By Jordan Rice
Today marks one year since I lost my wife, my best friend and my lover, Danielle. And over this past year I’ve learned a number of things. Honestly, there are very few things I can say that I really know. Divorce rates in this country alone are evidence that what we think we know and what we actually know are two very different things. We’re taught a lot of things in school, from our parents, but we really don’t know too much. However, the following are three things in particular that I know to be true.
All of us have felt this sting to some degree. I won’t attempt to sanitize my thoughts on this, it won’t help me or you. I get countless e-mails from people who are experiencing grief on one level or another and feel guilty for hurting as bad as they are. They try to rush and stop hurting so that they can appear faithful to some of their Christian comrades, who continually insinuate that the pain they feel and the faith they proclaim are mutually exclusive. In my own experience, I’ve had the reservoir of clichés poured out over my wounds and each proved to be as completely ineffective as the next. Death sucks. It stings, it hurts, it confuses and it leaves a void in the life of the loved ones that hurts more than I could have ever imagined. Most importantly, it should feel that way.
America is great, perhaps the greatest country to ever exist, but one thing we don’t have a good grasp on is death and grief. Maybe because technology is so great, we can download 10 songs in a minute or email a friend 3,000 miles away in seconds, but we’ve lost a grip on the beauty and necessity of slowly processing things. Quick fixes like xanax or a drunken night are the go-to for many, mostly because above all, we want what we want, now. Grief doesn’t work that way; healing happens in time. Clichés or a million Facebook likes won’t lessen the pain any. Above is a picture from a funeral procession in Haiti. Most of the people in this line stayed up all night the night before to mourn and remember the lost. The village shut down to mourn with those that mourned, and that is what helped in the time of need. They get it. There’s no quick fix. There’s no rush to attempt to hurriedly quench the fires of pain. It’s normal.
Sadly, the American Psychiatric Association has now started to classify grief related depression as actual clinical depression as soon as three days to a month after a serious loss. Three days! If you’re sad and depressed two weeks after losing a loved one to a car accident, at that point they could start you on a pill regiment to alleviate your pain. Now, I’m not saying that medication is wrong in all instances, but this is just incredibly sad and telling of how much of a microwave generation we’ve become. Have we become that shallow as a society to the point where we are incapable of dealing with the inevitability of death? I’m afraid we’re heading in that direction.
LIFE IS HARD
Despite what prosperity preachers would have you to believe, life is hard. It’s not perfect now, nor will it ever be. Now, just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s purposeless, but Jesus taught that in this world you will have trouble. Whether it’s a brain tumor, an economic recession, hemorrhoids, a root canal or anything in between, you’re going to have difficulties. Nobody stays young forever, despite all of our cosmetic attempts to the contrary. One day Halle Berry will be no more attractive than Chuck Berry, (OK, maybe not, but just go with me).
This is not to say that you can’t have a good life, but good and perfect are quite different. Suffering is a part of life; if you suffer it’s because you’re human, not necessarily because you’ve done wrong. It’s a part of the human experience. Not only that, but God uses our sufferings, difficulties, and obstacles to allow us to know Him. Paul said it best in 2 Corinthians 12
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
GOD IS GOOD
Kudos to you if you kept reading to this point, I have a shiny star to put on your notebook. But I know, I know, this is the way a Christian blogger is supposed to end each blog — with some reassurance that God is good despite the turmoil that we face in our lives. That’s partly true, but rest assured, I am not saying this to make anyone feel better; on the contrary, to boast that God that really is with us. Before you applaud me for my attempt at piety, know that at times during my wife’s illness, I thought that I would be so angry at God for letting my wife die that to spite Him, the first thing I was going to do is to fly to Amsterdam to party like never before. The crazy part is that the opposite happened, and I was (and still am) so trapped in the grip of God’s grace that I couldn’t walk away from God even if I wanted to. He is always with us, especially when life is hard, and because of His great love and care for me, I’m closer to Christ than I’ve ever been. He uses pain, suffering, desperation as a master potter uses his tools to make beautiful things. When I say that God is good, I’m not regurgitating something I read about in a book or heard in a church service, but because I know He’s faithful, loving, forgiving, caring and empowering. He’s everything He’s promised, and I hope I can live my life to make that known to anyone that will listen.
More importantly, God’s goodness has absolutely nothing to do with how great or terrible your life is. To say God is good is akin to saying I’m an African-American male. No matter what happens, I will always be that. It’s an immutable characteristic. The same is true for God, He’s good. Period. In times past I’ve flippantly correlated God’s goodness to how fortunate my circumstances were. We’ve all heard it said: “Got a new job, God is good!” or “the test came back clean, God is good!” While those are true statements, the insinuation is that God’s goodness depends, even so slightly on our situation. The opposite is true. God is good, period. Without a doubt, the statement “just found out my wife has cancer, God is good” is equally as true, and is more likely to put us in the situation to see how truly long-suffering, kind, loving, compassionate and with us He truly is. The old saints have it right when they say “God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good.”
All that being said, over this last year, my pain has greatly subsided and I’m overwhelmed by what God has done in me, to heal my wounds and walk with me. I wish I wasn’t as familiar with how much death sucks, or how difficult life can be at times, but I’m grateful to have learned that in spite of everything, God is good.
Jordan Rice blogs at www.jordanlrice.com, where this article first appeared.