A friend recently was told that they didn’t get a job and it seemed to them that this setback, in a series of setbacks, was simply overwhelming.

“I’ve got to come to terms with the fact that maybe this just isn’t going to happen this year,” she said to me.

I replied, “True enough. So if that’s the case, what else might God have in mind?”

I think that’s actually a powerful spiritual question to explore. What if in our darkest hour, when our deepest fears may in fact, be realized, we can look deeply to see if there’s something else that might be calling us.

I remember when I was thinking about the future when I was in my 20s I thought I was never going to meet someone and never be able to have children. I was really distraught about those future plans seemingly going awry. And while some of those fears were never realized, some indeed were. A friend who was rejected for the priesthood once said to me,

“All my life, I wanted to be a priest. Yesterday, I was told no. I now have to come to terms with the fact that I may NEVER be a priest.”

And indeed he did. And indeed while that moment was disappointing, something else was offered.

What if all your plans DON’T come to fruition?

In today’s age where school shootings capture the tragic headlines, I think many people, especially young people, think that the world is indeed over when their plans go up in smoke. Maybe the cause of much of the violence we see amongst young people are because they can’t deal with the fact that they messed up the 10th grade?

What if we always asked the question “What else is offered?” What kind of world would this be?

Nations might avoid peace instead of retaliating into war.

Families might let go of resentments instead of holding onto pain.

Broken relationships might lead us into new ways of seeing ourselves instead of looking only at a sorrowful past.

An academic failure might focus us on other scholarly endeavors that are more suited to our gifts and interests.

Painful experiences would still be painful, but we’d also be able to see healing, new hope, growth, and how resilient we really are.

The question is not how do we avoid pain and mistakes, rather it is what does pain and out mistakes lead us to also consider?

And we have nobody to look to to epitomize this than to Jesus. For looking at the cross reminds us that even when we make all the right decisions, pain and suffering will still await us. There is no life without some sacrifice. And Jesus who lives for us perfectly, shows us indeed that we can hold nothing back from each other in our quest to truly live.

So look at that cross again today. What do you see? Do you see a pathetic, broken, bloodied criminal? Or do you see God? A God who is willing to show us what lies beyond pain and suffering and accepts our imperfectness and refuses to be separate from us.

What else beyond death is offered on Calvary?

Everlasting life. And that sure and certain hope leads us to see that beyond our own cross much more is offered to us.

Do we dare to look?