Sometimes, I swear, I attract the weirdo moments.
Shortly after an introduction, the stranger let slip that his father had died six months ago. I had the usual reply “oh goodness, I am so sorry,” and assumed that would be the end of the conversation. We were out on a Friday night. I didn’t know the man. I was with a friend. He was with friends. Usually, the conversation (especially a serious one) ends there.
Yet, he kept going. He kept talking. It turns out that his father had died of cancer. He told me about his hurt, his anger, his confusion. Most especially, he told me about his hostility with God and Church. He did not believe that God could let something bad like that happen to his father, happen to him.
Did I mention we were at a bar?
Now, I could have walked away. I could have said “this conversation has way to much hurt and bitterness and deep issues for a Friday night.” I could have said any number of things.
I took a deep breath.
And I tried to ease the stranger’s suffering.
I believe, in every moment, we have a gift. We can make another person’s life just a little bit better. We can choose to help, to heal, to provide a moment of happiness. At that moment, at that bar, call me crazy or not, I believe God called on me to try and make the stranger feel even just a tad better. Have just a bit more understanding. Find just a bit of peace.
If a person is talking about feelings, death, and religion at a bar to someone he has never met, clearly he needed to let it out.
William H. Macy once said “don’t cry, don’t cry, but if it does happen–thank God.” Sorrow, hurt, anger, fear–those emotions need to be let out and felt, in order for them to be properly dealt with.
Sometimes, those issues, those questions, that total confusion not only needs to be let out, but needs to be shared with another person.
On Friday, I was that person.
My job was to listen compassionately. To allow the stranger to let out his anger without judgment.
And when he asked the question “Why would God allow something like that to happen?”
My job was to give hope. To provide a glimmer of understanding. To share my faith.
The continual question in religion is “if God is so great, why does he allow bad things to happen to good people?”
A pretty deep question for a Friday night at a bar.
One that I, even with a huge measure of faith, cannot provide an easy answer to. But I tried. Oh, how I tried.
When I lived in New York, I attended Tim Keller’s Redeemer Church. Coincidentally, Pastor Tim Keller recently published the book Walking with God through Pain and Suffering. Tim Keller reminds us that so much of modern secular society makes us fear suffering. We think that “oh, I must have bad karma.” Or oh–those people have it so easy, God must love them more than me. Or even, “what did I do wrong, to make God punish me so?”
What we need to remember is that God has a plan. That suffering, for all its misery, hardship, and pain, enables us to better receive God’s goodness.
The bible says in 1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” God will not challenge you past your ability to endure it.
And so, at the bar, I tried to console the angry stranger. He needed reassurance. He needed someone to blame. He needed relief.
But there’s only so much you can say at a bar. We talked about heaven. We talked about God’s plans. And, yes, we talked about how everything happens for a reason and that suffering allows a person to be closer to God. As Tim Keller says, “some suffering has no purpose other than to lead a person to love God more ardently for himself alone and so discover the ultimate peace and freedom.”
And we talked about love. Love of a son for his father, a father for his son, love of family, and, throughout it all, God’s love.
And then, the stranger finished his beer and left.
He is not someone I will ever see again. But I feel like, for a few moments, I helped him to feel some sense of relief. He shared his anger. He shared his sorrow. He let out his pain and confusion. And maybe. Just maybe. My attempt to explain suffering. My attempt to share love over pain. Maybe, just maybe, that resonated with the stranger. Maybe he forgot by the end of the night. But I have to believe I made, even for a brief moment, a difference in the stranger’s life. That I provided some understanding, some hope, and a dash of faith.
And, in return, the stranger gave me a gift, as well. He reminded me that my faith is big, my love is bigger, and my trust in God is great. They say that, in order to truly understand and appreciate something, you need to be able to teach it. Well, I certainly was a teacher and a student on Friday night.
And that, my friends, was the greatest gift of all.
So what’s the moral of the story? Am I trying to foist my religious views on the blog masses?
I just ask that, as you encounter people in your day, be kind. You do not know what their suffering may be. You do not know what circumstances surround their lives. But you have the opportunity to make their day a bit better, a bit brighter, a bit happier. You can instill hope and positivity–no matter the scenario.
Every moment is a gift.
It’s your choice to accept it and pass that gift along.