Saturday, March 30, 2024

Watches and Sharpies and Quirks, Oh My!

A few weeks ago, I discussed a little personality quirk I have. (No, not THAT one!) Throughout my adult life, I have purchased quite a few inexpensive wrist watches. I have no idea why I’m so fixated on watches. But since I never spend more than $50 on a watch, I figure it’s better than being fixated on Porsches, yachts, or the meat counter at Stop n’ Shop. (Have you seen the prices nowadays?!)

After that column appeared in the newspaper, one alert reader sent me an email inquiring about my Apple Watch. Four or five years ago I wrote a column about buying an Apple Watch — which was NOT inexpensive, unless you consider $450 for a single watch a minor expense. If you do, then we are from completely different socio-economic worlds.
Anyway, I forgot about my Apple Watch, so I have to revise my claim: “I only purchase inexpensive watches — except for one time when I made a boneheaded decision and wasted $450 on a mini wrist computer.”

I forgot about the Apple Watch because I never wear it anymore. That expensive device is now sitting on the night table next to my bed, functioning as an alarm clock — an alarm clock that cost me about $430 more than necessary. I stopped wearing it because it’s not waterproof; it needs to be recharged every evening; and when you lift up your arm to see what time it is, there is a brief but annoying pause before the display screen lights up. I know having to wait an extra one-third of a second to see the time shouldn’t be a big deal, but I just found the pause irritating. So, I went back to wearing my cheap-o watches and demoted the Apple Watch to alarm clock status.

At the very end of that column a few weeks ago, I also mentioned another of my quirky fixations: I own way too many pens. I have enough pens right now to last me the rest of my life, even if I live to be 4,000 years old. I have enough pens to outfit every high school student in Litchfield County. 
I mentioned in the column that I’m not sure how many pens I own because I can’t count that high. That’s actually not true. I definitely can count into the hundreds, but I have no idea of the total number because my pen empire is scattered throughout many different locations: my desk at work, my desk at home, the top of my bureau, the cup holder in my car, a tin can on the kitchen counter, a bin with office supplies locked in our storage unit, and probably a dozen other places I’ve forgotten about. 

Right now I feel kind of guilty. And not because I’ve spent a lot of money over the years on a gazillion pens. Just like my watches, the pens I like the most are inexpensive. Since I was a youngster in school I’ve been partial to Bic pens. You can get a 10-pack for a couple bucks at Walmart. If I remember correctly, I wrote a column many years ago about good ol’ reliable Bic pens.
However, my affections have shifted during the past year, so I hope the Bic folks aren’t too upset. My current favorite writing instrument is the Sharpie S-Gel. Ooh, it feels good in my hand, writes smoothly, and a 4-pack is only five or six dollars. Yes, that’s a major price hike compared to Bics, but it’s still better than making impulse purchases of Corvettes. 

Well, that’s enough about those particular personality quirks. Maybe next week I’ll tell you about the other one, you know, THAT one! 

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

He Is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! 

On Sunday we will celebrate Easter. Alleluia! Christ is risen! Alleluia! 

I am amazed by people who truly do NOT believe Jesus rose from the dead, and yet are still convinced Christianity is a wonderful religion. These folks believe that Jesus taught some terrific things about social and moral issues, and if we all would just follow those teachings the world would be a much better place. 

Now, there’s no doubt in my mind that if we all followed Jesus’ teachings the world indeed would be a much better place. But Jesus’ view on charity, compassion, and society’s obligation to the poor was not His main message — nor was it a new message, as many philosophies before and after the time of Jesus had “love your neighbor” as the basis of social morality. 
Jesus’ main message was Himself. Specifically, that He alone could forgive our sins, He alone could pay the price for our transgressions by dying on the cross, and He alone — pay close attention here — could conquer death once and for all by rising from the grave. 

St. Paul makes it abundantly clear that without the Resurrection, Christianity is nothing special. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote: “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then empty, too, is our preaching; empty, too, your faith….For if the dead are not raised, Christ has not been raised, and your faith is vain; you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If only for this life have we hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all” (1 Cor 15:13-14, 16-19). 

That really says it all: if Jesus did not in fact rise from the grave, our Christian faith is pitiful, pathetic, useless. 

So, as I said, it really amazes me that there are so many people who say, “Well c’mon, only those extreme Fundamentalists and those rigid traditional Catholics still believe a resurrection can really happen. But it’s OK that Jesus did not rise, as long as we focus on his wonderful teachings about love and forgiveness, and hold hands and sing ‘Kumbaya,’ then the whole world will be happy.” 
Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. If Jesus’ body remained dead and rotting in the tomb, then in the grand scheme of things, our faith is worthless. Oh sure, this brand of Christianity might make people feel good for a while, but it is powerless over mankind’s biggest problem: death. 

I suspect these folks have fallen for one of the biggest scams in modern history: the anti-supernatural bias. This is the belief that the universe is composed ONLY of natural phenomena. Things such as angels and saints, soul and spirit, Heaven and Hell, and even God Himself, really do not exist, because they are supernatural. 

But when did we decide the natural world is all there is? The natural world is amazing, to be sure, since it was created by God. However, a supernatural dimension to reality still exists. And if God could work the miracle of creating the natural world, He surely can work the miracle of raising Jesus from the dead. 
So, on this celebration of the most momentous event in world history, the Resurrection, let’s focus on the risen Lord, and be certain that He really did rise from that tomb. As Paul said, if Jesus did not rise, our faith is in vain. But He DID rise, and that makes all the difference. That means we, too, can live forever in Heaven after our time here on earth is over. 

Alleluia! Christ is risen! Alleluia! 

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Unplugging Digital Devices Can Be Painful

The official “Global Day of Unplugging” was on March 1st. It landed on a Friday this year, and when I heard the news report on the radio while driving to work, I said to myself, “Nope, not for me. Not today anyway.” I had a lot of things I had to do that day, mostly at work, and a lot of things I wanted to do that day, mostly not at work. Pretty much every single one of those things required a digital device.

I understand why the “Global Day of Unplugging” is a good idea. People nowadays are addicted to their screens — smartphones, tablets, computers, jumbo flatscreen TVs, etc. And I should know, because I’m addicted to mine. I’m not sure if AOADD is a genuine malady (Adult Onset Attention Deficit Disorder), but if it is, I have it. And it’s all because of digital devices that connect me to the internet.
To give you an example of how dependent I am on my devices, I recently stopped carrying my smartphone in the back pocket of my pants. I now keep the phone in my front pocket. I made the change because the phone fell out of my back pocket a couple of times when I sat down or when I got up from the sitting position. (One of those times the phone almost made a big splash when I was using the, um, the porcelain and tile library in our home, if you get my drift.)

So, I switched to carrying my phone in my front pants pocket. But I carried the phone in my back pocket for so many years, I still instinctively reach back there when I want my phone. Every single time I reach for my back pocket and feel that my phone is not there, I have a momentary surge of panic. My brain loudly declares inside my skull: “Omigod! Where’s the phone? We lost the phone!!”

A half-second later, my hand snaps forward and violently clutches my upper thigh. When my hand feels the thin rectangular shape of my phone, safely inside of my front pocket, I offer a big sigh of relief and tell my brain to stand down from DEFCON 1. But by then the adrenaline is already coursing through my veins and it will take another 10 minutes before my heart stops pounding like a jackhammer.
If that’s how I react when I think for half a second that I’ve misplaced my smartphone, I can’t imagine what will happen if I ever actually lose the thing. I’m thinking an ambulance ride to the Emergency Room at the very least.

So, what’s the point of this rambling nonsense? I’m not sure. As usual, I lost my train of thought. (Thanks a lot, AOADD!) Oh wait, I remember. The “Global Day of Unplugging.” When the official day occurred, I ignored it. But the following weekend I went for my annual retreat with the men from my parish. I thought to myself, “Hey, this will be a good time to have my own personal ‘Day of Unplugging.’”

When I arrived at the Holy Family Retreat Center in West Hartford on a Friday evening, I turned off all my devices and packed them away in the trunk of my car: smartphone, iPad, laptop computer, and bluetooth earbuds. 

Being disconnected from my digital devices went very well — for the first 30 minutes. Then the withdrawal symptoms started to kick in. It was a rather painful experience. But on the plus side, I found some electronic devices to distract and calm me down. On the minus side, those electronic devices were inside the ambulance that took me to the Emergency Room. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Parable of the Sower Has Message for ‘Thorny Boy’

 During my morning devotions recently, the gospel reading was Jesus’ parable of the sower. You remember the story, right? Some seed was scattered on the path, some on rocky ground, some on thorny ground, and some on fertile ground. The seed on the path was immediately eaten by birds. The seed on rocky ground had no roots, and so the plants withered. The seed on thorny ground produced plants that were choked by the thorns. And the seed on fertile ground produced a bountiful harvest.

Jesus then explained the parable’s meaning. The seed stands for the Word of God. The path symbolizes those who have the Word preached to them, but they don’t listen, they don’t hear, and God’s holy Word has no effect on them. The rocky ground symbolizes those who hear the Word and rejoice, but soon after, trials and tribulations cause them to revert to their old faithless way of life. The thorny ground represents those who hear the Word and start to grow in faith, but then the worries of life and the pursuit of wealth become such distractions, they do not produce much of a “harvest.” Finally, the good soil represents those who hear the Word of God, rejoice and let it fill them with faith, as they truly produce a wonderful harvest of good works and love.
Ever since I first heard this parable at Mass — check that, I mean ever since I first paid attention to this parable at Mass — I identified with the thorny ground. At age 28, I finally came to believe that God is real and Christ is Lord, and it completely changed my life. In other words, I finally heard the Word and rejoiced. But then, life got in the way. As comedian Gary Gulman points out, “The thing about life is: it’s every…single…day!” 

Every day there’s always a new problem, a new challenge, a new stress, a new reason not to want to get out of bed in the morning. And in our fast-paced modern world, we are inundated by responsibilities and obligations. It’s relentless.

Many mornings, when I drag myself out of bed and think about my hectic schedule for the upcoming day, I’m already looking forward to 9:30 pm, when I can crawl back into bed and go to sleep. So, yes, for me personally, the quest for prosperity and the many worries of daily life are like thorny bushes that are choking my faith life.

I try to read the Mass readings each morning and meditate on them. That’s my daily devotion. But as I’m reading and allegedly meditating, my brain is focused on that day’s sizable to-do list. And when the Mass readings on a particular day are lengthy — like some of those epic stories from the Old Testament — I sarcastically think to myself, “Oh great, a long one. Now I’ll never get to work on time.” I’m pretty sure that’s not the mindset God is looking for when someone reads the holy Scriptures.

Every year when the parable of the sower is the gospel reading at Mass, I feel a twinge of conscience. The Holy Spirit says to me, “Hey, Thorny Boy, last year when you heard this reading, you said you were gonna clean up your cluttered schedule, stop worrying about stupid stuff, and spend more time in prayerful meditation. So what happened, huh?”
To which I reply, “Hey, Holy Spirit, since when did you start talking like Robert DeNiro?”

(Actually, God’s Spirit communicates with us in whatever ways are most effective. For me, a wise-guy DeNiro voice often works best.)

Later on that same day, when the Mass reading was the parable of the sower, I read this online: “If Satan can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.”

Whoa, it’s bad enough the “thorns” of life — worries and anxiety and struggling for financial success — often choke my faith. But if all the busyness in my life is being caused by the sinister Evil One, that’s unacceptable.
Well, we’re on the verge of Holy Week, the most sacred time on the entire Church calendar. This would be a good time to prune away some of the thorns that are choking my faith life. I certainly want to deepen my relationship with the Lord. But most of all, when the Parable of the Sower is the gospel reading sometime next year, I’d rather not hear the Holy Spirit say, “Hey, Thorny Boy…”

Friday, March 15, 2024

Don’t Be a Dope, Get a Scope

When I turned 50 years old back in 2007, I received a very exciting birthday present: my very first colonoscopy. Before the procedure, I met with a doctor to discuss what would occur. When my face turned pale, he said, “Don’t be alarmed. By the time you need to do this again in 10 years, new technology will make the procedure non-invasive. It’ll be like an MRI. We’ll slide you into a big tube, take some scans, and you’ll be done.”

That information didn’t really comfort me at the moment, since I was about to undergo the epitome of an IN-vasive procedure. But I do remember him saying that to me.

Well, just the other day, I had my third colonoscopy, and it turned out the original doctor I met with could not have been more wrong. This procedure was just as invasive as the previous ones. Good thing general anesthesia is standard. So, 17 years since that first doctor told me modern technology would soon develop a reliable external method for determining whether a person has colon cancer, the fact is, they still are using the ol’ Kodak camera duct-taped to the end of a garden hose method.

No, I’m kidding. There definitely were no Kodak cameras, duct tape, or garden hoses present in the procedure room. There were, of course, mini cameras and some kind of hose or tube involved. I didn’t actually see the equipment — I didn’t ask, and they didn’t offer to show it to me — but afterward I did see the photos of what was going on up, um, where the sun don’t shine. And I’m happy to report that nothing was going on, except for one tiny precancerous polyp.
The reason I’m even talking about this procedure — besides demonstrating that my sense of humor never progressed past the 6th grade level, especially regarding body parts that ought not be mentioned in polite society — is that I’m genuinely surprised modern medical research has not achieved what that first doctor was certain would be commonplace by now: an accurate, non-invasive method for examining one’s colon.

The advancements in modern medicine have been colossal during my lifetime. It seems every time you turn on the TV there’s another commercial where either Yale-New Haven or Hartford Healthcare are touting some miraculous new breakthrough. I think I saw one a while ago where a guy got hip replacement surgery on a Wednesday and then danced with his daughter at her wedding on Saturday. (I’m pretty sure he wasn’t break dancing, because if he had tried to break dance with his new hip, the word “break” would’ve been more than ironic.)

I wonder why my original doctor, back in 2007, was so certain a major advancement in gastroenterology would’ve occurred by now. I hope those brilliant medical equipment research scientists didn’t redirect their talents and skills to inventing something more flashy and lucrative, like video games or A.I. software. 
Before I conclude, I want to be serious for a moment — so pay attention, because seriousness only occurs in this column about once every eleventeen months. When your general practitioner doctor tells you it’s time to get a colonoscopy, your initial reaction might be one of three things: offer some 6th grade level wisecrack regarding body parts that ought not be mentioned in polite society; scrunch your nose and say, “Eww!”; or stick your fingers in your ears and repeatedly yell, “I can’t hear you!” Please, I’m begging you: make the appointment. The procedure is really not bad at all, and if they remove some polyps that were on the verge of turning into colon cancer, you will be absolutely thrilled. Trust me.

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Thoughts on Prayer — Part 2

Last week we discussed prayer, and the reality that quite often it seems God does not answer our prayers. The fact is, we live in a fallen world. We all experience a lot of pain and heartache going through this thing we call life. When sin entered the world in the Garden of Eden, it corrupted everything. We can take comfort in knowing that God understands our sorrow and desires to bless us. 

Even though we wish God would answer all our prayers immediately and take away our pain, we can be confident that He loves us because of two important things He did. First, He sent His one and only Son to pay the price for sin and make it possible for us to be reconciled with Him. Second, He created a place called Heaven, where all of our pain and heartache will cease for all eternity.

This week I’d like to address a couple of other important aspects of prayer. Many people get discouraged and claim that God does not answer prayer. Well, we can look at it this way: God answers all of our prayers. Sometimes He answers, “Yes.” Sometimes He answers, “No.” And sometimes He says, “Wait.”
If we look back on our lives, we surely can remember times when we prayed for a certain outcome, maybe regarding a relationship or a job. That prayer seemingly was not answered, and we were very disappointed at the time. But soon after, something much more wonderful occurred, for example, a new and better relationship or a new and better job.

Speaking personally, if every plea I sent up to God was answered right away, in the exact way I asked (or more accurately, demanded), my life would’ve been a total mess. I probably would’ve died decades ago.

I think I have a pretty good idea of what I need, but in reality my list is more what I want. God, in His infinite wisdom, knows exactly what I truly need. Many times what I truly need does not match my often selfish list of what I want at all. So, it’s a good thing God answers many of my prayers with, “No,” or, “Wait.”

When Jesus’ disciples asked Him to teach them to pray, Jesus gave them what we call “The Lord’s Prayer.” Within that prayer is this petition we should say to God: “Thy will be done.” 

However, if we’re really honest, most of the time when our mouths are saying, “Thy will be done,” our hearts are thinking, “My will be done.”
Regarding “thy will” vs. “my will,” I’m reminded of a scene in the movie “Shadowlands,” a biography of the famous Christian author C.S. Lewis, starring Anthony Hopkins. During a crisis in his life, when his wife was dying of cancer, Lewis explained to a friend why he was praying so fervently. He said (and I paraphrase because it’s been a long time since I’ve seen the film), “I don’t pray so God will want to do my will; I pray so I will want to do His.” In the Bible, Jesus clearly instructs us to bring our petitions to our Heavenly Father. We should not be shy about asking God in prayer for what we need, and even for what we want. But sometimes the most perfect prayer is not when we plead, “Heal my loved one who has cancer, O Lord!” It instead is when we sincerely pray, “Give me the grace and strength to deal with whatever happens, O Lord!” 

It’s not that God is unable to heal every sickness immediately. He certainly has that power. But in His infinite wisdom, He has decided to let the awful results of sin — pain and heartache and death — to play out in our world during this era of history. 

When God so chooses, He does answer prayer with a miraculous healing. But more often than not, he answers our prayer by giving us the grace and strength to handle the heartaches of life. It may not be what we want at the moment, but it’s exactly what we need.
And when we get to Heaven, we’ll look back and realize that God’s wisdom is perfect, and that He did in fact give us exactly what we needed. 

Friday, March 8, 2024

Hey friends, WATCH this!

I have a confession to make: I buy things I really don’t need. (What a shocking admission! This stunning revelation means that I am no different than 98% of all Americans.)

For me, what I buy that I really don’t need are inexpensive watches. Right now I own enough watches to outfit nine people. In other words, I have nine watches, since no one ever needs more than one watch. 

Nine is actually on the low side at this moment in time. In the past, there have been times when I owned upwards of 15 different watches at once. Since the watches I purchase are inexpensive, after a while the batteries die, the bands break, or the hour hands detach and lay there loose under the crystal. Having a “minutes only” watch is not very useful. “Hey Bill, what time is it?” “It’s a quarter after.” “Quarter after what?” “Um, I dunno.”
With inexpensive watches, having a new battery installed or replacing the band is usually more costly than the watch itself. So, most of the time I just throw the old one away. 

A couple of months ago, I bought myself a post-Christmas present: a new scuba diver’s watch. Now, I need a scuba diver’s watch about as much as I need a Timex “Ironman Triathlon” watch (of which I own two). Just hearing the word “triathlon” makes me feel weak, and if I pause to think about what triathletes actually do in a single day — swim 2.4 miles, then ride a bicycle 112 miles, and then run a 26.2 mile marathon — I have to lie down for a while and rest. So, I absolutely do not need an “Ironman Triathlon” wristwatch. And yet, I own a couple. Why? Because they possess the features I like: they tell time accurately, they have a stopwatch, a timer, multiple alarms, a glow in the dark button, they’re waterproof, and most importantly, they cost less than 40 bucks, so if I break it or lose it, I don’t care.
I know a guy who owns a $10,000 Rolex. If I owned a watch that expensive, I’d have to put it in a safety deposit box at the bank. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night, fearful that it would be lost or stolen. However, with my collection of less-than-$50-each beauties, I sleep like a baby. (Actually, at my age now, I do sleep like a baby: wake up every three hours.)

Right after Christmas, concluding that new socks and underwear were not the most exciting gifts Santa Claus could’ve given to me, I made an impulse buy on Amazon: a really spiffy Casio scuba diver’s watch. It’s large and heavy and has a dial that spins around — so I know exactly how much air is left in my scuba tank, which comes in very handy, um, never. From a distance, my new watch looks just like a Rolex. (Although the best distance for this to be true is around 100 feet away.)

The price of the watch was exactly $49, with free shipping because of my Amazon Prime membership. (I don’t know about you, but does it seem that paying the monthly Prime membership fee to get free shipping compels a person to make more impulse purchases? Nah, Amazon would never manipulate customers like that, would they?)
Anyway, that’s my confession for this week: I own many more inexpensive watches than really makes sense. At least my little emotional quirk does not involve purchasing an over-abundance of Lamborghinis, right?

Next week, maybe I’ll discuss my collection of inexpensive pens. I’m not sure how many I have, since I can’t count that high. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Keys to a Great Vacation: Napping and No Pickleball

My wife and I recently went to Florida for a week, and our vacation was wonderful. Was it wonderful because it was 85 degrees in February? Nope. Was it wonderful because we went to many fabulous restaurants (to the point where I contemplated buying some stretch pants)? Nope. Was it wonderful because I used membership points from my credit card company (points I didn’t even know I had until late last year) to pay for the airfare and rental car? Nope. 

The reason our vacation was wonderful is very simple: we napped. That’s right, on multiple days while in Florida we laid down on the bed during the middle of the afternoon and just zonked out for 20 minutes. It was delightful.
I rarely get an opportunity to nap these days since my schedule is so hectic. So, when I finally had a chance to do it multiple days in a row, it was terrific. I never used to need to nap or want to nap, but now that I’m an official geezer, I realize the countries around the world that have the “siesta culture” are really doing it right. 

Speaking of being a geezer, every time I’ve gone to Florida in the past, I felt like a young pup. After all, they don’t call the state “God’s Waiting Room” for nothing. In some places, the average age seems to be approaching triple digits. But on this visit to the Sunshine State, the first time I’ve gone since before Covid, I fit right in. Everyone assumed I was a retired “snow bird,” just enjoying the weather until April, at which time I would travel back north like everyone else. More than a few times I had to say, “No no, despite this gray hair, I’m still working full time back in New England.”

Another thing I said more than a few times while in Florida was, “No thanks. I’d rather not.” Each time I said this, the other person stared in confusion, then finally muttered, “But, but I don’t understand. You mean you DON’T want to play pickleball? Everybody plays pickleball!”
Yeah, well, maybe everybody plays pickleball, but not this guy. You see, I made a promise to a couple of close friends that I would never engage in any activity that would put them in mortal jeopardy. My two friends are my Left Achilles tendon and my Right Achilles tendon.  

In recent years I’ve known of several friends and acquaintances — some my age, others quite younger — who were playing low-key games such as beer league softball or doubles tennis, and then suddenly they dropped like a rock, with one of their heel bones no longer attached to the appropriate calf muscle. The subsequent surgery and recovery from the ruptured Achilles tendon was painful and lengthy. 

I had a long talk with my two friends, Lefty and Righty. We came to an agreement that if I engaged only in physical exercise that does not require fast stopping and starting with my legs — such as swimming, walking, or sitting at the Black Jack tables at Foxwoods — then they would keep my calf muscles and heels connected. In my mind, it’s a very sensible agreement. 
When we returned home to Connecticut, It was nice that I did not have to exit the plane using crutches. Once I got off the plane, I did have to hustle to the men’s room, you know, being a geezer and all. As I hustled, Lefty and Righty reminded me, “No need to jog, pal. Just walk briskly and we’ll get you there on time.”

All in all, even though I had to disappoint many people with my “no pickleball” rule, our time in Florida was wonderful. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Thoughts on Prayer

A young woman in her 30s, the mother of two small children, is diagnosed with cancer. Her family and friends pray fervently to God for her healing. But after a year of grueling surgery and treatments, the cancer spreads and she passes away. This is a heart-breaking situation, and most people know of someone who has gone through a similar ordeal. 

When something like this happens, people ask the obvious question: why didn’t God answer our prayers?
This is one of the frustrating aspects of religious faith. We pray for certain things to happen, such as a physical healing. Sometimes our prayers are answered and the person is healed, and other times the person gets even sicker and eventually dies. It seems God completely ignored our prayers.

The Bible and the Church teach us that God hears our prayers and that He takes delight in answering them. If that is the case, then why are there so many examples of sincere, desperate prayers NOT being answered?

There is an age-old question, which was the title of a popular book many years ago: “Why do bad things happen to good people?” That question is one of the primary reasons some folks lose their faith. It’s fair to ask how a good God can sit back and let so many terrible tragedies happen to innocent people.

I wish I had a simple answer to that question, but I don’t. There are, however, a couple of things we should keep in mind when pondering this issue.

First, from God’s point of view, our entire time on earth, even if we live to be 95 years old, is like a fraction of a second compared to eternity in Heaven. Yes, when a young person succumbs to a fatal disease, it is tragic — from our early point of view. But the Bible tells us that Heaven is a place where tears are wiped from our eyes forever. When the soul of the person who died young enters Heaven, I suspect he or she laughs with joy and says, “Wow, being sick and dying young is no big deal, now that I’m here!”
Of course, if there is no God and no eternal life, then all the tragedies of life are just that: tragedies. But entering into eternal life in God’s heavenly kingdom is how all the tragedies of earth can be made right. Instead of a drama with a sad, tragic ending, our lives become a grand saga with a happy ending — although since we’re talking about Eternity, the happiness actually never ends.

Another thing to consider: Scripture teaches us that the pain and suffering of this world are the result of sin. When our original ancestors, Adam and Eve, rebelled against the divine Creator, it caused paradise to become a fallen world. Pain and heartache and death were the unfortunate result of sin.

God proved that he truly loves us when He sent His one and only Son to suffer and die, which paid the price for sin. This stunning act of sacrificial love made it possible for us to be reconciled back to our Creator and enter into eternal heavenly joy. 

Does a grieving young man, standing next to his wife’s coffin with his two children by his side, want to hear that our time on earth is a fraction of a second compared to Heaven, and that Jesus paid the price for our sin? Not really. What he needs at that moment is for someone to silently weep with him. Why? Because the pain and heartache of death are real, and the only thing worse than grieving the death of a loved one is doing it alone.
Why doesn’t God answer all our prayers the way we want Him to? I wish I knew. It’s a divine mystery. But God went to so much trouble to make it possible for us to enter into Heaven for all eternity, it’s obvious He loves us more than we can comprehend.

When we grieve and weep over the tragedies of life, we can be sure that God weeps with us. That may not be very comforting when we’re in the throes of sorrow, but later on it can bring great comfort. In the meantime, keep praying. And when necessary, silently weep with those who are grieving.