A Letter to Marta:
Walking Through the Valley of the Shadow
Marta, a woman in her early 40s, is a member of Trinity Presbyterian Church now living in Maine. Recently, surgeons amputated her legs from the knees down due to poor circulation -- the effects of juvenile diabetes coupled with confinement to a wheel chair for several years because of multiple sclerosis. MS struck Marta in her mid 30s in the midst of a career she was building around her background in theater and video and a unique capacity to relate to and work with at-risk adolescents. Her affliction forced her to give up not only her budding career, but also many other things she enjoyed doing -- including swimming, karate, dancing, and hosting parties. In a recent conversation, she asked her pastor "why?" A response to Marta's question from Rev. Dr. Robert Helm follows.
It is not for me to preach to you. You have always been a person of courage and compassion and your courage in the trials you have faced have witnessed to life to me and to many people.
In a sense, "the courage to be" is the same thing as Faith. Christians affirm that life has meaning and that God is good although everyone who truly lives must walk through the valley of the shadow. No one wants to be put to the test or to suffer; like Jesus, we ask that the cup be removed because we are afraid or our faith seems small. We can't avoid our suffering but we can ask God to give us the strength to endure it and to cope with it.
We do not know why we are called to suffer and that bad things happen to us. God's ways are higher than our ways and God's thoughts higher than our thoughts. But it is honest to argue with God and sometimes that gives us release and sometimes we are given acceptance and peace.
No sensitive or good person escapes suffering or hurts -- only people who are obtuse or unfeeling and who do not dare to live life as fully human.
Theologically, Christians see their hurts as "severe mercy" which is not a smile button but the choice to believe that life is not merely chaos or meaningless -- but that God has a purpose with our lives and that it is the good and love which ultimately triumph and we are fulfilled in that love. God is not through with us -- ever.
It is what I believe: that all our difficulties, our own failures and disappointments, the suffering that we don't deserve -- all is to be given to God and at the deepest level of life, God will make us whole and God's Kingdom comes.
-- Rev. Dr. Robert Helm
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