I have mentioned on ye olde blog here Father Benedict Groeschel’s book “Arise From Darkness” a couple of times; and I’m quick to recommend it in comboxes through out the world wide web. I was reminded of it the other day after my niece emailed me to answer some questions for her religion assignment. I thought I would share my answers with my readers so you can understand why I consider this book a must read for anyone struggling to come to terms with tragedy.
The first question is have you ever had an experience when you felt that life had become new for you?
Wow. This was a tough one. I had to really think about it for a while. I’ve gone through many changes that signified a new start in my life; becoming Catholic, getting married, having children. All were the culmination of months or years of preparation, even though each is marked by a specific anniversary. They are some of the usual milestones in which a person will pass through with great joy and almost always, a deep feeling of God’s presence. However, as I thought about your question, a very specific instance jumped into my mind, one outside the usual rites of passage or sacraments, where God made His presence very clearly felt when I was not expecting it. (But of course, most in need of it.)
Shortly after we received Fulton’s diagnosis of Spinal Muscular Atrophy, I fell into a deep sadness and despair. I was often very angry, at either God or people who meant well but usually upset me anyway, or very sad, sometimes breaking into tears the minute I was alone. I reached a point where Uncle Tony and I were wondering if I needed to speak with someone about depression. I didn’t want to admit I needed help so I tried to force myself to pray and, on a whim, I pick up a book by Father Benedict Groeschel at the local library entitled “Arise From Darkness.” I’m a fast reader, and I cruised through the book in a couple of days. Through Father Groschel’s words I heard God telling me that this was the cross that was selected for me to carry and that I would probably never understand why He was asking Fulton, and our family to endure these struggles. I could either accept this cross and use it for my sanctification or I could reject God’s plan for my life and continue as I was, in misery. By the time I finished the book, I knew that somehow I would find a way to carry my cross and my attitude radically changed from that moment on. I was no longer stuck in the tragedy of the present; I was renewed in faith and spirit and could move forward with hope.
The second question is did you feel God was a part of this experience? How?
I felt God was speaking to me through the words on the page and during the quiet moments of reflection immediately after reading. It was as if that book was written for me at that moment, and no one else. After accepting my cross, I felt like God lifted much of the anger and sadness that had weighed me down. I physically felt lighter. Plus, I was able to start praying and seeing the joys in my life again.
The third, did this experience change your life? How?
While I still have bad spells (and the months following Teddy’s diagnosis were some of the worst), I have managed, with God’s grace, to avoid slipping back into that deep depression. Even at the darkest times, I cling to hope and the knowledge that God does not want me to be unhappy and he will help me live each day to the fullest if I let Him. I try to remember that every sacrifice and sorrow unites me with Christ on the cross and, with liberal amounts of confession thrown in, help me on the way to eternity with Him. While I’d always “believed” these truths, it wasn’t until the above experience that I actively tried to live in accordance with them.
Has this book helped you? What other books would you recommend to people suffering under the weight of a heavy cross?