Faith & Worship: How will you respond when bad things happen?

Published 2:36 pm Thursday, December 28, 2017

Today, December 26, I am traveling from Tryon to Springfield, Illinois. My wife declared that we needed to go to Springfield to see her friend Mollie. I thought to myself, “That sounds like a wonderful idea, just not at the end of December. Perhaps the beginning of June would be a more pleasant time of the year.” She was adamant, though, that this was the perfect time of the year to take a road trip to Springfield, St. Louis, and Wichita.  

She knew that the weather would be perfect. She had a vision of blue skies and tropical breezes. I tried to tell her that that was a clear sign that we should be on a cruise in the Caribbean. She wasn’t biting. She told me to pack my sweaters, coats, hats, gloves, and boots, just in case her vision is off a bit in the particulars. I dutifully packed my cold weather clothes and hoped for the best.  

At 2:30 this afternoon we were driving on I-64 in central Illinois, and my wife said, “I think I just saw something that looked like a snow flake. Did you see that?”  

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I turned to her and said, “No, I can barely see due to the blue skies, bright sun, and tropical breeze.”  

Five minutes later we were driving through a snow storm with the wind chill outside the car dropping to negative five. I bit my lip as best as I could and said, “I’m so glad that we get to have a week of quality family time.”  

She turned to me and said, “That’s the spirit. I’m so happy that you are focusing on the things that are within our control. Who knows, we could have sailed right into a hurricane if we were on a Caribbean cruise.”  

While the weather here in central Illinois is cold, windy, and snowy, it is really small potatoes compared to the problems of many people at this time. Over the last week, I have talked with people who are struggling with the death of a loved one, the uncertainty of cancer, high anxiety due to work issues, and depression for various reasons.  

The Christmas season doesn’t make these issues go away; rather, often it makes those serious issues feel even worse. The celebrations and parties around Christmas seem like nails on a chalk board to a person who is wracked with physical illness or wrapped inside the darkness of depression. I wish I could magically cure each of the people I talked with over the past week, but I am not the Savior. I only point to the one who suffered and died on the cross.  

We often forget that the birth of Jesus is not a celebration in and of itself; rather, the birth of Jesus is the beginning of the life and ministry that will end on the cross. God sends us his son so that we will realize that God is with us in the midst of our sorrow and suffering. Jesus in the manger is a proleptic vision of Jesus on the cross. We celebrate and give praise for the Savior’s birth, because we are no longer alone in our pain and suffering. Jesus is there with us, and he asks that we ourselves would attend with him to those who are suffering and in pain. 

Snow will fall from the heavens whether we like it or not. We will suffer whether we like it or not. Bad things will happen to us whether we like it or not. The real question is whether we will attend with faith to those things that are in our control. The shepherds had only one response to the angels, which was to go to the Christ child and give glory and praise. They were incapable of doing anything else.  

Each of us in our own way will suffer, struggle, be in pain, and ultimately die. The birth of the Savior, though, announces that we are not alone, that God is with us in Emmanuel.  

God heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3) 


Submitted by Father Robert Ard
Holy Cross Episcopal Church, Tryon