How many times have you heard it? How many times have you said it? To be honest, it’s all too common around these parts, especially when we’re standing in front of someone walking through some profound tragedy.
My story is not unique. At the most basic level, it’s a story of human suffering and God’s redemption of that pain. As a tried and true New Orleans girl, I’ve been marked by the destruction of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It will always be a significant moment, followed by a series of very dark days, a whole new level of introspection and doubt, and ultimately, the Lord pulling me from the darkness. The pain I experienced has marked me, but so has the goodness of the Lord. On the other side of it now, I can see how God has used my brokenness and my city’s brokenness, shaping me (and it) for the better.
Deep down, I think I always assumed that this – losing all my worldly possessions, almost losing my family, being uprooted from everything and everyone I knew, and having to piece my life back together in a fairly public arena – would be the most significant grief experience of my life. The bottom dropped out, but I made it out the other side still able to praise the One who carried me through it. Surely that was enough.
If you spent any amount of time with our staff this summer, you might have realized that each of us walked through some sort of personal tragedy in the past few months. Week after week, as groups poured in and lives were changed, our permanent staff faced one heartbreak after another. We’ve wept together, literally held one another up, and cried out to the Lord on behalf of each other.
Not once did we say to each other that it would be ok, that God wouldn’t give us more than we could handle. As each of us has grieved, we’ve come to realize just how misleading and infuriating that statement can be, even if it is wrapped in the best of intentions and delivered with an aim to comfort. Bottom line: it’s not true.
Watching your home wash away is too much to handle. Losing a family member is too much to handle. Walking through a debilitating illness is too much to handle. When you wake up in the morning with salt crystalized on your cheeks because even in sleep you can’t escape the sorrow, you know that it’s too much to handle. And to say otherwise is just not an option.
This Katrina anniversary, which coincides with the two-month anniversary of my niece’s death, I’ve found myself circling around one passage of Scripture in particular: the story in the book of Daniel of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Facing execution at the hand of the Babylonian king, those three young men remained faithful to the Lord. When they were given the option to save themselves by worshipping King Nebuchadnezzar, they refused to budge, stating that their God was able to deliver them. Those three men took it a step further, though, and declared that even if the Lord did not deliver them, they would still serve Him, still worship Him, still know that He is good.
In the midst of our suffering, may we say the same thing. In the midst of rebuilding this city and trying to piece together that which was broken, may we still hold onto our conviction. As we walk through deep and dark suffering and experience heartache, may we cling to the truth that God is still good.
Because at the end of the day, we are not strong enough to handle the tragedies around us, but we serve a God who is and who carries us through and who promises that He is enough.