Everybody I know has gone through pain.
My life (like yours, I’m sure) has had regular reminders of how small and vulnerable we all are – my health, my family, the work I do and have done, my dreams, and even the totally unusual and unpredictable things that have occurred (like car and other accidents). Life without pain is just not possible.
How we handle our troubles is the key to whether we grow or shrivel. I’ve often been amazed about how some people always seem to blame others, and others themselves. Some look for things they can learn in the deep valley, others just seem incapable of being reflective. Some are angry and even blame a God they don’t believe in (as some of these folk tell me, some loudly and quite regularly), others are quiet and trust God to make sure that somehow (like wonderful parents assure and help us see) some good will come from the bad. Some are stoical and uncomplaining and others are like the ancient prophet Jeremiah who through 52 cheerless chapters could not be quiet about his lot.
I have found that being part of a community can be of great help when our skies are dismally dreary. Many of us belong to several communities: our family, our friends, our church or another interest group.
While on holidays recently I heard about people in Sydney setting up Christian support groups at a local aged care home. They meet together regularly with interested residents to talk and listen, to share and cry, to pray and laugh.
Whatever my test is right now, I tell myself that others also are going or have gone through the same. My work of Christian pastoring has so often shown me that Christian faith can be of tremendous help to people under the pump, because it builds a strong trust in the Jesus who was described as “a man of suffering and acquainted with grief” (in the words of the prophet Isaiah echoed in Handel’s Messiah).
This is probably why Christians find it easier than most to create caring communities. They are motivated to be like Jesus! I believe it is no accident that most non-government hospitals and homes that I know of were started by Christian churches, and that so much of the world’s charity money and care is channelled through Christian organisations.
Some years ago I undertook a personal growth program that had me map out my life in terms of major milestones and stages, crises and rainbow seasons. This exercise made it very clear to me that linked with every dark time (and often immediately following it) there was a time of great happiness, blessing, growth and progress of some kind.
What a great hope it is that testing times don’t have to leave me angry, cynical or confused but can make me more like Jesus!