“Sorry for your troubles”, they said, one by one, to the smiling lady who offered each one of them a cup of tea. But through her smile, her words were desperate: “To lose one son was bad enough, but at least we knew that was an accident…”
The second son was lying in the front room, pale and cold. The coffin was padded, unlike the rocks where he’d been found at the bottom of a cliff. There was no note. No reason. No signs and signals, even after every memory of every person was turned over in the search. There was just this pale face in the front room, this politely smiling mother, and these cups of tea.
There were eight of us who came up from the south coast to participate in this sunlit scene in the hills of Cavan. Four hours on the road each way made for a long day, but we had to be there. The man lying in the front room had been one of our sports club’s strongest leaders, and had been involved with several other community groups as well. He had done so much for us, and for so many others, perhaps partly because he hated to see anyone else have to go to any trouble. It struck me ironic that here was his family and us and all these neighbours and friends and associates, all going to so much trouble – all because the man who didn’t want to trouble anyone had troubles he didn’t want to trouble anyone with.
I’ll never know what pushed my friend over the edge, but I do know this: I know that hopelessness can be well hidden. It can be hidden under smiles, hidden under chats and cups of tea and friendly complaints about the weather. It can even be hidden under fame and fortune, as we’ve seen in several tragedies in the news recently. But hiding and trying to keep our heads above these feelings on our own is extremely dangerous. If you’re drowning, you won’t be saved by clinging tighter to yourself. The answer simply isn’t in us. We need help. We need someone to reach out to us with a hope that is bigger than we are.
It turns out, fame and fortune are too flimsy to hold us. Weekend bashes with the besties are too temporary to help. Promotions and romance and fast cars and laughing children don’t keep us safe. We need someone with stronger arms. Someone who can reach out to us and pick up all of our troubles and darkness and hopelessness and rebellion and wrong and evil and sin and die under the weight of it and rise again with the indestructible power of a hope that claims victory even over the darkness of death itself. This is the hope we need, and these are the nail-scarred hands that Jesus reaches out to us in our trouble and despair.
Falling into these hands won’t make every storm end, but it will give us Someone solid to cling to while we wait for the dawn, even if the night is long. I’ve never faced the level of desperation that made my friend choose to jump, but I have lived in smaller pits that still took a long time to climb out of. I’ve been in the shadows long enough to know that easy answers won’t do. Eyes that are accustomed to the dark are still blind if you turn the light on too fast. Broken legs that are set still need time to be nursed. Desperate hearts that find hope still need time to heal. But as we learn to lean on the hands that hold us, we’ll find that Jesus’ invitation is true:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”