Lies of comfort, Words of hope
It wasn't until we first learned of Ethan's critical health issues that I began to realize how much we lie to one another in an attempt to lend some comfort.
"Oh honey, don't cry," one person said, as they patted me on the back. "He's going to be just fine!"
"He's going to pull through this. I just know it."
"He's going to be okay. I just have a really good feeling about it."
"Doctors can be wrong. I read something online about a mom who got the same diagnosis as you and the baby was born just fine..."
It did not matter what I said in response. No matter how many times that I explained that my doctors had never shied away from the possibility of death. I continued to swallow trite sayings and accept pats on the head. It was as if no one would believe me that it was serious.
Suffering is kind of taboo, isn't it? We consciously make decisions and spin our words to avoid discomfort and pain. We put up walls to protect ourselves and we avert our eyes from hurt, even if only subconsciously. It's easier to rejoice with those who rejoice than to weep with those who weep. Raising my hand high here and admitting I love comfort a lot more than pain.
I've been pretty quiet over here, but the memories of five years ago have been especially vivid to me this year. I've been thinking a lot about Ethan's diagnosis and the responses to it--my own reactions and the words from our caring community. It may seem as if the most comforting responses would be similar to those listed above. Words that assured us that everything would "be just fine" or words that reminded us that "doctors can be wrong" (I'll save my reactions to that one for another day...but YES, God is sovereign over medicine and the science that He created. He can do miracles. He is bigger than any sickness. Doctors can be wrong. But God also created order and equipped our incredible medical team so well. He created science. Also, our world is broken.)
But the most comforting responses were the ones that acknowledged the severity of Ethan's condition and the sting that death brings. The former responses often made me feel like people didn't believe me or that my pain was overreactive. The most helpful words didn't try to put a well-meaning bandaid on a bullet wound, but grieved over such deep suffering on such a tiny child. Responses that YES YES YES pointed us to the truth of the gospel and the hope we have in Jesus, while also sitting with us in our lament and acknowledging the Holy Saturday-ness of it all.
I think most of us are living in some sort of "Holy Saturday" season. I look around and see so many people I love walk through this pandemic, racial injustice, financial difficulties, relational strain, and the loneliness of division. How are we responding? Is it with trite sayings and temporary bandaids? We feel sorrow and long for all that is broken to be mended. We yearn for the day when every tear will be wiped from our eyes. As believers in Jesus, we know that Resurrection Sunday has already happened and we rejoice in this. We know that this miracle means that we too will have resurrection of our earthly bodies one day. We have an assurance that Christ will return again to make all things new. We can shout for joy and praise God for our redemption through Christ and the assurance of eternity with Him. AND as we do this, we can make space to recognize death as a horrible curse that Jesus came to destroy. We can rest in his goodness toward all of His people. We can acknowledge that some things are worth grieving and lamenting over, as we keep our eyes focused on a Hope worth clinging to.
We certainly grieve, serve, and love our neighbors differently in Holy Saturday because we know Sunday is coming. We can both rejoice and lament. We can view death as a horrendous curse Jesus came to defeat, while simultaneously rejoicing in an unshakeable Hope.