The Grateful Dead’s “New Speedway Boogie” wraps up with a repeated line: “One way or another, This darkness got to give.”
I’d say the people of this region have had about enough “darkness” to last a lifetime over the past few months. If the flooding wasn’t enough, we’ve seen a massive number of drug busts, some of which include the drug fentanyl and a quantity of horrific violent crimes that I’ve not seen in my career. It seems like every week brings new word of some tragic incident.
As an editor of five newspapers, it sometimes gets overwhelming, seeing the suffering and knowing there’s nothing you can do about it. Prayer is effective, but in God’s ways, not ours. So, when we ask for a certain outcome, it should be done in the spirit that we understand that it’s His will, not ours, that will be done.
I know this, but understanding this is difficult.
So what do we do with all this suffering? How do we deal with all of this pain and death around us?
I would love to say that I have the “magic words” or the perfect actions that would make this suffering more bearable, but the only real way is to become emotionally calloused. Down that road lies nothing good.
What I can tell you that I’ve learned over the years is that, if the suffering of others still impacts you, then no matter how jaded you are, no matter how well you’re able to “put on a brave face” for the world outside you, then the light still exists within you.
You may ask, “What light?”
Let me explain.
In the first chapter of my favorite telling of the Gospel, that told by John, we are given the following description of Jesus Christ: “All things came into being through Him, and without Him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in Him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
What this says to me is that, at the very center of the triune God’s love for us is His understanding that we will face the darkness often. But, what He wants John to communicate to us, through the millennia, is that the darkness does not and cannot win.
No matter how dark it gets, no matter how hopeless the situation seems, there is a glimmer of light. The choice to share in the suffering of others, not shutting it out, the choice to utter a word of prayer, the choice to reach out to another person in their time of darkness and attempt to bring that light, are all evidence of this.
We should not take joy in the suffering of others, but understand that, when we feel it or when we react to it in various ways, we are doing the same thing God did and still does.
In His eternal love for us, He gave everything so that our suffering would not be in vain, so that it would not be without meaning, so that, in the end, it will be redeemed and made part of His perfection.
For now, however, the best we can do is to do what He does — meet suffering and darkness with light and love and know that, when we do we share in His heart.
A quote attributed to St. Vincent de Paul tells us: “We should strive to keep our hearts open to the sufferings and wretchedness of other people, and pray continually that God may grant us that spirit of compassion which is truly the spirit of God.”
Keep your heart open and your hands ready to do His work. That is the way to make sense of the suffering.