“He will wipe every tear from their eyes . . .”
If you’ve ever experienced something tremendously painful in your life you know that it can be all-consuming. These kinds of things can dominate our thoughts. They can worry us beyond measure. They can take us to some pretty dark places. And they can feel as if they will never go away.
And when we are experiencing some sort of deep sorrow or disappointment, we often hope to get some comfort and compassion from others, some understanding and empathy. Yet, we don’t always get that. In fact, we often get ridiculously simple statements or advice or comments that don’t help at all, or worse yet, make our sorrow even heavier. For example:
Just say a few prayers and you’ll be fine.
Doctors can fix anything these days.
You’ll get an even better job.
Just stop thinking about it. It’ll go away.
You can always have another kid.
You’ll find someone new.
Just get over it. Talking about it all the time isn’t going to make it better.
My guess is that we’ve all been told those sorts of things from others at one point or another. And part of it may simply come from people not really knowing WHAT to say, not knowing HOW to help. Yet, often it’s simply because deep down many of us actually subscribe to these kinds of ideas, these kinds of seemingly easy black and white answers to life’s countless challenges. Or at least we hope that’s the case.
As a priest, I can tell you that it is problematic in my ministry in at least two ways. One – sometimes I have to try to “undo” the hurt that has been caused by these kinds of insensitive and simplistic comments. People often will reveal to me that their spouses or family members or friends are constantly trying to fix their problems, as if there is some kind of magic wand, instant “solution” to every heartache. In other words, the very people who are supposed to be helping are in turn doing the opposite – making it worse.
And secondly, often people come to me and want ME to provide them with those very things, provide them with simple solutions, want ME to somehow say one thing or make one suggestion that will make their problems go away.
And I don’t do that. I CAN’T do that, because there is no such thing.
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes . . .”
Is this statement regarding God (from John’s vision in Revelation) always the case? Is this really how it works? Does God truly make all our problems go away instantly?
Is it that easy?
I think, in your heart, you know the answer.
Yet, we often disregard what we’ve learned from our experiences, and instead, cling to the idea that true faith and a cross-free life sort of go together – that if we just prayed a little more (or a little harder), or came to a few more Masses, or put a few more dollars in the collection, God would take all our pain away, that God would “fix” whatever is broken, that God would “wipe every tear from our eyes”. What else is God for? Why else would we choose to believe?
Now please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that God CAN’T work this way, or that he doesn’t EVER work this way. In fact there are no limits on God, and we would be wise to not imagine there are. But our experiences tell us something much different, tell us that God must be seeing a much bigger picture than we could ever see, that God’s ways and our ways don’t ever line up perfectly. And therefore, there will always be things we can’t fully understand or figure out.
And the reality of suffering is one of those things.
Yet, that doesn’t mean that we are to do nothing in the face of suffering, doesn’t mean that we are to simply turn inward and sit around and wait for things to get better, doesn’t mean that we are to give in to a kind of fatalism or hopelessness or despair. Rather, there is something we can ALWAYS do. Always.
And this thing is not some kind of simplistic solution to our problems, not something that is of little or no help. In fact, it’s the only thing that truly works, the only thing that always makes things better, the only thing that always leads to an Easter.
Love is the difference-maker. Love is what transforms everything. Love is what triumphs in the face of every single kind of darkness. Love – the love of God shown perfectly in the person of Jesus – is what saves, is what in a very real sense dries every tear.
And so my dear friends, that’s the challenge – to continue loving no matter what, continue loving even when we don’t feel like it, continue loving even when the cross we are bearing feels unbearably heavy. And even though that doesn’t guarantee that our problems will go away, the love we show others will ultimately overshadow every sorrow we are experiencing, will ultimately render our pain powerless, take away its control over us, transform it into something it wasn’t before.
Put simply – love wins. And it wins every time.
And so, let’s do our best to not be the kinds of people who try to give simple solutions to people who are in pain. And let’s not believe those same simple solutions regarding our pain either. Rather, let’s choose to walk with each other, helping carry each other’s sorrow and pain and disappointment.
But let’s remember to not stop loving as we do so, not let the pain make us less than God calls us to be.
Love is the answer – because God is love.
Love will get us through anything.
Love will bring about a new day, it will bring about a whole new way of being . . .
. . . will bring about the Easter morning we are all longing for.
Love makes us instruments of God’s providence in the lives of others. Our love becomes the channel through which they will experience the love of God. An American journalist, watching Mother Teresa as she cared for a man with gangrene, remarked, ‘I wouldn’t do that for a million dollars.’ Mother Teresa replied: ‘Even I wouldn’t do it for that amount. However, I do it out of love for God.