Since it’s Lent, I am taking the time to meditate upon the gift of sorrow. During the past ten years, I have witnessed a number of tragedies, beginning with the death of my aunt in July of 2001. She died almost instantly in a car accident while on vacation with her family in Colorado. She had been active in the Church towards the end of her life, often touring the country to talk about stewardship. Her death completely stunned us. It made all of us wonder why something like this would happen to someone whose faith had compelled her to live in service to God.
A few months later, the tragedy of 9/11 struck at the hearts of everyone in the nation. The lives of so many husbands and fathers were stolen by an act that completely disregarded the value of human life. These men had families, and their families needed them. It was something to make us wonder.
Since then, in our small community of friends and acquaintances, we have seen so many suffer the death of a spouse or the loss of a child, and we always wonder.
Tonight as I think about all of the devastation in Japan, again, I find myself wondering. What is it about suffering that God wants us to learn? I know that when someone suffers, it compels us to compassion and true empathy. We find ourselves asking what it would feel like to walk that path that might have seemed so distant before. Witnessing someone else’s suffering is transformative. It calls us to consider our purpose in life, to caste away the endless debris of worldly concerns that constantly invade our minds. And if we allow it, the observation of suffering will penetrate our hearts to make us into actual participants in the suffering of others.
It is this experience of suffering that gives me joy, not happiness, but true joy. It is the bittersweet mixture of sadness and hope. We mourn for the evil of death and the world that would take from us the happiness of living with those we love, but we also experience the love of Christ that surrounds us with the comfort of people who are always mindful of the hope of everlasting peace and heavenly bliss.
Tonight as I pray for those who are suffering in Japan, my hope is that they will recognize how in their moment of vulnerability, God’s arms are reaching out to embrace and hold them in communion with His people, we who suffer with them in Christ.