This past week a prominent young author and pastor from Harvest Church in California killed himself.  Jarrid Wilson had battled depression since childhood and was a huge advocate of bringing awareness to mental illness.  Sadly and shockingly he chose to end his life, leaving behind his wife, two young children and a community of brokenhearted family and friends.
There are no easy answers  or simple solutions. A young, influential man left this world way too early.  There is no blame or pointing fingers or finding scapegoats.  It the answers were simple and easy he would have found them.  He loved Jesus, he just couldn’t get beyond his pain and darkness.
Over the past few weeks I have been thinking about something I had mentioned  in my sermon a few weeks ago but it bears repeating.  It doesn’t necessarily relate to Jarrid Wilson because it is not related to mental illness in particular.  But it does relate to anyone who has experiences of pain or loss….and that would be all of us.  For we all suffer or have sorrow or times of darkness, sadness,  or despair.
In my sermon I mentioned how the comedian/satirist Stephen Colbert was being interviewed by CNN’s Anderson Cooper and they shared this exchange:


“You told an interviewer that you have “learned to love the thing which you most wished did not happen.”..(then you asked) …”What punishments of God are not gifts?”…You really believe that”
“Yes…it is a gift to exist…and with existence comes suffering.
  There’s no escape from that….I didn’t learn to love the thing which you most wished did not happen…I realized it.  I don’t want it to have happened.  I want it to not have happened.  But, if you are grateful for your life, then you must be grateful for all of it.  You can’t pick and choose what you are grateful for. …So what do you get from loss?  You get awareness of other people’s loss.  Which allows you to connect with that other person.  Which allows you to love more deeply and understand what it is to be a human being…If its true that all humans suffer.  

Anderson Cooper was actually choking back tears when he repeated the words that Colbert had said to the interviewer:  (You have) learned to love the thing which you most wished did not happen…What punishments of God are not gifts.”    Both men have suffered profound grief and loss in their lives.  Anderson Cooper’s father died when he was just 50 years old and his brother committed suicide when he was 23 years old.  Colbert’s father and two brothers died in a plane crash when Colbert was just 10 years old.  His mother’s death when she was 91 was fresh and still quite painful for him.

I must admit Colbert’s perspective is not one that is easy to come to.  Accept the pain, yes.  Accept the sorrow, yes.  Accept the circumstance, yes.  But to love it?  To view it as a gift?  To be grateful?   Is this asking more than even what God asks?
Colbert talked about “learning” to love the thing which you most wished did not happen..Meaning it was a process.  It did not happen overnight.  He talked about  seeing pain and suffering as a “gift” as a way to “connect” with people which leads to the ultimate expression of God…to “love” others.  As he talked about this it reminded me of someone else who embraced an otherwise unbearable situation….Jesus.  The writer of Hebrews states it this way:
…looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12;2).
Jesus chose to follow His father’s will (it was not His will).  He chose to not simply accept it but to embrace it.  The shame and the pain of the cross would be His pathway to expressing the love of God His father.  This was His joy.  He saw beyond His circumstance, His perspective was His father’s perspective.  He was shaped by His father’s love for Him and His love for His father.  No, Jesus did not desire to die a brutal death at the hands of violent men and a corrupt system.  But the joy before Him would be His anchor. 
Most gifts are ones we like and are glad to receive.  Not so with grief and suffering.  But perhaps if we see all of life as a gift…actually, not just see it but receive it…the good, the bad and  the ugly…we will experience it differently than it actually first appears to be.  Where is God in it?  How can God best be glorified?  How will love be most manifest?  It is not a gift we want or ask for.  It is not a gift we like or makes us happy.  But it is a gift nonetheless.  And it may take years and years before we come to the realization that any good could come out of something so painful.  And, if God wills it, we may even come to love it and let it bring us joy.
Wha do you think?
How does it make you feel?