“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.” – J.R.R. Tolkien – The Fellowship of the Ring
It doesn’t seem right, but I think there is a lot of truth in this quote. On the surface it seems like a great quote to encourage keeping perspective. There is bad, but there is good too. Let’s look to the good. But the quote is more than an attitude adjustment.
Love is mingled with grief. We see it more each day. I’m not going to argue whether or not it’s really worse. The argument could be made that it’s been bad all along, but our ability to broadcast it to the four corners of the globe have made it more noticeable. It doesn’t matter which it is or even if it’s a combination of both. What matters is that love and grief are walking side by side in this life.
Some of the grief in our lives is self-made. Sinful and simply bad decisions bring consequences that we didn’t think would ever happen to us. Our lives aren’t immune to the results of other people’s actions either. Sometimes nature takes center stage in hurling grief onto our paths. Natural or self-made, grief is grief. It would be easy to focus on it and let ourselves be sucked further under into our grief. It’s easy to play the victim and cry “woe is me” and determine there is no way out of the hurtful place we find ourselves.
Please understand, I’m in no way diminishing the pain or disappointment or loss anyone has faced. These griefs are real and cutting. I know. I’ve faced them too. The problem comes when we choose to continue living in them, letting them paint the landscape of our lives. I believe there is more for us than the darkest times in our lives. It’s in the most painful times of our lives when true love (and I don’t mean the romantic kind) becomes the sweetest.
Little acts of kindness, unearned and unexpected, bring light into the darkness grief tries to shroud us in. When done in godly love, they can bring peace, hope, and moments of joy one can cling to as they work to rise above the darkness. They can remind us we are not alone. We are not fighting alone. We are not hurting alone. It’s why Romans 12:15 instructs us to share in each other’s joys and hurts.
Reaching out to others in active, godly love is also a great reminder to us that we have another who understands what we’re going through. Hebrews 4:15-16 reminds us that Jesus sympathizes with our weaknesses. He understands our temptations and hurts. Jesus knows disappointment. He understands betrayal. He has felt what it’s like to be utterly alone. In our griefs, it is the love of God shown through others that brings the comfort of knowing know matter how we may feel, we are not alone.
It’s sad to say, but sometimes it takes the grief to move us to compassion. Think about the days following true tragedies. Many can remember 9/11. It was a horrible time of loss for so many. Fear was rampant. But so was love. People gave of themselves and their resources to be there for those in need. Families spent more time together. It didn’t take away the pain for those who suffered loss, but they knew they didn’t stand alone.
It happens every time there is a natural disaster. The people around are mobilized to help. Our sense of what it means to be human and compassion move us to help in any way we can. Sometimes it’s as simple as listening to someone’s grief. Other times it involves taking action.
When we get into step with those walking through times of grief, God’s love shines a little brighter in their lives. Their grief may remain, but for a moment it may not hang so dark and heavy over them. How great would it be if it didn’t take the times of grief for our love to sweeten someone’s day?