Recently, I took my 5-year-old son Matthew for a walk near our house. The big snow banks in our city are melting and the sidewalks are littered with deep, dirty puddles. Adults try to avoid walking through them, but not Matthew! He joyfully walked back and forth, from one end of our block to the other, jumping hard in each puddle to make the biggest possible splash. I followed behind him, trying not to get wet. “I wish I could have so much fun!” I thought, and I remembered the joyful, carefree days of my childhood. It made me a little sad.
The next morning, as I walked to work, I noticed that the puddles had frozen. I looked at the license plate frame of a parked car. It read, “This too shall pass.” My son will grow out of his childhood, I thought. He’ll learn to avoid puddles. He will get a job and probably get married and raise children. He will learn what responsibility, work and stress are. Again, it made me a little sad.
However, the message, “This too will pass,” also gives me hope. I woman I’ve known for many years is in her mid-eighties and is essentially a shut in. It hurts her to walk and her legs are turning black. She fights a lot with her husband. Many times when I talk to her, she begins babbling incoherently. I can’t understand the words, but I understand what she means: “I hate my life. I wish I would die. I can’t take this anymore. Please, God, make this suffering end!”
My life is somewhere in between my son’s spontaneous joy and this woman’s ongoing despair. I think of Jesus’ life. He was once a joyful little child. When he was 30 years old, he began his great task and felt the tremendous weight of its responsibility: “You unbelieving generation … how long shall I stay with you?” (Mark 9:19). Knowing he would be crucified and praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, “his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44). Dying on the cross, he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).
Most of us begin our earthly lives joyfully, but soon come to know pain and suffering. Most people attempt to avoid or compensate for this by choosing the devil’s “broad and easy road.” However, those who truly love God, choose the “narrow and hard road.” They know that the suffering of this life will soon end but the joy that is to come will never pass away.