Haiti. It’s on all of our minds, and for most of us, it’s in a helpless sort of way. We’re too far away, without the time or means to really make more than the tiniest dent by sending a meager offering somewhere. And we keep praying.
I’m also pondering. A lot. Pondering how it is that I should even be able to continue my day-to-day life of getting children from here to there, doing dishes (I own dishes — I feel guilty about owning dishes and having food to put on them!), doing laundry (I own clothing! Nevermind my wonderful washing machine!), looking at the bathrooms that need to be cleaned (I have more than one bathroom! In my house! With running water!). Speaking of water, I can get a drink of clean water, for crying out loud. Anytime I want to, from a faucet in my kitchen (or my bathroom(s)). (At least for now. Is anyone else feeling a little bit of fear?)
You know what I mean. Right?
And yet, I think of the scriptures that tell us that in these last days as we prepare for the Lord’s second coming, things will both be in commotion and yet also continue to be normal — people “marrying and given and marriage” and all of that. And I can’t help but feel this tragedy in Haiti is a little example of what that means. I know that the Lord weeps for those who suffer; I know He has suffered their pain. I know He expects me to turn my hearts toward others, to weep with them, pray for them, and seek to help them. But I also don’t think He expects us all to somehow stop normal life — if we have it. I think we each at different times will be living the normalish stuff of life, and at other times, be experiencing more of the commotion. And we never know from one minute to the next on which end of the spectrum we might find ourselves. (Again, it’s hard not to feel fear even saying that.)
It’s all part of this thing we call mortality.
I got an email tonight from a friend who has done service in Haiti. She shared with me the tragic story about her friend who has lost her mother, and possibly her brother. Her mother was buried in the rubble of a hospital after she had re-entered the building to save others. This young college student recently lost a sister in an accident, and now she is facing the heart-wrenching reality of knowing her mother is gone and considering that her brother might be too. And knowing that her country, her home, is in shambles.
It’s hard to even process the “why”s of these things. It’s hard to process the breadth and depth of the suffering and grief caused at times like this. The intensity at the individual level is almost more than I can bear (such as when I hear stories like the one sent by my friend), but the collective suffering is really just intolerably overwhelming. And then, to realize that this kind of suffering happens in other ways all over the world, in large- and small-scale ways — I can’t do it. I simply can’t go there for more than a millisecond before feeling the weight of it all.
It could consume any of us. And sometimes it might if we let it.
I, with Nephi, know God loves his children, but I know I don’t know the meaning of all things. And I know that no pat answer can ever assuage the grief people feel at this time. But one thing that does bring me some measure of peace and perspective is to realize that the breadth and depth of the suffering can remind us of the breadth and depth of the Savior’s grace and power. Only Christ can eventually make these things fully right. He is the one who was sent to bind our wounds, wipe away our tears, heal the broken-hearted, and swallow up the sting of death through His atoning sacrifice.
I will never stop caring, praying, and seeking to find ways to help. I will not turn a blind eye just because the suffering is difficult to process. But in the end, I know of no other way to fully face the devastation and difficulty that life can bring without holding fast to my faith in the Savior. He is my source of peace in times of personal and global difficulty.
One of the images that is burned in my mind from this recent tragedy is of a man in a lean-to, clinging to one of the only possessions he had left: his Bible. As he sat with his family — hungry, thirsty, and homeless, he impressed me with a simple yet powerful example of what it can mean to hold fast to faith in God.