Many years ago the son of a friend of mine died on the operating table. He was 12 years old and had severe learning and physical difficulties. This was after a baby of hers had died a couple of years earlier from sudden death syndrome. She was taken to some friends who tried to look after her. As the news broke among our wider circle, one after the other we came to see and stand with her and her family in the face of their pain, which was enormous.
One day her social worker came. As she left the bedroom where my friend lay almost inconsolable, she bumped into one of our group and through her tears said: "How can you possibly believe in God at a time like this?" The response was simple and yet profound: "It's precisely because we believe in God that we can cope at times like this."
Faith doesn't take away the pain and the despair. It doesn't give us a shortcut through the emotional hurt but maybe, just maybe, it gives us hope to begin again and to face life with bravery.
Sheila Cassidy once wrote a book called Sharing the Darkness, in which she said that faith was the willingness to outstare the darkness. I find that quite extraordinary and yet time and time again I meet people who have had the most incredible burdens to bear and remain willing to trust and believe in the goodness of God. Just recently I encountered a woman who told me that for 60 years she had practised gratitude. During that time she had had lost her husband and two of her children and yet God was good and life was to be lived.
It's so easy to forget the challenge of being a follower of Jesus: to trust in the face of darkness that light will come, to trust in love rather than in hatred, to believe in goodness rather than evil. If we have anything to offer the world it is how we handle life when it appears to be falling apart. Let's look then for courage in the midst of darkness, hope in despairing situations, and life where there is death.