Note: This column was first published in the Feb. 1, 2017, Hillsboro Free Press. But although I wrote it a year ago, it’s still relevant today. Sometimes life is just hard, especially this time of year, the weight of personal and others’ pain weighing heavy on my heart. Reminding myself to press on over here. Maybe this is where you’re at, too?
What do you write when you have no words? When you’re surrounded by pain and suffering and loss, and it becomes an overwhelming burden, heavy with grief and tears?
What do you write when someone you know loses a spouse far too young? When a pitcher on your favorite baseball team dies in a car crash? When you get texts from home telling of family in the hospital or feverish with the flu or battling broken bones?
I don’t want to think about any of this. I am sad. Sad because someone will crawl into an empty bed tonight without their spouse by their side. Sad because Yordano Ventura will never again take the mound for the Royals, the flame he threw extinguished, snuffed out too soon. Sad because family members get sick and relationships become strained, and frankly, there’s just so much pain.
A year ago this week, my grandma passed away, and that makes me feel sad, too.
Where is the good news these days? Scrolling through Twitter or browsing Facebook, I’m bombarded with news of shootings, traffic accidents and political dissent. For a few days, I took a break from social media all together. It was Just. Too. Much.
Sometimes I sing along with Alan Jackson:
* * *
Go heavy on the good and light on the bad,
A hair more happy and a shade less sad.
Turn all the negative down just a tad,
That’d be all right.
* * *
A book I’m reading touches on the topic of pain. In some areas of life, we willingly put ourselves through pain because we know we will benefit from it. In the months since I ran the 5k last November, I have continued to lift weights and run. I recognize that the muscle soreness after a workout means I am getting stronger, so I keep going back to the gym. It’s like a person who subjects themselves to surgery so the healing process can begin.
I get it. There’s good hurt.
But there are other types of hurt, too. Pain that we do not choose. Pain of loss and heartache and broken relationships. There doesn’t seem anything good about this type of pain. Is it possible this, too, can make us stronger?
I’m not exactly sure what God’s role is in our suffering, but the Bible talks about perseverance through trials and gives some purpose to pain: “…but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Romans 5:3-5).
These days, I’m reminding myself there is always hope. Interestingly, my workout plan for today as I write this says, “Get ready for a good hurt with this week’s second round of lower-body love.”
Good grief, if it were my world, there’d be no hurt. But it’s not and I can’t. I can’t make it all go away.
But what I can do is this. As I go about my days, I can be kind and try to make someone smile every day, reminding myself that everyone is fighting a battle I know nothing about and doing what I can to make the world just a little brighter. Because, don’t we all need more of that?
Janae Rempel, former sports editor at the Free Press, is on staff with Christian Leader magazine. You can still reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.