Life Lines

God’s Place in Life’s Challenges


When I went to my local YMCA this week, I ran into a man from my parish, a deacon who is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. His wife recently insisted on a Y membership for him in hopes that the physical exercise would help his mental state, but he is quick to admit that his memory is fading fast. 

A deacon for 30 years, he can no longer assist at Mass without a cheat sheet. At home, if his wife asks him to get something from upstairs, he has to write it down. Although he keeps his mind active by reading and doing crossword puzzles, he knows that this is just the beginning of what is likely to be a long decline into a place none of us wants to imagine we might go, a place where we can’t find our way home, don’t know our own child’s name. 

And yet, as we stood talking, this man was smiling and complimenting the trainers at the gym for being willing to re-train him every time he comes in since he can’t remember their instructions from one day to the next. He talked about the seniors he visits at a local nursing home, and praised his wife for being his “angel.” Not one negative word came out of his mouth; no fear or self-pity flickered in his eyes. 

As our conversation wrapped up, he smiled at me and said, “God is good.” I walked away amazed at the way some people are able to meet life’s greatest challenges with grace and trust. Instead of asking, “Why me?” people like this understand at their core that the real question is “Why not me?” 

To be able to approach the worst moments of life with such clarity, such faith, is truly a gift. It doesn’t mean that we don’t get angry at God or wish we’d been spared. It means that we understand that life is uncertain, that every day we can choose to embrace what is good in our life in spite of what is bad.

A day before I bumped into my deacon friend, I’d been to the funeral of another friend who died at age 46 after a long battle with colon cancer. His two young sons sat in the front row of our church, facing an uncertain future on top of a devastating loss. And yet, Dave, in an obituary he wrote himself, asked his family members and friends to celebrate his very full life, not mourn his early death. 

“Dave reflected that if he had died suddenly, he would never have learned the capacity and generosity of how blessed he was by the network of support around him,” he wrote. “…Dave wishes friends, family and loved ones to celebrate their lives and if they choose to attend the memorial service(s), to celebrate memories and a life and move on, not mournfully, but joyfully recognizing that every person is truly a blessing and every day is a wonderful gift.” 

Every day is a wonderful gift. That thought wasn’t penned by someone who just won the lottery or landed his dream job. It was written by a middle-aged father who knew he would not live to see his children grow up or even finish the school year. That takes a certain kind of faith, a deep and abiding trust in a God who does not cause our sorrows but loves us through them. 

God is good. We say we believe it, but is it the case only when life is humming along according to our own plans? Do we believe it when every hope, every dream is dashed to the ground? Can we look out from a place of sadness or fear and trust in the Divine goodness that permeates our days, our very being? God is good. Can we live like we mean it?

Mary DeTurris Poust’s fourth book,
“The Essential Guide to Catholic Prayer and the Mass,” was released March 1 and has an endorsement from Archbishop Dolan.

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