There’s never a lack of tragic situations happening in the world at large as well in our specific communities, families, and churches. Sometimes, though, it seems like certain communities are hit really hard in relation to others.
One of my “circles” of people is my alma mater, Franciscan University of Steubenville. Being that it’s a university, my connections and friendships spread much wider there than some of my smaller, more personal circles. Though it is not a large university, there’s been a specific contingency of people (Catholic young families) overwhelmingly affected by hardships in the past year.
From loss of children (the Flynn family, the Barta family), to tragic loss of spouses (The Harkins Family), to fighting for their lives (Team Buna, Team Paul & Ann Coakley), there were/are so many stories of suffering. But, along with those came amazing strength, inspiration, and unparalleled faith. Seriously, these people, their stories, you should take time to read them. These are the things that saints are made of. These are the stories that inspire people. These are the events that change lives.
I don’t find myself asking the “why do bad things happen to good people” question because I don’t really think it’s right question. Things, good and bad, happen to all different kinds of people in all sorts of walks of life and situations. As it says in the Gospel of Matthew, “…He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Mt. 5:45)
But, as I have watched, read, cried, and prayed as these events have unfolded in some friends’, some associates’ lives, I have found myself noting that these are all families who share a common thread besides attending the same university – I also have noticed that these are all families who are in some way are actively involved in ministry, teaching, spreading the faith in some form or another.
The saints have some thoughts on this topic….
”We always find that those who walked closest to Christ were those who had to bear the greatest trials.” (St. Teresa of Avila)
”Tribulation is a gift from God – one that he especially gives His special friends.”
(St. Thomas More)
“I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.” (St. Teresa of Calcutta)
Yes, it does seem that God sometimes asks the most difficult things from those who are serving Him closely and loving Him deeply. But, I don’t think God presents these challenges to these families FOR Himself. And, I don’t think He asks these great things of people so that they will “prove” their love or “prove” their faithfulness to Him in the most harrowing of times in their lives.
What I am starting to understand is that God asks people of great faith to suffer, often in indescribable ways, for the sanctification of the world. He asks the people who He knows can handle it, who will triumph in love and faithfulness, because it is they who will bring thousands of others to their knees in prayer through their suffering and witness. And, I am not exaggerating when I say “thousands”. Visit some of their blogs and Facebook groups and see the numbers, literally in the thousands, of people supporting, praying, giving to help these families.
Our world is a mess in so many ways. There are atrocities happening every minute of every day. But, as C.S. Lewis said, “We are finite and God will not call us everywhere or to support every worthy cause. And real needs are not far from us.” Though we wish we could do more than we often can for the “big” sufferings of the world, the thing we all CAN do is pray – for the world and for our neighbors. Sometimes it takes someone close to us going through something BIG to get us to really pray with fervor and intensity, to make sacrifices in the name of that person or family that we otherwise might not have made.
A prayer is a prayer and a sacrifice made in the name of a prayer is a sacrifice, no matter “who” they are made for. Ultimately, all these things are made in the name of God for the good of all humanity. These thousands of people might be praying for this family or that family as they face, accept, and overcome events that the rest of us hope and pray everyday to never have to face. But, what matters is that WE ARE PRAYING and those prayers, no matter how they are offered, have a ripple effect through the entire world. These families remain unshaken in their faith and that is what shakes the world.
“What seem our worst prayers may really be our best. God sometimes seems to speak to us most intimately when He catches us, off our guard.” (more from the great CS Lewis)