We walk into the apartment to signs that would normally bring delight: baby bottles on top of the microwave and Enfamil cans below; bouncy chairs in the living room and bright colors all around.
Today, however, there is no joy. These artifacts are haunting reminders of a child whose presence in the world was all too brief. Brother Jim and I sit in the living room as the adopted mother of Baby Zodell discusses the circumstances of his death with a forced sense of calm. He woke up in the middle of the night for the regular feeding with no signs of trouble. By the morning, however, the four-month-old had passed away in his sleep due to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). The elusive “why?” quiets the room.
What struck me wasn’t this mother’s grief. In fact, she was incredibly strong and poised. What struck me was a common phrase we hear in families experiencing a death: “God has a plan.” It is our natural tendency to rush through the pain and come to an explanation for our suffering. We deny our pain in the pursuit of quick strength.
During Holy Week, I think it is an important time to examine this reaction. If there was ever proof that God had a plan, it was in this week of Jesus’ life. How else could such tragedy end in the greatest celebration of our faith?
However, the weight of the suffering of Holy Week gets spoiled by knowing the ending. Holy Week is less tragic because we know of the resurrection. We know the plan. We cannot accurately feel the unknowing of Mary, Jesus, the Apostles, or even Judas and the Romans. We can experience this unknowing only through our own struggles and tragedies, such as the unexpected death of an infant.
Our God is a God incarnate. While we do not yet know the joys of heaven, God knows the struggles of earth. Instead of trying to understand God’s heaven where it all makes sense, I challenge you to take time to feel the comfort of solidarity in Jesus’ struggles. What we do know is pain. We can understand the narrative of the cross much more than that of the resurrection.
God came down to earth, and Jesus suffered without seeming cause. He was ridiculed and tormented. Mary sacrificed everything to bear the Son of God and her reward was to watch him be tortured, mocked, and killed. At the time of his death, she did not know with certainty what was about to happen. Her faith caused her to trust in a future purpose to be revealed, but that did not erase the anguish she felt at the foot of the cross.
There will come a time to celebrate in the resurrection, but I challenge you not to rush it. Spend time this week with Jesus in his suffering, with his lamenting in the garden, and with the unfathomable cruelty of his death. Suffering cannot be erased by easy answers, and we are not stronger for coming to explanations quickly. Lament to God your own struggles, and build an authentic, intimate relationship through the honesty of emotion. From there we can hope in the future resurrection of our struggles, and begin the healing process.
–Megan Sherrier, BSL
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