On December 26th, a dear friend of mine passed away.
She gave me fair warning that, after a 5 year battle with cancer, her life was quickly coming to an end. And I prepared for her departure, but her passing still left me in a state of pain.
The last time I was able to visit with her in person (I’ve lived 300 miles away since 2014), was in September. She had asked me to go through her late daughter’s memory boxes with her, as her daughter, Beth, was my childhood best friend.
It was bittersweet to relive the Valentine’s Day parties, the birthday sleepovers, and summer adventures together as we sorted through Beth’s keepsakes. It was impossible to fight back the tears, so I didn’t try. Then my friend turned to me, suddenly, and asked the all-dreaded question : what is the point of it all anyway?
I don’t think she meant for me to respond with an answer. Besides, the sincerity in her voice left me speechless. All I could do in that moment was look back at her, through tear-filled eyes, with a spirit of gentleness beyond my own understanding.
What is the point of it all?
How many of us have been so broken down as to be left feeling god-forsaken, and pondering the point of our life lived here?
I’ve been a believer since I was 3 years old, and without shame I confess that I have.
Maybe you have too.
When I was smack dab in this place of feeling godforsaken, the very last thing I wanted from those witnesses to my pain was an answer. Not from another human being anyway. Even when those who cry out in their suffering are doing so by asking the questions of life, only the Creator of life holds the answer.
I take much comfort that even the only begotten Son of God cried out in His sufferings:
“At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'”
Mark 15:34 (NRSV)
We can tuck our human compassion away and wax theological here at what it meant for Jesus to cry out in this way, or, we can sit with the frightening reality that even Jesus Christ felt forsaken by God.
I choose the latter.
There are sufferings in this world that are beyond our understanding. But they do not extend beyond our ability to empathize with.
When Paul admonishes believers to “weep with those who weep”, in Romans 12:15, maybe we ought to do just that. What if we all intentionally stepped away from the temptation to paint the Christian life as one full of victory in Jesus, and seek to enter into the passion of the crucified Christ instead?
In a world still full of suffering and grief, maybe the greatest gift we can give to those that mourn are not cookie cutter answers, but a sharing in their tears.
The last words exchanged between my dear friend and I, several days before her death, where ones of peace –detailing her intentional surrender as she approached death. She left this world in “amazement at the wonder of it all”.
If only I can muster that kind of bravery when I’m called to go forth from this life! I pray that I too will receive with amazement the gift of rest awaiting all of those that have cried out to God.