Something that has come through loud and clear in my life this last year or so is that when crappy things go down, I don’t like being rushed to ‘feel better’ about them. It’s not that I don’t believe that good things can come out of bad. I do. I very, very strongly do. But I don’t think that a person should be rushed into feeling good about that immediately. I myself get very defensive and snarly when I feel rushed into feeling anything.
This has been true with many of the little and big difficulties that I’ve walked through since Husband and I were married. When husband left for basic training I didn’t like being told, “At least he’s not in a war zone,” or “Just think of how much stronger this will make your marriage.” No. I just needed to have it affirmed that it was ok, normal, and appropriate to miss my husband.
When we moved to Washington and I was lonely and depressed–partly due to the crazy hormones of pregnancy, I didn’t like to be reminded that I should, “Bloom where I’m planted!” I needed to feel the feelings of my life being chaos and know that it was ok and normal for me to feel off-kilter for a while.
When my Mom was diagnosed with Lung Cancer when I was six months pregnant, I didn’t want to be told that this trial had a purpose, or to simply focus on the baby. I needed to feel the suffocating fear, and pain, and preparatory grief.
When my Mom died I did not like to be told, “At least she’s in a better place now,” (but I want her here! I am NOT in a better place!”) I hated when people said, “Would you have wanted her to go on in pain like that?” (NO!!! I WANTED her to have never gotten cancer in the first place!) I wanted to vomit when I heard that, “God has a plan and sometimes we just can’t understand it.” (So it’s GOD that inflicted this pain–for some mastermind reason? And I’m supposed to LIKE this deity?)
Reading a book that my wonderful and amazing sister-in-law sent to me has made things click as to exactly why I react so strongly to being pushed into feeling better.
I believe it is because by rushing to the ‘good’ we try to deny the badness of the bad. Loss, hurt, pain… these are all things that we want to pretend don’t really exist. If we can’t deny them then we want them at least to look as easy to live through as possible. The truth is, they aren’t easy to live through. They are hard. They do hurt. They can break you into pieces. It needs to be ok for a person to feel that pain and brokenness, for true healing to take place.
I wish that it were more ok in today’s world–especially in Christian circles–to call Bad things, Bad. It seems like Christians are especially afraid to call a spade a spade when the world crumbles. Perhaps the thought is: Doesn’t that show lack of faith? Doesn’t that mean that we don’t trust God? Are we refusing his gifts by not being happy about everything? It has become so scary for American Christians to appear as though things aren’t ok. The focus has been on “radiating the joy of the Lord,” for so long that we feel that if we have a legitimately bad day we are letting God down. How heart-breaking that we gloss things over to ‘appear’ good. Do we have such little faith in God that we think He can’t handle us or our lives when things are really legitimately terrible?
In my circumstances this is what I can tell you: separation from one’s spouse is not good. It is bad. It is unnatural. It is hard. The feeling of displacement and uncertainty that comes with moving often is not a good thing. It is bad. It is hard. Cancer is not GOOD. It is not a GIFT as some people want to make us believe. It is a terrible thing. At the best it is a successful fight for one’s life through difficult treatments that feel like they will kill you before the disease does. At the worst it is a life-robbing, body-eating terror that can tear families apart and leave gaping holes in the lives of those left behind. Death is not GOOD. It is BAD. It is hard. It hurts. The person who dies may go on to a better place, but those of us left are left hurting.
As a Christian, I believe that the reason death is a reality is because sin entered the world. Sin is bad. The result of sin is bad. In the end, the goodness of God triumphs over death and sin. And I rejoice in that! I do! But that doesn’t change the fact that death is bad. It is the abrupt interruption of a life that is supposed to be eternal.
(And as an aside–I firmly believe that one of the reasons death hurts those left behind so much is that we are meant to be eternal beings… and as such when our soul-to-soul connections are severed the pain can be and is excruciating).
Now I am NOT saying that good does not come out of all of these things. Good has come out of each and every difficulty that I have mentioned here. My marriage is stronger because of the inherent challenges of frequent separations. I don’t take my husband for granted. We cherish our time together. This is good. I have seen more of this country than I ever expected that I would. I have met many wonderful people. My outlook on the world has changed dramatically as a result of our family moves and highly transitional lives.
My mother having cancer helped me to see how precious and fragile life really is. It helped me to realize that none of us are invincible and thus I need to get my living done while I can. It forced my mother, father, and I to tell one another how we really felt about one another. It gave me the chance to offer the gift of my presence, my help, and my love when I was able to go back to help out for the last two months of my Mom’s life. What a blessing it was to have the opportunity to give back to my parents a portion of what they spent 25 years of their lives pouring into me.
I am only beginning to see the birth of new good things that are coming out of my Mom’s death. I am moving in a new direction. I am learning how to feel. I *do* have more compassion for those who are hurting or experiencing a loss of any kind. The reinvention in me that grief requires is slowly happening and that reinvention holds hope.
But the fact that positive things can come from terrible things does not change the definition of bad to good. No… It just shows us the power of the redemptive love of God. It allows us to see vividly that though darkness may come, it will not last forever. When we are thrust into the cave of darkest darkness the light is that much brighter when it finally flashes into our lives again. But… that does not mean that we should deny the darkness. The truth is that for us to really see the brightness of the light, we have to go through the darkness. We have to feel it in the marrow of our bones.
As wonderful as the promise that God works all things for the good of those that love Him is, the fact is, not all things are good to start with. If they were, why would we need God in the first place?
So I submit that rather than rushing one another to feel good about the tremendously bad things that can happen to us in this life, we should instead take the time to feel in ourselves the pain, and sorrow, and grief of what comes our way–and to feel the awfulness with one another when it strikes those we love. If we can walk together through the ashes, we can see together the birthing of new good things. But if we rush through things, trying to make the bad seem good–the goodness will be counterfeit. It may look shiny and hopeful, but without allowing ourselves to drag through the mire, reaching for the good prematurely may leave us with a handful of sawdust instead of the purely refined silver that comes from living through adversity.
Sometimes bad really is bad. And it’s ok to say so.