Question: It seems as though the saying “When it rains, it pours” could be our family’s mantra. Within a year, we’ve experienced a car accident (not our fault), a fire in our garage (faulty wiring), our beloved family dog was diagnosed with a fast-moving cancer and had to be put down. Add to that, my husband lost his job where he was employed for 20 years because the company shut down, then his father passed away. We just get over one thing and something else pops up.
We attend church regularly and we love God, but sometimes we think we’re on his bad side. Do you have any insights on how we can deal with all of these things and not lose our faith?
~ God-Loving Family
Dear God-Loving Family,
First of all, let me say how sorry I am for all the sadness and difficulty in your family. But what I’d like to add right away is that God doesn’t have favorites, so you and yours aren’t on God’s “bad side.” In one of the gospels, Jesus says that his Heavenly Father sends the sun and the rain on the just and the unjust. The implication is that everybody, good or bad or some place in-between, experiences good days and bad days.
In another instance, after a tower has fallen with a good deal of injury and death, Jesus’ disciples ask whose “fault” it was – those who suffered or the parents of those who suffered. Jesus avoided a straight answer to the question (!), but what he essentially said was, “Stuff happens.”
I have had dogs in the past, and I have three now. Every time one of them has died or has been put down I have been saddened a lot – and I know that when one of the three I have now reaches the end of his/her life, it will be almost a tragedy of immense proportions. So I know what you must be feeling now with the loss of your pet.
Isn’t it sad that dogs live lives so much shorter than our own? But you and I know that when we acquire a pet. After you have grieved for a while, why not rescue a dog from a shelter? That way you’ll be saving an animal that might be euthanized, and you’ll be affirming your belief that life must go on.
Regarding your husband’s job loss, I am truly sorry. I know it’s tough to find something in the present economy. But sometimes God opens a door when he shuts another, so try to keep your spirits up and keep on looking.
But please don’t abandon God right now when you need God the most. Ask God for help, and keep on looking for that door that God may have already opened for you.
All the best to you and your family, and do try your best to keep the faith, even in these tough times. Now that all you have to rely on is God, you may be blessed more than you know (Matthew 5:3-4).
Dear God-Loving Family,
God bless you; all the major categories of your life have been upended, and nearly all at once.
I’d like to share with you my understanding as I have faced down my own difficult times. We are in this life to learn reliance and trust in our Heavenly Father. It’s not likely we’d do that if our lives were merrily going along with little adversity. Through prayer I’ve come to know that overcoming adversity is a spiritual joint venture, and this coming together with our Creator is the very point of these experiences. In James 1:2, we are forewarned that “we will fall into troubles” and that the rain will fall on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). This is a calling to turn within and join as the “sons and daughters” of the living God, and grow as we demonstrate an active faith, each day. I found that this is not as simple as saying “I believe,” but a person actively demonstrating an embodied confidence that they have in the integrity of the Living God.
In the story of Job, you will recall that the “accuser” told God that if bad things were to happen to Job, he would surely curse God and turn away. Job did not and, in patience, he was more than fully restored. Let your faith cause you to have an expectant heart and let the trust you have allow His infinite wisdom to unfold in your heart. Remind yourself often that God is for you.
We are spiritual beings first and foremost; when we recall this, we are immediately reintroduced to the road of empowerment and change.
I am reminded of a short prayer Jesus was known for that begins “Others, oh Lord, others…” Praying for the suffering of others is when I begin to sense my connection with God, and His guidance for my life begins to flow. Fear and doubt will absolutely amplify your suffering and distance you from sensing the Heavenly Father’s influence in your life.
Pray often and stand fast.
Peace be with you,
Question I changed jobs because my commute is shorter, and I’m making more money than I did at my other job, which I worked at for 12 years. I worked with many people at the old job whom I would consider “lifelong friends.” One of the guys, whom I really liked, doesn’t seem to have time for me anymore. He doesn’t return phone calls or emails. We used to bowl together, go to dinner with our families and, in my opinion, had a great relationship.
A mutual friend told me he is angry because I left the company. I would think he’d be happy for me, but that’s not the case. I just don’t understand his thinking. Should I persist in trying to heal this one-sided rift or just give it up?
~ Friend Forever
Dear Friend Forever,
Change is the only constant in life, as the saying goes, and there is nothing more frustrating and heartbreaking than going through a big life change like changing jobs and not having the people around us who we thought would always be there when the dust settles. We expect the people who we call friends to be happy for us when something great happens for us but people are unpredictable. And there are no easy answers.
We are complicated, so consequently our relationships are complicated. There aren’t just two people in relationship but two people plus all the life trauma, difficulties, hurt and pain that people go through are also part of that relationship. We just don’t know what is going to trigger behavior we don’t like, such as our friends ignoring us, not being happy for us when something great happens for us, or being angry at us when we expected they would be congratulatory.
I’m in the middle of a 12-week course on practicing the radical compassion of Jesus and it is situations like yours that test every compassionate fiber of our being. It’s easy to go from thinking there is a big misunderstanding here and if I can just explain myself clearly enough my friend will change his mind or rethink his position and be my friend again to our own resentment and anger at the other person’s behavior because they aren’t reacting to our good fortune the way we want them to.
But there’s something else going on and we just don’t know what it is, because your great move, new job, more money, shorter commute, has triggered something in your friend and the only way he knows how to react is to be angry at you. At our core we are compassion, we are created in the divine image that is compassion. It’s these difficult moments with others that give us the opportunity to grow more compassionate by getting in touch with our own compassionate core and offering that same compassion to others. One final phone call to your friend, expressing your love for him, that you miss him, and that if he ever did want to talk about what’s going on with him you would love to take him to coffee and listen. All we can do for the other in pain is remind them they are loved and, if the opportunity arises, we can listen.
Relationships have seasons and we never know when one season ends and another begins. Thoughts and prayers with you. And congratulations on your new job!
Postulate for Holy Orders in the Episcopal Church
Dear Friends Forever,
Your attempt to keep this friendship alive is commendable and it is an indication of your good heart and positive outlook in life. I hope you are able to repair this relationship but if you are not at the very least you should give it all you got.
Although your mutual friend in this case gave you his opinion, I believe you should make an effort to have a conversation with your previous work-mate and clarify things yourself. I am of the opinion that whenever we have difficulties with people around us we have a moral responsibility to try to mend these relationships in the best possible manner. Often this can be accomplished simply by clarifying things and ensuring there are no misunderstandings. This can sometimes be enough to clear the air and get a relationship back on the right track.
Perhaps there is something else that is bothering your former friend and a simple conversation can mollify him. You will never know unless you have a conversation. I know he’s ignoring you, but considering that you had a 12-year friendship I think it’s okay to be a bit persistent. Perhaps send a holiday gift ahead of Thanksgiving indicating that you are thankful for your past friendship and are hopeful that it can continue.
Regardless of what ultimately happens, you need to know that you did all that you can and gave it 100% of your effort. Life has so many components, but chief amongst them is the friendships we develop as they add a dimension to life that is usually irreplaceable and so very precious.