So there’s this scene in Grey’s Anatomy, when Meredith is working through some issues with the hospital’s therapist:
Dr. Meredith Grey: [to her shrink in the elevator] what was the point? All those hours and all that money. what’s the point? The world is a horrible place. Young people die of diseases. It makes absolutely no sense to try to be happy in a world that’s such a horrible place.
Dr. Wyatt: [to Meredith] Yes.
Dr. Meredith Grey: What?
Dr. Wyatt: Yes, horrible things do happen. Happiness in the face of all of that… that’s not the goal. Feeling the horrible and knowing that you’re not gonna die from those feelings, that’s the goal.
Dr. Wyatt: [she stops the elevator] And you’re not done. You’ve made progress because you’re feeling and you’re telling me about it. Six months ago, it would’ve been just you and a bottle of tequila. My door is always open.
When it comes to horrible things in the world, happiness in the face of all of it is not the point. Feeling the horrible and knowing that you’re not going to die from those feelings is the point.
One of the big questions in theology is (and always will be), “Why do horrible things happen in a world with a God who is all-good and all-loving?” I’m not saying I have an answer to that question. But part of the human experience is learning how to deal with it. Loving God but knowing that bad things happen and that they will happen to you. Learning how to live in communion with God and not constantly in fear that those things are just around the corner, even if you know that they could be.
Since I’ve gone through a lot of transitions in the past year, each new change brings some fear that the situation will turn out badly. The new house we move into will be surrounded by criminals and drug dealers roaming the streets. The new sofa we buy will cave in the day after the warranty is up. Logan or my mom or dad or sister or brother will die in a car accident tomorrow. We’ll plan out a career path that turns out not to be fruitful and we won’t have enough money to help our kids with college or take them on family vacations. The decisions we make today will harm rather than help us.
Believing in God doesn’t stop these things from happening. That’s the scary part.
What are we supposed to do with this information? When I was a kid, I always thought, “God will protect me. God loves me too much to let those things happen.” Now, I know that God’s love is different than that. It doesn’t guarantee a life free from regret, sorrow or pain. Now that I know that nothing is stopping those things from happening, how am I supposed to live without worrying? Denial? How do I do that when those things are happening all around me, on the news and to people I love?
I think denial would mean announcing happiness in the face of the horrible things. Sitting in the comfort of my own home night after night, romanticizing life surrounded by my things. But pretending the horrible things don’t happen don’t make them go away.
Don’t get me wrong–I think giving your mind and soul a rest from the troubles of the world is essential. Even Jesus needed to get away from it all sometimes. We can’t put all our focus on the negative, either. But denying that bad things happen for the sake of happiness? I get that we have to cope somehow, but is denial the best way to do it?
I’m still figuring it out. I think it has something to do with living in community with God and with people. Suffering with those who suffer and rejoicing with those who rejoice. Serving others. Not getting everything you want. Taking good care of your soul. But obviously, I’m still working on it.
Maybe it means living in the present–not dwelling on all the bad things that might happen that are beyond your control. Focusing on the people around you NOW and doing your very best. And when bad things do happen, feeling the world and knowing those feelings aren’t going to kill you. What else can we do with those feelings but feel them?
I know that God loves me, and I think that God suffers with me when I suffer and God rejoices with me when I rejoice. God will be with me through the pain. Hope is not lost.
How do you deal with bad things that happen to you or to others? How do you avoid constant worrying? Do you draw wisdom from Grey’s Anatomy, like me, or do you have a more sophisticated approach? :)