It’s been a momentous few weeks for the circle of people I know. Babies have been born and parents placed in hospice. Pregnancies have been announced alongside miscarriages. One family I know went to visit friends whose preemie died last week, while another whose preemie died last year is in bittersweet discernment about conceiving again.
This is not new. It may sound like something going on in your own family or circle of friends. For me, though, it’s the first time in several years where our family comes out on the happy end of the spectrum. After losing two infant children in a row to the same weird genetic disease, we are in the process of adopting a sweet little girl, and the process is going very, very smoothly.
When people see tragedy strike, as in the case of my friends who are mourning loved ones, it is obvious how crucial faith is. Many people, in speaking to me in my own grief commented, “How do people with no faith handle situations like this?” Indeed.
But, what I have been pondering as I pray for my friends who are grieving lately is how important it also is to have faith in the midst of great joy. Here are my reasons:
Peace. If I accept trials as coming from the hand of Jesus as for my own good, then I can equally accept the joys that come from his hand as his plan for me. There can be a temptation when you are happy and others are sad to feel guilty about that. Other people’s tragedies rightly raise the question: why didn’t that happen to me? When will tragedy strike my home? We can get uncomfortable being happy. When accept joy as part of God’s plan, we can relax and enjoy it. Unless we somehow gained a good at someone else’s expense, or unless our own good fortune keeps us from compassion for the suffering, we don’t have to feel guilty for being happy.
The other way that faith brings peace to joy is in that when we experience joy from a faith perspective, we do not need to cling to the thing that makes us happy. If the blessing did not come from our own hands, we do not need to try and control it. Most importantly, we know that when God decides to bring another trial upon us that our true hope will still be intact, since it resides not in temporal things or situations going our own way, but in the Author of Life himself.
Gratitude. When we rejoice in the midst of our faith, we have no illusion that our happiness is of our own devising. I was open to this situation, but it was total gift. As a result, I don’t blame others for their misfortunes or flippantly expect them to “suck it up” and just be happy. Faith-filled good fortune is humble, reminding us always that good things happening to us don’t make us any better than others. In fact, we can recognize the special love that Christ has for those who are suffering and become more compassionate toward those who need our help. The world needs at least some people who are financially stable, in good relationships and in good health. Who else will the suffering lean on for assistance?
A foretaste of heaven. Experiencing joyful circumstances, especially after having been through great trials is like a mini-resurrection. This mini version can orient us to the Big Resurrection that will come for all of us if we live our lives well. It adds to my gratitude to look back at my darkest days of grief when I thought I would never feel this way again. Yet, here we are bursting at the seams with joy over our little girl! What great consolation we are storing up for the next trial: a reminder that though the night is dark, joy comes with the morning. If this little reprieve is so wonderful, what will heaven be like? It gives me chills to think of it! This aspect of joy is important for keeping us grounded. It can be a temptation while in good times to forget God and to instead put our hopes in our own comfort. Then, instead of the good times preparing us for the bad, they set us up for a harder fall when trials return.
So, we will enjoy our snuggly, cooing, smiley answer to prayer. Even when our little bundle is crabby, gassy and loud we rejoice in her. But we are not naïve. We know that trials will again return to our home, and that is okay. We are rejoicing in faith. How do people rejoice without it?
Copyright 2010 Libby DuPont