Sincerely, Pollyanna

Jun 13, 2008 |Elisabeth Adams

What does an optimist know about suffering? Not much.  

Dear Pollyanna,A character from Eleanor H. Porter's novels and a movie starring Hayley Mills: a girl who always finds something to be glad about.

Life stinks for us, and we find it really annoying that you're so cheerful all the time. Are you actually glad about everything? Or do you just have a really easy life?

Sincerely,
your friends

* * *

Dear God,

I'm tired of being Pollyanna. It's lonely inside this cheerful bubble. Could You do something about it?

Sincerely,
Pollyanna

* * *

Dear Derrick,

Remember the lunchtime drama in our one-room schoolhouse when we were about 16? I'd sit at one end of the table, my head full of books, bread-baking and my baby brothers. You'd sit at the other end and try to catch me in some chirpy remark, so you could pounce on it and begin an argument. Now, of course, I realize that you were wrestling with the eternal verities of life, death and diabetes. Though I'm sure you weren't looking for sympathy from me, I'm sorry I was so plastic and perky. I can't help hoping, however, that you got a bang out teasing me. It was the least I could do.

Sincerely,
Pollyanna

* * *

Dear Uncle Lloyd,

Remember my conviction, when I was 17, that God would heal you of cancer? I'll never forget the week when He took you home instead: Heaven was as real and as near the things I could see, like a low-lying cloud of glory. If it were up to me, I'd rather have you here ... but we weren't the ones doing the choosing, were we?

Sincerely,
Pollyanna

* * *

Dear John,

I'm only writing this letter in my head, because I don't want to hurt you. But honestly, I don't understand why you insist on viewing this as a tragedy. Yes, Annie seems to be wandering far from her beloved Jesus, but in His mind the story isn't over yet. He is all about making beauty out of ashes. But what am I thinking? If I'd had the privilege of being her friend for as long as you have, my pain might be drowning my hope, too. I wish I'd listened more gently to you today.

Sincerely,
Pollyanna

* * *

Dear self,

So you woke up PuddleglumA character from C. S. Lewis's Narnia series: a weedy sort of fellow who always expects the worst. this morning! I know it only happens to you about twice a year on average, but plenty of people deal with depression every single day. You'll get better at it, when you've had more practice. If your faith calisthenics feel more like bench pressing, it's a good thing. It builds spiritual muscle. Try quoting Scripture to yourself and praying. Not better? Get up, read some Bible, and eat breakfast. Still not better? Keep your eyes peeled for sparrows,Matthew 10:29-31 and try not to take your litany of disaster too seriously.

Sincerely,
Pollyanna

* * *

Dear suffering church,

It's hard for me to even hear about all the things you're going through; I can't imagine actually experiencing them! A 13-year-old girl raped in Bangladesh. A young father murdered in Gaza. While here in the West, we find suffering strange, you know all about death, disease and persecution. It's approval, prosperity and ease that are strange to you. We may be wise in the ways of the world; you are gaining wisdom in the school of suffering. I'm humbled by your example.

Sincerely,
Pollyanna

* * *

Dear Elisabeth Elliot,Elisabeth Elliot has been widowed twice. Her first husband, Jim Elliot, was killed by Auca Indians, to whom he was bringing the gospel. She lost her second husband, Addison Leitch, to cancer.

Certainly you've joined the saints and martyrs in the fellowship of Jesus' sufferings,Philippians 3:10 but I've been hanging back on the fringes, feeling like a junior member of the club. Thanks for letting me know that suffering is not so mysterious, that it's just "having something you don't want, or wanting something that you don't have.” If you're right, then we're all in the school of suffering. Well, I've got a few disappointments and a few responsibilities that chafe like a hair shirt. I'll consider them essential preparation for the curriculum that lies ahead.

Sincerely,
Pollyanna

* * *

Dear God,

It's true that I was tired of being imprisoned inside my Pollyanna bubble. Certainly, I wanted to learn how to weep with those that weep. But I didn't mean for You to teach me that way. I thought You were going to do it by testing me, not somebody I love. But one day, in the middle of a football game on a grassy lawn, You tapped my 22-year-old friend Andrew on the shoulder. "Come home," You said, and just like that, Andrew was gone. In that moment, the invisible summons had arrived for his parents and his sweetheart to join the fellowship of Your suffering. In that moment, You breached the bubble of my selfishness, and my heart hurt, simply because theirs did.

Sincerely,
Pollyanna

* * *

Dear "Uncle" Dave, "Aunt" Pat, and Melissa,

When your Andrew died, I was afraid to get too close, lest I brush clumsily against your lacerated hearts. But when you humbly made room for me and others to bear your pain, your suffering really did bring fellowship! Uncle Dave, I'll never forget the morning you thanked me with tears in your eyes for the written tribute I’d been too shy to give you personally. Aunt Pat, I feel so honored that you allow me to keep remembering Andrew with you: the funny things, the small things, and the great ones alike. And Melissa, you radiated the hope of heaven when you were walking through hell, and I saw that even there, the consolations of God are not too small.Job 15:11

Dear Job,

Thanks for the book: It's becoming my handbook these days. Remember how you began a litany of disaster and your friends jumped in to help you solve bereavement, bankruptcy and boils? I can totally see why, instead of being soothed, you got more and more agitated, finally complaining, “Guys, why are you taking my ranting seriously? I'm suffering, remember?"

Sincerely,
Pollyanna

* * *

Dear self,

Let's make sure we're talking truth here. This is not nothing; it hurts. Being stoic, simply waiting for time to pass, or busying yourself with other things won't make the pain go away. God designed your body to flinch instinctively away from a hot stove; when your heart hurts, do you instinctively run to Him?

Sincerely,
Pollyanna

* * *

Dear God,

What's up? I had no idea that heartache could be literal, but it is. I'm hurting — a lot — and I really don't understand what you're doing right now. It sure seems like You didn't give Job a straight answer about his suffering, and now You're not talking to me about it, either. All I can think of are those renovations we've been doing at a friend's house. I search the walls for patches of crumbling plaster and flaking paint, and pound, scrape and pry, raining dust and debris all over the floor, and leaving gaping holes behind. Only later does someone sweep up the rubble, fill the holes, and transform those walls with fresh paint. So much has to be torn down so that house can finally reach its full potential. So much has to be torn down so I can grow into the woman You created me to be. I've got bitterness, self-pity and fear raining down all over the place! Can we done be with this soon — please?

Sincerely,
Pollyanna

* * *

Dear Larissa, Kristy and Marie,

I would never wish you a sweetheart in a coma, only 10 weeks with your new husband, or a marriage that crumbles to divorce in less than a year. But oh, how thankful I am that in the mercies of God I know you now. Your pain puts mine in perspective. My pain reminds me to carry you in my heart, day after day and week after week.

Sincerely,
Pollyanna

* * *

Dear God,

It's me again. I used to be the happiest person I know. I still am, down there in my heart somewhere, but while You're digging me out again, I'm having trouble coming up with words worth sharing. Instead, I take my camera and set out in search of You — and I keep bumping into small stuff. Tiny sparrows with markings in khaki, cream and cinnamon. The first anemone, clear noon sunlight glowing through its translucent scarlet petals until it hardly looks real, it's so beautiful.

Are You trying to tell me something?

Sincerely,
Pollyanna

* * *

Beloved Pollyanna,

I've been paying attention to those sparrows and flowers, too.

I hear you. (So keenly).

I see you. (In such detail).

I have so much hope and so many good plans for you! There's no way I'm going to neglect you into being a spoiled child. So don't be amazed and bewildered at this fiery ordeal, as though something strange were happening to you. Where you are, I am. Without respite.

I know you have questions. I'm giving you the same answer I gave Job: Myself.

Sincerely,
God

Copyright 2008 Elisabeth Adams. All rights reserved.

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