Hard World, Kind God

lonley_waterMost of the time, I live life like I’m dreaming. Maybe you’re the same. It takes no effort – the minutes propel us forwards, into routines of socks and schedules and sandwiches.  Days, weeks, months…years like waves, lulling us to sleep. Life – unchanging, except for a peppering of balloons and wreaths; anniversaries, birthdays and deaths.

But sometimes, something happens to shake us awake. An event.  Perhaps a tragedy. And once we’ve been woken, we can’t go back to sleep.  The world looks the same, but everything is different.  Things that didn’t matter before, now really do.  The worries that gnawed at us are eclipsed – by something bigger.  A problem, or maybe a recognition that the world is more than us, and no matter what we do to keep it small and safe, it won’t be contained.

I was thinking of this, reading an interview with Victoria Milligan.  Last year, her husband and eight year-old daughter were killed in a speedboat accident off the coast of Cornwall.

Victoria was struggling to hold on to her four-year-old son and swim away from the boat’s propeller when she heard her 12-year-old daughter, Amber, crying: “Daddy’s dead, Daddy’s dead.” For her, that was the moment when everything changed. She said, “My whole life was completely planned out and sorted with my lovely husband, and four children and … the rug has been pulled from underneath me.” She talks about how her life had been perfect – but she didn’t realise, until it was taken away.

The most famous verse from the book of Job picks up this theme. At a stroke, Job loses his children and wealth and he exclaims: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21)

It seems counter-intuitive but actually it makes sense: suffering draws out gratitude. When “the LORD takes away” we realise that everything was a gift. When it’s all gone, we realise what we’ve taken for granted. Even if you’re not a Christian – and I don’t think Victoria Milligan is one – suffering can wake us up to something we should understand all along: we exist by the grace of God. All that we have is what He gives us.

I pray that none of us have to experience suffering like Job or like Victoria Milligan. I can’t begin to imagine what she’s gone through – and her courage and strength is humbling. But whatever we are facing, good or bad – we have not earned, achieved or deserved our lives – we’ve been given them. Whatever is taken away reminds us that none of it was ours to begin with.

We sometimes think that suffering proves that God’s not there – or that He doesn’t care.  But I wonder if we shouldn’t approach it from the other end. Sometimes it’s the pain of this world that shows us the truth: that every moment we live by God’s kindness and grace.

2 thoughts on “Hard World, Kind God

  1. I read the same article a few weeks ago. Few things really touched me and one was when she described her life as perfect before the tragedy. Being a person with multiple losses in midst of my family one of the things really hit me during those extremely painful periods the lack of understanding and empathy from people who never experienced any losses in their lives. I remember going to my church 2 days after my 18 years old sister passed away. This forced happy clappy atmosphere waiting there for me, ‘you shouldn’t look like a lemon because God loves you’, etc. I felt like dying inside because of the pain and people just couldn’t get what means to deal with a shock (with some exceptions obviously). Or it was just easier to ignore it, pretending nothing has changed. I had at least one hundred more similar experiences during the next years and it came the moment when I HAD to accept the fact that people will never ever understand another human being who is struggling with grief and loss until they don’t go through the same experience. There is no way to get those feelings. They can have some empathy but understanding never. Articles like this gives me back the hope that God knows what He is doing and He has to let some of us walk through the valley of death to understand others. It might look like a disaster for others, people can ignore us because it’s easier to cling to the happy but the truth is that God is behind these events and He enabled and made us strong enough to walk on this path.

  2. Thank you Kinga. Very true – though sometimes He leads us through the valley of death, He is with us and strengthens us through it. And this helps us comfort others too.

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