The TV series “Parenthood” follows the ups and downs of the Braverman clan as they navigate the uncertain terrain of family life.

In Season 4 Kristina Braverman is devastated by the news that she has breast cancer. Kristina is married to perpetually perky Adam. Adam has a sunny disposition; he always looks on the bright side and never fails to find a good reason to be optimistic.

In Episode 3 of Season 4, Adam and Kristina struggle with the treatments options being offered for her cancer. They are uncertain and confused by the various choices available. Adam as always tries to keep a positive attitude.

Sitting on their bed, Kristina and Adam discuss their situation:

Adam: You’ve got to say positive.

Kristina: Adam I’m scared.

Adam: That’s okay. That’s okay that you’re scared.

Kristina: Adam. I know that you’re trying to make everything okay for me. You always have, our whole lives. And I love you so much for that. But… you have to let me be scared….  I want to be able to come to you and just say, “Adam I’m really scared today and I just want you to hear it. I don’t want you to tell me to think positive, or that everything’s gonna be great. ‘Cause right now I’m not sure that it’s going to be. And I just want to be able to feel scared. That’s just what I need from you right now.

Adam: Okay. I can do that.

When it is not okay, it is important to be able to feel that we can simply be not okay.

In the Bible the “Book of Job” is a long poem recounting the plight of Job who has lost his health, his family, his material wealth, and his position of privilege and respect in the community. Job complains to God and listens to the advice of his friends who try to make sense of his condition.

Near the end of the “Book of Job”, Job sums up his lament declaring,

God has made my heart faint;
the Almighty has terrified me;
If only I could vanish in darkness,
and thick darkness would cover my face! (Job 23:16,17)

A spiritual tradition that has enshrined at the heart of its sacred text such words of despair is a tradition that is not afraid to hold the pain and struggle of the human condition without judgment and without needing to rush to implement a fixit strategy.

In the Gospel account of Jesus’ death, as he hung dying on the cross, Jesus is reported to have uttered the forlorn cry,

‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Matthew 27:46)

Many Adam Braverman commentators rush to point out that Jesus is quoting Psalm 22 which ends ultimately on a note of triumph. But, the cross, in all its stark horrifying pain, includes no note of triumph. The crucifixion by itself is a moment of desperate brokenness and horror.  On the cross Jesus confronts and holds the darkest reality of the human condition. He penetrates the depths of human despair and enters fully into the tragedy of violence and injustice.

Transformation never comes by avoiding the painful realities of life. Denial is not the path to resurrection. There are times when life is just difficult, painful, and apparently out of control. At these times, all we can do is hold on and trust that we are not alone. If there is someone willing to hold the pain with us, we are richly blessed.