A few days ago a friend of mine was hit by a car while riding his bike. His name is David.
David is a musician; talented, handsome, vibrant, kind. David is now the survivor of an unmistakably tragic incident but it’s unclear at this time whether or not he will be able to walk again.
It’s in moments like these where I feel that life is incomprehensible. I struggle to find understanding.
The last time I saw David we bumped into each other at a coffee shop here in Knoxville. We were chatting about music, dogs, and other random stuff. He told me he was leaving for Nashville the following day to attend a prestigious music program. It was his dream he said.
Two ways to view tragedy.
When I told my husband what had happened to David, who he did not know, he was utterly wrecked by it. We both began to pray non-stop. But my husband and I are two very different creatures. He is what some might call a realist or pessimist and although he’s grown more optimistic over the years, there’s still a deep seated fear that life is one big disappointment after the next.
Then there’s me. Opposites do seem to attract. I’m decidedly more of an optimist. I tend to maintain faith (even a mustard seed size of faith) in the bleakest moments. Don’t get me wrong. When things go badly for me, I have no problem mourning and literally wailing if that’s what my heart feels. But the bottom line for me always comes back to hope. I tend to not ask questions that create a picture of a God that is careless and cold. In other words, when tragedy strikes I do not think of God as a terrorist.
You will fall into one camp or the other. Maybe you do ask God why He allowed David to be struck down in his moment. Or maybe you cry and mourn with God as you feel the loss is mutual. Either way, I want to challenge you to a radical thought that might leave you feeling extremely uncomfortable.
Momentary and Light.
What if this life and its joy and heartbreaks were really not as important as we believe them to be?
What if there were more beyond this life that we can’t see which make our afflictions, as a great man once said, “momentary and light”? What if the seeming unfairness of it all was really a manmade illusion?
From our perspective here on earth with our limited years, 120 at the most, we shake our fists to heaven and beat the ground, exclaiming, Why? Why God, would you allow this? How could you let this happen? How could this possibly be a part of your plan for me, her, him, us? If it is your doing then you are truly twisted!
Even I ask myself the obvious. Why is it that some can live, 40 years or more, an altogether bland existence of constant TV watching and have very few if not any major tragedies come knocking on their door? And then you have people like my friend David who are the passionate ones living every last drop of life, creating and loving, who get the mother load of suffering?
Maybe our view of life is wrong? What if the number of days we lived didn’t actually mean what we think they mean? We put so much value on THIS life. Why wouldn’t we? It’s all that we know.
So when faced with a dilema like this one, I believe we have a choice to make. Either we can see God as a fearsome terrorist who plays with his creatures lives and happiness or we can see God as a compassionate Father who’s heart breaks each time we learn and grow through trial.
God must put a high value on suffering and a low value on simply subsisting. Is suffering a part of the mysterious richness of life? If you’re a believer like me, then you know that it is. At least intellectually you know this. But what about the kind of knowing that you would bet your life on? Do you know that in your bones? Do you have that kind of experiential knowledge that transforms one beyond recognition?
I keep coming back to those words momentary…light. I think to find peace in tragedy is to know that there’s something more beyond this temporary life that we can see. The truth is, we will all die, believer or non-believer. But what makes hardship and cruelty endurable is the knowledge of a life that extends past our temporal boarders into a realm that is altogether unfathomable. Each one of us has a unique lot in life and none of us can know what that exact lot will be. None of us could predict our own hand. Since that’s the case we need to challenge ourselves to answer these questions now.
Is it the number of days that matter or is it what we do with the number of days? Is my physical body all that there is or is it my soul and spirit that really lives? Is suffering in this life a profoundly mysterious tool that God uses to make us divine or is it blind and harsh indifference lacking any meaning?
Only you can answer that for yourself. As for me, well…I have no say in the matter of what befalls me. How could any of us? I could die today. I could live for another 50 years. The point isn’t physical. Many millions live long lives. But how many live bold and purpose filled lives with their eyes fixed firmly on God? God sees our whole life. Not just the fraction of life lived now, but also our 1,000th year. I know that this is hard stuff. It’s not at all easy for me to talk about. It’s not easy for me to write about. I do not make light of it and I can’t possibly understand it all. I know that you may not believe in God. I know that I can’t explain away what happened to David. But I can at least attempt to hold onto hope and offer a slice of security to you.
How do you find peace in the midst of tragedy?
I believe you find peace in the notion that we are not our bodies, our value of life is more to do with fullness of experience rather than number of days, and that our trials are the sandpaper that refine our hearts and souls for the hereafter.
Tragedy is impartial. Who knows why some live and some die; why some live lives of solitude and comfort and why some leave bold and blazon marks in such a short time. Why do we live the lives we live? What gives us a right to waste a day when we know not the number remaining? When life breaks open with unforeseen catastrophe we, the unscathed few, must ask ourselves: did today really matter? Did I make today count?
Reality can shift dramatically in a matter of seconds. Nowhere does it say you have to be able to walk to create beautiful music. -David
David’s family is with him now. He’s been through two surgeries and is headed to rehabilitation. It will be a long journey for him to find out what the ultimate outcome is. If you are a believer you can pray. If you are not a believer, I encourage you to pray anyway. His family has set up a crowd-funding page to raise money to pay for his medical expenses. If you feel led to donate, you can check out that page here. The way I’ve seen David respond to this has increased my faith. As soon as he was able, he grabbed his guitar and played some tunes. In an almost prophetic song he wrote a while back, David sang, “It isn’t easy, but we grow from the pain.”
If anything I’ve said has stirred you, I want to hear about it. It’s more than ok if you disagree with me or have questions or feel that I’ve left anything out. Leave me a comment below.