“Even as real grief breaks your heart, something in you knows that you’re being broken open, and there is something profoundly hopeful at the core of that sensation.” – Martha Beck
The news is really bad lately. Really bad. I feel powerless to help in most instances, other than to pray. It is at times like these that I remember the power of grace and how it appears in our darkest moments to comfort us and I can only hope that grace is ever present among those who are suffering.
Through my own personal experiences, I remain strong in my belief that there is a plan and a purpose to all things. I believe that because I have experienced terrible loss and heard the people around me characterize it as a “tragedy” or “senseless”. I remember wanting to reassure everyone that if they were ever in the same situation, sitting where I had been sitting, that they really would be all right. I remember thinking – no, knowing – that there was nothing tragic or senseless about it. As sad or painful as it may have been, a feeling of knowing and understanding had descended upon me and I knew that it was meant to be for all involved. I felt comforted, supported and hopeful. All seemed to make sense and feel right. Sad, but right.
I lost a woman who was like a mother to me when I was thirty. I remember not being able to picture my life past her death since she was so important to me and the prospect of losing her seemed so devastating. She was the biggest influence in my life, serving as a surrogate parent and as my support system from a teenager to a young adult. She was such an important part of my finding my way to happiness in my early twenties that I simply couldn’t picture my life without her. When my worst fears came true and she really did die, I fortunately experienced the opposite of what I had feared all along.
I felt profound calm and gratefulness. I felt enveloped in the knowledge of a higher plan at work. I had a knowing that there was life after death and that our souls continue on forever, even though prior to her death I had no belief – or disbelief – in the afterlife. I felt my spiritual life began at that time, when I felt a spiritual support system show up, quietly. I felt very safe and loved and I had amazing clarity about it all. I also learned that losing someone with whom you had a great relationship is a completely different kind of loss than a mean-spirited person’s purposeful abandonment which I had also known. I learned that it doesn’t matter how long someone has spent on this earth – it can be a few minutes or a few decades – but the impact of their life is eternal, as well as the love you both shared. Ironically, the experience of this great loss held within it some of the most positive and welcome surprises of my life.
Regardless of their background or religious beliefs, many have experienced that sense of grace that they are not alone during their darkest moments. Dr. Kent Brantly, a doctor who recently contracted the Ebola virus while helping to fight the outbreak said that when he received his diagnosis, “I remember a deep sense of peace that was beyond all understanding. God was reminding me of what He had taught me years ago, that He will give me everything I need to be faithful to Him.” In another recent news story, a teenager who lost her entire family in a gunman’s attack was able to give a speech days later, quoting a letter from J.K. Rowling’s famous character, Albus Dumbledore, “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light”. I am encouraged by these faithful people who are having the worst experiences we can imagine and yet report from their dark place that they are at peace and actually happy.
We cannot always help those who are suffering in a concrete way and of course, if we can do anything to help, we should. Regardless of how much of a tragedy or how senseless any event may appear to us, we cannot know the unique plan or purpose at work in the lives of each person who suffers. We can hope that grace is making its appearance where needed, however and that it can still bring peace to those who are suffering.
“During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you”. – Mary Stevenson
When have you experienced grace in the midst of a dark time?