Somewhere He is doing something lovingly to you, even when what you experience is only hurt. Is He carving out a cave to dwell in? If so, the cutting away of rocks might hurt very much and you might not be aware of the space He is creating for Himself.
-Henri Nouwen, Love, Henri: Letters on the Spiritual Life, p.22
If I could sum up 2019 thus far in one word, I would regrettably use the word “grief.” In two weeks, I have suffered one of the deepest forms of personal loss that is possible. I am also anticipating the passing of a family elder. I have spent most of these new nights awake with my daughter, first in a mutually consoling embrace, soon followed by monitoring a fever and comforting her illness that has finally and thankfully subsided.
I have shed more tears in these two weeks than I did all of last year. Yes, these days have been hard. Filled with grief, and at times feeling immobilized, I spent these days when not in tears, seeking guidance. I am reading more, praying more, serving more. In the midst of this search for answers, I came upon the above quote from Henri Nouwen.
On January 2nd, my family received some very difficult news. One of my initial reflections was “some good can come from this.” When asked to explain, I couldn’t. My faith gave me hope in the midst of deep pain and loss. (In looking back, I am not sure why or how I could say such a thing at that time)
This above quote from Nouwen gives me an answer to my optimistic proclamation. I found comfort in embracing the pain as not just a result of mourning, but as a path to productivity. If in this pain, I can grow closer to God, then, I can move forward.
As I felt a deep sadness these days, my empathy only grew. I felt the sadness in others in a way that I did not previously. My perspective changed, and so did my ability to see behind the smiles and pleasantries. I saw the fear in dying man, the fatigue in the life-long worker, the sadness in the mourning mother, the hurt in a colleague, and the pain in every step of a woman waiting for a bus.
It wasn’t like I was ignorant of this before, but the intensity changed. It was and it is different.
God has carved out a new place in my heart, and as a result, I see with His eyes. I am moved by the loss, by the sadness, by the pain and the hurt. I now relate. Perhaps this is what Christ meant when he said, Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted (Matthew 5:4).
The comfort comes from God in the form of a fellow pilgrim who feels deeply and carries their cross too. In the communion of loss, there is hope. We must keep our eyes fixed on God, not just in a place of worship or in a book, but in the eyes of one another.
Nouwen, earlier in the above referenced book, advises a couple mourning the loss of their daughter to pray for those who are also mourning, while promising them his prayers. By praying for others, there is a redirection of attention and focus. It reminds us of our call to serve one another, and to be the face of God to those in need.
In the beautiful song titled, the Servant Song, I have recently found some peace. Take a few minutes to pray with this song as you and I embrace our hurt while always looking to embrace the hurt of others: watch here.
May we grow together in our pain and sorrow to be truly pilgrims on the journey, always seeking God until we fully meet God when our time arrives.