Two women - one a friend, the other a woman I don't know, but stay updated on her condition through a closed blog - were perfectly healthy three months ago. Now, both of them are in hospice at home. Another sweet friend, lost twins at almost twenty-four weeks. Each day she deals with their loss as well as with infertility.
My neighbors will soon recognize the one year anniversary of the sudden death of their sister and mother. I grew up in a home that not only lacked nurturing and love, but actually caused scarring pain. I compare my lifelong aftereffects to wearing a coat lined with tacks and nails, and a few patches that only occasionally rests on a hanger.
These people - myself included - would be considered "good people" who've had extraordinary circumstances interrupt their lives, some compromising their ability to function fully in life with family and friends.
Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote a book in 1981, "When Bad Things Happen To Good People", after his son died two days after his fourteenth birthday from progeria, a disease that causes rapid aging. Rabbi Kushner said he wrote the book for himself "out of his own needs". He discusses God and misconceptions people often have about God when illness or other life injustices happen.
Almost thirty years ago, a close friend died in an accident at a state park. As she was placed in the ambulance, an EMT said to her husband, "This must be God's will for you and her." Her husband, a pastor, replied, "If her fall and death is God's will, then God's will stinks." A few days later at her funeral, through his tears explaining details of the accident, he said, "I believe God was the first one to cry when Brenda fell."
I too believe God cries when our bodies develop serious illness, when children aren't treated with love, when babies die, when employment is severed, when a spouse commits infidelity, when a child is born with special needs, when relationships among families or friends are impaired, when countries can't seem to live in peace. We could point to examples of injustice on every page of the paper and throughout our churches and neighborhoods.
Whatever circumstance is happening in life, though, God can come in. And when God comes in, the person can find a source of companionship in the midst of trouble, loss, injustice, pain.
Recently I was speaking with my spiritual director, a woman I admire for her wisdom and depth of rest in God. I explained how I felt like I was always "clinging to God, holding so tightly to God" as pieces from my past keep surfacing each day, sometimes with little space to catch my breath.
I told her I desired a more relaxed way of being with God, perhaps just resting in the fullness of God's presence. Her response? She imagined God holding hands with Adam and Eve walking through the Garden of Eden.
"Maybe you can think about God walking with you sometimes hand in hand for those tough moments and other times just walking side-by-side in conversation or silence."
Reflecting on her comments, I gained the phrase "verbing with God", in other words, I can imagine God's companionship in whatever I am doing. When I walk or swim, God is with me. When I bake I light a candle to serve as a tangible, visual way to celebrate God with me.
When I have the assurance of God's companionship I can request strength, hope, courage, patience, understanding, acceptance, forgiveness with confidence that God hears my prayers and will respond. Whatever happens along my path, God is with me, sometimes holding my hand tightly, always walking beside me.
Unfortunately, bad things happened to those who are "good", to those who seemingly live in ways that reflect kindness and love. Life is not fair. Bad things happened to "bad" people as well as "good"
people. The joy for those whom we call "good" as well as "bad" is that God does not see with eyes that label or judge. God is available to all in any challenge.
Prayer: God sometimes things happen to us that are not fair, that make us angry, sad and disappointed. As we sit at the bottom in despair bring a space of clarity and vision so we can reach to you the source of all we need. Come in to those circumstances which give us challenge so we can rest in you, sometimes holding your hand other times feeling you walking beside, for you are all we need. Amen.