But I don't know anyone who has an easy life forever. Everyone I know gets their heart broken sometime, by something. The question is not, will my life be easy or will my heart break? But rather, when my heart breaks, will I choose to grow?
Sometimes in the moments of the most searing pain, we think we don't have a choice. But we do. It's in those moments that we make the most important choice: grow or give up. It's easy to want to give up under the weight of what we're carrying. It seems sometimes like the only possible choice. But there's always, always, always another choice, and transformation is waiting for us just beyond that choice.
This is what I know: God can make something beautiful out of anything, out of darkness and trash and broken bones. He can shine light into even the blackest night, and he leaves glimpses of hope all around us. An oyster, a sliver of moon, one new bud on a black branch, a perfect tender shoot of asparagus, fighting up through the dirt for the spring sun. New life and new beauty are all around us, waiting to be discovered, waiting to be seen.
I'm coming to think there are at least two kinds of pain. There's the anxiety and fear I felt when we couldn't sell our house. And then there's the sadness I felt when I lost the baby or when my grandma passed away. Very different kinds of pain. The first kind, I think, is the king that invites us to grow. The second kind is the kind that invites us to mourn.
God's not trying to teach me a lesson through my grandma's death. I wasn't supposed to love her less so the loss hurt less acutely, I'm not supposed to feel less strongly about the horror of death and dying. When we lose someone we love, when a dear friend moves away, when illness invades, it's right to mourn. It's right to feel deep, wrenching sadness.
But then there's the other kind of pain, that first kind. My friend Brian says that the heart of all human conflict is the phrase "I'm not getting what I want." When you're totally honest about the pain, what's at the center? Could it be that you're not getting what you want? You're getting an invitation to grow, I think, as unwelcome as it may be.
It's sloppy theology to think that all suffering is good for us, or that it's a result of sin. All suffering can be used for good, over time, after mourning and healing, by God's graciousness. But sometimes it's just plain loss, not because you needed to grow, not because life or God or anything is teaching you any kind of lesson. The trick is knowing the difference between the two.