Muscatine Living

The past couple weeks of my life have had sorrow and disbelief. My brother died and I witnessed the relationship between people I care about crumble. I watched the devastating damage from the hurricanes in Florida and Puerto Rico.

Sometimes the burden of grief is hard to bear. Our first response, of course, is to do something and control what we can. We offer comfort to the hurting. I visited my brother’s home, helping his family with sorting papers and the division of possessions into piles to be kept, sold at an estate sale, or shared with relatives. Such actions dull the pain. The tears and stories give us some closure.

It’s much harder to have any sense of control when a natural disaster hits and affects millions of people in Florida and Puerto Rico. These are fellow Americans, people who are struggling with the enormity of cleanup and decisions about whether or not they should rebuild. For the poor, there may not be a good choice, as we found out during the Iowa Derecho in 2020 or previous large scale flooding events. Sure, donations to a charity that offers on-the-ground relief can provide a warm meal or a cleanup kit, but where do we find hope?

Hope seems to be the question that faith providers should specialize in. Whether or not you have a faith tradition, I hope that there is something in your life that provides comfort and solace. For some, that is an affirmation deck or a close circle of friends. A walk in the woods or meditation gives that peace to others.

Others find hope in a Holy book they read and ponder. In my own journey, I find hope in the midst of sorrow and grief by reading the Book of Job. Scholars believe Job was written sometime during the 4th to 7th century BC; copies of the story are found in Jewish, Egyptian, and Christian sources. It deals directly with the problems of pain and sorrow. Just as importantly, it asks hard questions about why bad things happen to good people like Job. Job experiences physical pain, open sores, and the loss of his family and possessions, and yet he holds out hope in something bigger than himself.

When we cannot wrap our minds around the enormity of a tragedy or the loss of something we hold dear, I find that the story of Job is one of endurance through tough times. Job found his hope and his redemption in the trust of his creator, which he held dear above all else.

Maybe such pain does have value in our own lives, and in our personal growth. Amanda Gorman, in her poem, “The Miracle of Morning,” reminds us:

“For it’s our grief that gives us our gratitude,
Shows us how to find hope, if we ever lose it.
So ensure that this ache wasn’t endured in vain:
Do not ignore the pain. Give it purpose. Use it.”

How will you use your circumstances to turn your own disbelief and sorrow into an opportunity for hope and growth? Reach out to someone this week to talk about it.

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