Finding grace in tragedy

Elite Daily posts trending topics every day and emails them to contributing writers. One of the topics for today was about spiritual awareness month (something I didn’t even know existed!). I submitted this piece to my editor earlier this morning considering it’s a topic I’ve been obsessed with over the last few months. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been wrestling with how to find grace in all of the difficulties I’ve faced within the last year. Here is what I’ve come to learn so far:

A fundamental question we as humans have been trying to answer for centuries is if a God or Allah or Buddha (or whatever else you believe in) exists, then why do bad things happen? Why does suffering exist?

We cannot possibly imagine a reason for the Sandy Hook or Columbine shootings. The destruction of an entire city which left hundreds of people homeless after the Joplin tornado. The beheadings of innocent civilians by ISIS. Or the emotional and physical abuse we suffer at the hands of another.

Our first reaction to tragedies like this are shock, followed by horror that such inhumanity exists in the world. Then comes sadness and compassion for ourselves and for those whose lives are fundamentally altered, and not always for the better. But in all of these difficult situations our hearts open up wide and our desire to help grows.

We join hands with strangers to pray and hold candlelight vigils. We donate our time and energy into building houses for those who have no place to call home. We protect and harbor those who are escaping a horrible evil. But perhaps the evil that exists in this world is meant to remind us of the grace that can come from tragedy.

Difficult circumstances are the very things that shape us and teach us hope, endurance, and strength. They encourage us to stop being consumed by our own selfishness and become people who offer up compassion and love and understanding for strangers, for the world, for our family and friends, and for ourselves. Even if it is difficult to see, there are quiet moments of joy to be found. I am always in awe of our ability to join hands in the face of struggle.

It is true that the world and the people in it will find so many ways to break our hearts. At times, we will even break our own hearts. The disasters of the world, our failures, our grief, and our self-doubt – they are our worst enemies. They are the malignant tumors that eat away at our minds, our work, our creativity, and our desire to find meaning and purpose in the world.

But despite being awful and so unfair, these are the experiences that offer up a window into our souls. And the only way we can find peace and comfort is to not rush through the emotions those experiences bring us. We have to feel the hurt, the grief, the anger and despair. We find that the way of becoming closer to a higher power and of strengthening our spirituality is not to go around our journey but to endure it.

Our difficulties is what forces us to be the most honest, raw, and vulnerable versions of ourselves. Going around the grief, despair, anger, and hurt those experiences provoke inside of us is unfair to our very existence.

In moments of severe hurt, you have every right to feel it deeply and you have every right to not have your sh*t together every second of the day. But despite how unreasonable the injustices of this world are, we must embrace them. The disasters. The mistakes we make. The addictions we struggle with overcoming. The emotionally devastating heartbreaks we go through. The jobs we lose. The death of our children. It seems so difficult, especially in the moment, but it is possible.

This isn’t to suggest we should quickly release any negative emotions we feel in light of difficult circumstances. On the contrary, we should slow down a bit and be present during the process of healing. Quieting your emotions and jumping to forgiveness before you feel it in your bones will not get you past the visceral pain you feel right now – it only prolongs it. We can only hope to become closer to God – to reach clarity and meaning and purpose – by going through these emotions, not around them.

Sure, harboring such negative emotions is exhausting, but it can also be what drives us. Many people preach that to be a better Christian we must forgive but I believe that forgiveness is not always required to move forward. Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason for the bad things that happen in the world or to us. We can find comfort in the Tao Te Ching which tells us that for every 10,000 sorrows there are 10,000 joys. Perhaps what the higher powers are trying to tell us is to find the courage to accept what has happened, to let go and to continue seeing the good that exists in spite of the bad.

However difficult it may seem, we must endure the ugly side of tragedy even if it brings out the most unredeeming qualities. Although we are quick to blame God or Allah or Buddha or whatever you believe in, they are always there to show us our true destiny. Our experiences may even redefine what is important to us and teach us more about what we value and what we find worth standing up for.

In all of the difficult moments we face there is always some sort of grace that can be found. We just have to look deep enough. We have to search for the light and cling to it like a totem pole so we can make our way out of the dark. Reveling in this process, despite it’s horror, will transform us and we will always come out stronger – as a community and as individuals.

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3 Comments

Filed under buddhism, compassion, faith, forgiveness, grace, healing, life lessons, sorrow, tragedy

3 responses to “Finding grace in tragedy

  1. I really like your quote, “But perhaps the evil that exists in this world is meant to remind us of the grace that can come from tragedy.” We can’t have good without the bad. It also reminds me that we see the people who truly care about us when we are in our darkest times.

    • You are so right! My Dad always told me that growing up too, that we would never know good if we didn’t experience the bad. Thanks for the comment, Jesse!

  2. kimberley Roquas

    Reblogged this on Kim is thinking out loud .

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