblessness as a result of all the caretaking and stress. Just to name a few. Things tend to get worse, slowly and painfully, over time, with this disease. There isn’t any real “happy” in being part of my particular family. It is difficult, very, very difficult. Your words – slow, steady and additive – yep, that’s it. And now, in the life I’ve created with my husband, with the reality of our two dead children, happiness completely eludes us too.

    And yet, I look around and see that attempts at happiness are everywhere. People, even people I’m close with, people who haven’t experienced such dire or persistent suffering, seem to be satisfied with striving for happiness. It seems to make them,… well,… happy! People do believe that God wants to see them whole and happy and healthy. It is so disorienting when the promise of wholeness and health have been essentially lies in your own life.

    I think about Job a lot. I think about people who live in third world countries, who don’t have time to think about happiness because they are too busy trying to find food and shelter and simply stay alive. I think about children who are treated poorly, trafficked as work slaves or for sex…, and children whose parents don’t really care about them. These are not just stories. They are real people and somehow, we still think we deserve happiness while these realities continue to exist.

    I don’t think God has actually promised anyone’s wholeness or health or happiness. I think for 90% of the prayers that (first-world) humanity sends up to God, He probably cocks his head and wonders why we so boldly ask for things He has never promised. While so much of humanity is intensely suffering.

    I have no idea what suffering’s purpose actually is, except for the consolation of God’s comfort. “Blessed are those who mourn…” I may be forever working on why and how that is a blessing. Your words have of course piqued, again, my curiosity.

    Sorry I’ve gone on too long here and probably not stayed on topic. You and Graham continue in my thoughts. It is comforting to know someone else has abandoned the concept of happiness. (Not that I wouldn’t wish you happiness if it were *real*).

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  3. drwengel March 24, 2015 / 7:45 pm

    I love your thoughts Gretchen. I wonder if our drive for happiness is a warped version of ‘heaven on our hearts’ what should point us to a savior and a world-restored instead provides endless circles of unfulfilment and disappointment. I’ve been meditating (which sounds too churchy a word, but is still the best fit, I think) on Romans 5:3-5 for a long time now. I don’t have it figured out, I can’t understand it really… But I wonder if all of human existence isn’t somehow contained in this scripture….

    Suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope.

    I’ve come to love and respect Kara Tippets (mundanefaithfulness.com ) who over and over again found goodness, love and beauty in the very heart of her suffering. Oh how she suffered, but God was there – in it and through it – he is IN the suffering. I’m not sure God is anywhere close to happiness… It’s a man-made, sin dripping lie that we use to try and stuff up the God sized hole in our existence.

    That being said, I’ve seen suffering ruin people. Bitterness, anger, hate take hold where goodness and beauty could be. I think the difference is God, it has to be… but it isn’t that simple, is it?

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  4. sdalton1989 March 30, 2015 / 1:52 pm

    This was simply beautiful ❤ I needed to read this today. Thank you!

    Like

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