A happy unicorn once told me that life is incredibly beautiful. This happy unicorn was and is a very dear friend of mine. She was a dear enough friend that I did not hesitate to challenge her words- arguing heatedly, pointing out all the miserable things I saw every day. There were my dear dementia residents at work who were slowly losing every capability and logic they once possessed, the ones who cried just because the disease made them sad. There was my dad, who was facing a terminal diagnosis. There was my 22-year-old brother going through extensive and destructive cancer treatments. And there I was- looking into life as into a dark tunnel, facing every day as a fight that must be fought.
My friend did not back down- she could see beauty in every day, and she believed strongly that God could redeem every situation. She said that everything happened for a reason and I was left gasping at the thought that God designed some of the things that I saw in life. If God planned these things deliberately, then I felt sure that He must have a very dark sense of humor. Why would God kill my brother’s beloved dog of thirteen years while my brother was in the hospital getting a stem cell transplant?
In the years since then my faith has grown slowly… I believe that there is always some beauty and the finger of God can be seen in any situation. I know that he can work through pain. But does God plan every dark situation? I cannot believe that it is all for the best. Every day at work, I am faced by a myriad of problems- people in pain, people who are dying, damaged relationships… So many people I know personally are facing cancer, death, or pain. Can this be God’s plan?
This morning I read the Lamentations of Jeremiah. Jeremiah, like me, felt that God led humanity into darkness and not light. He acknowledged that what he saw was not beautiful, but ugly and painful. And yet he had hope. He says, “He doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men… the Lord approveth not…” This was enough for Jeremiah- to know that God grieves at the grief of His creation, to know that God does not cast off willingly or forever, to know that His mercy reaches across our sin-cursed lives and can redeem them. This was enough for Jeremiah and this must be enough for me.
Jesus wept for our grief. Jesus bore our grief and carried our sorrows. Jesus died in pain to redeem our death and our pain. I don’t know how this works, but it is enough to know that God understands the pain and would die to redeem it. He never hands out pain with a happy smile. We have earned so much more pain than we have received, and God is actively working to reverse that sorrow. As Paul says in Romans, “…the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope…”
God does not cause pain willingly. When God subjects us to pain, he subjects us in hope. So, my happy unicorn friend (whom I love very much), life is not always beautiful. We live in a world that is scarred and bleeding like the hands of our Lord… His best plan was revealed in the perfect Creation at the beginning and will again be revealed at the end of this rocky road we call life. Life may not be beautiful, but God’s redemption will be beautiful. And perhaps, my friend, that is what you were trying to tell me all along.