This issue of The Word Among Us focuses on how the Lord wants to give us his strength through times of trial or suffering. This topic is close to my heart because, as some of you know, my wife, Jeannie, and I lost our daughter, Kate, to a heroin overdose five years ago this month (see the article on page 16). So I wanted to open my heart a little bit and share with you what our journey of faith has been like these past few years.
Jesus told us, “In the world you will have trouble” (John 16:33), and he meant what he said. He himself endured great suffering during his time on earth, and he wants to strengthen us so that we can endure as well. But he wants more for us than to just endure with our own grit and determination. He wants to help us find an inner strength that comes from him and even a sense of joy. I’m amazed when I read St. James telling us, “Consider it all joy . . . , when you encounter various trials” (1:2).
Of course, suffering and loss are not joy-filled experiences. And yet in Christ, hope can accompany us in our pain and grief as we learn to trust that what we are experiencing is not the end of the story. Jesus promises that a day will come when he will wipe away every tear from our eyes (see Revelation 21:4).
“I’m Ready.” I don’t know how Jeannie and I would have survived these past five years without faith in the Lord and hope in the promise of heaven. Because not only did we lose our daughter Kate, but our son, Peter, was diagnosed with incurable stage-four cancer just a few months later. But even as we grieve Peter’s illness and the fact that he appears to be nearing the end of his time with us, we have found hope—from Peter himself. He likes to remind us, “Look, Dad and Mom, we believe in heaven and the goodness of God. I’m ready to go to the Lord.”
I don’t believe that our family has suffered more than other families, and, of course, it’s not a competition! We all experience hardship, loss, and suffering. But God wants to walk with us through these times of sorrow. He wants to give us hope when we feel empty and lost. He wants to assure us that he is with us when we feel alone. And perhaps most of all, he wants to fill us with hope in the promise of heaven that awaits us and our loved ones. I am convinced that Jeannie and I will see Kate again in the arms of our merciful Father!
So yes, let’s grieve when we need to. And pour out our suffering to the Lord. But at the same time, let’s try our best to cling to Jesus and his promises. He is closer to you than you know.
Jeff Smith, President