Moving forward when life falls apart

Fr. Matthew Spencer recently shared a prayer request he received from a listener who told them about a tragic loss in their family. “The boys inside of the family are young, they’re altar servers, and they don’t understand why dad had to die. And they don’t understand why their prayers didn’t work, especially when their dad was an amazing guy … a man who was faith-filled, who was true to his vocation—how is it even possible that God would allow somebody in that situation to go to his death early?”

Maybe that story resonates with you, if you’ve experienced a deep loss in your life or a grave illness or other tragedy or trauma. Such devastating situations stay with us our entire lives and can seem impossible to overcome. If you’re experiencing something similar, wondering where God is and how you could possibly move forward, Fr. Matthew has some advice for you.

“Isn’t it interesting how those experiences, when seen in the light of the Gospel, they pale in comparison to the joy that is to come? The problem is that in the moment—the minutes and years and decades that pass after that—and that’s what I mean when I say the moment, because let’s face it, our lives are just a tiny blip on the screen when it comes to eternity. It’s a tiny moment, this life that you and I have. I’m not saying it mitigates the pain, I’m not saying it takes away the difficult sorrow that we feel, but we need to put things into perspective as Christians. We need to realize, to see our lives in the light of the Resurrection.”

You’ll laugh about it someday

Fr. Matthew told a story of a young couple whose canoe flipped over on the river in front of restaurant full of people, sending them into the water in their evening wear. “As they fell into the water and somebody says to them, ‘You’re going to laugh at this one day,’ and that’s the last thing they could think of, that’s the last thing they could comprehend at that moment. That this was actually not going to be as big of a deal as it seemed at that moment, that in fact, their lives were going to turn out pretty good, that their blessings were going to continue and endure. And this is what happens when we see even pain and suffering right now.

“I’m not saying that someday we will laugh at it in humor, but someday, if we can endure, someday when we get to heaven, all of the—now, hear me out here. I know this sounds crazy but I am being so superlative here because it’s true. Every single pain and suffering that you go through right now, every single difficulty, no matter how great, will pale in comparison to the joy and beauty of the Resurrection. Everything! Every sorrow that you are feeling right now will be washed away by the joy of Jesus Christ and his eternal life that he wants to give to us.

“We can’t see it now; I know that. We can’t see it because we’re caught up in the turmoil and the suffering and the pain and we can’t see a way out of it. I get that and I understand it—I’ve been through moments in my own life. … and guess what? God always comes through. Not only in Fr. Matthew’s life, but in your life.”

Look to heaven

His advice for dealing with the most horrible, faith-shaking, tragic situations in life? First, acknowledge them. Second, begin to accept even though we’re Christians and faithful, good people, we will still experience suffering and loss. Look to the unimaginable glory of eternal life to come and have hope! “We acknowledge the pain, we accept it, eventually we learn to embrace it and then we realize that God shapes us through those trials,” says Fr. Matthew.

“What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard,
and what has not entered the human heart,
what God has prepared for those who love him.”

1 Corinthians 2:9

Listen to the full segment:

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Lindsey is a wife, mother, and contributing author at Relevant Radio. She holds a degree in Journalism and Advertising from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Lindsey enjoys writing, baking, and liturgical living with her young family.