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I love these lines by American poet Edwin Markham, former poet laureate of Oregon:

“Defeat may serve as well as victory to shake the soul and let the glory out…Only the soul that knows the mighty grief can know the mighty rapture. Sorrows come to stretch out spaces in the heart for joy.”

These days, there seems to be more than enough grief and sorrow and trouble to go around. On top of the daily news, many of us are experiencing family troubles, troubles with friends, troubled hearts—and it’s easy to feel swallowed up by troubles, like Jonah, in the ancient story, who was swallowed by a whale.

I’m familiar with the dark side. There have been times that failure and troubles and inner darkness left me feeling somehow disqualified as a person.

But I was wrong. I now know that the troubles and grief and failure in fact qualify us to be persons in this world. They are a part of being human, part of living in this world, and they come to every person. They can add depth to our story. In fact, the broken places in our lives can let the light in.

Joy and exuberance and meaning are not found when troubles are eliminated.  They are found by finding a way to live in the world as it is. As Camus said:

“In the midst of winter, I found that there was in me, an invincible summer.”

That’s why it’s so important, especially in troubled times, to open up, to reach up, to keep reaching for light, to overcome and break through to joy—again and again.

This is a time to stretch our hearts for joy! If ever we needed people who have been through darkness and learned there to love life more deeply, this is such a time. How we need people who can radiate that deep love of life to those around them!

I wrote the following quotation down from somewhere and think about it often. I think it captures the spirit we need now:

“Life is immense and you need wisdom to break the self barrier. Free yourself to live, learn, laugh and learn about joy! The horizons widen before you. Come up! Come out! Life is not some small stale place of recycled fears and dreams. Stretch yourself!”