One of the things I love the most about participating in a faith is the sense of optimism it provides–the glass-half-full outlook that assures us that even when life is hard, God has the power to consecrate our afflictions for our gain (2 Nephi 2:2). As C.S. Lewis stated, “God can make good of all that happens.”
There is great power in the capacity to find meaning in what seems like senseless pain, the ability to see the fire of affliction as a refining force rather than a destructive one.
Yet it is the second half of Lewis’ statement that has had me thinking lately, and wondering how it relates to my faith: “God can make good of all that happens. But the loss is real.” *
The loss is real.
Maybe this struck me because I’m old enough now to be acquainted with loss, to have been shaken by it, and to fear it. The emotions of loss somehow taste like a lack of faith, and it’s hard to know what to do with them.
When we moved to a new city, I remember talking to a friend about how much I missed my former home. After listening to my teary lament, she asked, “But don’t you feel like it was God’s will?” Her question caught me off guard and sparked a flash of anger. Even if I did have a sure knowledge that the move was God’s will (which I didn’t), I knew in my bones that having that knowledge wouldn’t make it hurt any less. Knowledge and faith do not negate pain.
I spoke with another friend recently who is in the middle of her own crisis, and in a moment of candid frustration she said, “Trying to have faith sucks.”
She was feeling her loss–a loss with no apparent meaning. Trying to reconcile loss with the sometimes glib assurances that even if the jaws of hell gape after you it will be for your good . . . well, it’s hard.
Recovering from loss takes time, and it’s often a private process. We don’t usually hear the stories of those who have yet to find the good in their hell. It’s easy to feel alone when caught in the jaws. However, I’ve found that if I try to collapse the process, try to rush through the fire in an effort to achieve the refinement, I miss the very thing that brings me to God. I have to feel the fire. I have to believe that He is not simply trying to erase my pain; I need to feel like my loss matters. It’s then that I’m ready to be healed. I have to see and feel the emptiness before it can be filled.
I find comfort in the reality that we are sent to mourn with those that mourn. We are not sent to cheer them up. Even though Jesus knew that Lazarus would rise, He did not arrive at the tomb with smiles and assurances that all would be well. The loss was real. It is because He wept at the grave of His friend that I feel I can reach to Him with my own losses.
I’m finding that my faith is rooted in both optimism and tears.
God be praised for His mighty power in overcoming both loss and hell, and for His mercy in weeping over them with us.
*quoted in People of Paradox, p. 155