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Living in Hope

Praise God, summer is finally here!

As I've grown older, I notice that winter bothers me less and less. When the cold wind whips off Lake Michigan, when gloves and scarves once again become required accessories, I don't fret too much. I just bundle up and wait, knowing that in a matter of weeks, spring will begin to ease its way into this part of our world.

So I've grown more patient with the seasons. But this year... well, it seemed as if summer would never arrive.

Cloudy, rainy, cool days were the norm through much of this spring. We slogged through with long sighs and pinched faces. And suddenly... 90 degrees!

So far, this summer has more than made up for the waiting. Days have been just hot enough for being outdoors. Nights have been just cool enough for sitting on porches and decks. It's all here... our world is green once again, the flowers are bursting with color, the lightning bugs and songbirds are back.

And yet, in spite of its beauty, this summer has been a difficult one so far.

So many people I love are struggling. Life-threatening illnesses, heart disease, emotional distress, loss. One of our oldest friends has been fighting a rare form of Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma - rare as in it only hits 3 people out of 1 million - for nearly two years. A beautiful sister in Christ is struggling once again with cancer that had been in remission. A family member recently experienced a quintuple heart bypass. A dear friend struggles in her marriage, while another mourns the death of her beloved husband.

I confess that I am beginning to feel angry.

Of course, I'm a believer. I know with deep conviction that Jesus walks through the valley with every hurting person. I believe that death is only a continuation of each life; that eternity stretches before us. I believe that these present troubles will pass.

But... in spite of my belief, in spite of the acts of kindness and comfort I have both given and received... as my husband recently said, "It's not enough!" I want God to stop the suffering. I want God to provide a cure for cancer - or better yet, to wipe it off the face of the earth. I want God to soften hearts that have become hardened with loneliness and pain. I want God to give us stronger, more resilient bodies.

It's likely you have shared those feelings at some time in your life.

The question for me - for all of us - is this: What do we do with this anger and grief? How do we hold in tension the breathtaking beauty of life and the pain that sometimes makes it hard to breathe?

I'm not afraid to be angry with God, to shake my fists to the heavens and scream, "WHY?" - knowing full well that no answer would be good enough to justify so much suffering. We cannot know the mind of God, whose thoughts are not our thoughts, whose ways are not our ways. I only know that I am weary of the pain I see around me.

It would be so easy to fall into despair.

And yet...

Our little granddaughter laughs, and the world lights up. A hummingbird noisily defends the feeder outside my window. The thousands of leaves on our maple and tulip poplar twinkle in the breeze. Friends gather to celebrate the passing into new life of a good man, giving witness to the many ways he lived his faith. There is beauty, there is joy, in all stages of life.

We know that our patience will again be tested as we await the end of one season, the beginning of another. We will sometimes be frustrated as we suffer alongside those we love, waiting for their wounds to heal, their pain to end.

But with God, we live in hope. We must not give in to despair. We must look for the beauty in every season of life, in full knowledge that God's creation is perfectly designed: life comes into the world, it grows and flourishes, passes away, and is reborn. We must take comfort in knowing that pain - no matter how deep - is temporary. We must cling to Jesus's promise: "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

I don't know why God allows so much suffering. I do know that it falls to me - indeed, to all of us - to comfort those who mourn, to strengthen those who feel weak, and to look for the beauty that is everywhere. To celebrate the life that is Life, regardless of circumstances.

God calls us to live in hope, trusting in the assurance of Psalm 30, that "weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning."

Blessings to you,

Lou Ann

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