Formation Fridays: Finding Joy in the Midst of Suffering
Have you ever spoken to someone who is dying?
In a sense, you have, because we are all dying, in a way.
That sounds a bit morbid, but it is ultimately true. Each one of us is going to die at some point. Each one of us is going to suffer, each one of us will lose someone that we love. I don’t mean to sound harsh or cold, I am just being truthful.
Becky and I got to listen to a man talk about dying a few weeks ago. He planted a church in Beaverton a long time ago, pastored there for a long time, and more recently had a heart attack, triple by-pass, and then congestive heart failure. He is going to die. He is dying.
He gave an interview with his wife in front of a conference we attended. I can’t recall ever listening to someone who was so aware of his own mortality before. Or, at the very least, so at peace with it. Not excited. Not longing for his death. But he was at peace. They both spoke quite a bit about the process of reconciling a death sentence with still being alive, how it has affected their relationship, and how it shaped their faith.
Their talk was full of heartbreak and humor. It really struck me how much this man’s faith had grown since his diagnosis. He had joy in his situation. He and his wife both did. They were joyful. Everything was joyful. Every morning together was a blessing. Their time together mattered. They recognized the pervasiveness of grace in their lives because they knew that their time together was in short supply.
I can’t help but wonder how I would react if I were in a similar situation. Would I have that kind of faith? Could I get there? I hope that I don’t have to answer that question, at least not for many more years.
But the thought still lingers. There was something perennial in the wisdom that this man shared. “Live until the day you die, learn to be content, let suffering perfect your character.” These are lessons that we can learn when we are not dying. We can let our situations, our circumstances, our suffering perfect our character as well. We can live life to the fullest. We can learn to be content. In these ways, we can experience joy in our lives right now.
I can’t fully convey the impact of that conversation that we got to witness here. But I can tell you that I recognized then, and continue still, the grace of getting to hear it. I experienced joy in getting to witness theirs.
Hope and joy to you,