When something negative, painful, or disappointing happens, many people will ask, “Why?”, or, “why me?” We do not necessarily wish that it were happening to someone else, but we wonder why we “deserve” this or most often …… what did I do to make this happen?
At the root of such questioning is the ILLUSION that anyone is immune from hardship. Few, if any of us, will live a life without some form of pain, hurt, struggle, or misfortune. Literally and figuratively, we all face storms, we all dig out of rubble, we replace what is lost, we heal from wounds, and we figure out how to rise again.
In the Gospel [Mark 4:35-41] the disciples are in a boat being tossed about by winds and high seas. Jesus is with them … but asleep. In the midst of the storm, the disciples cry out, “Teacher do YOU NOT CARE that we are perishing?”
When someone dies “too young”, when one is diagnosed with cancer, when a parent loses a child to death, when someone is deserted by their spouse, when a tragic car accident occurs, when one experiences obvious discrimination, it is EASY to ask, “where is God? doesn’t God care? Could not God have done something to prevent this?”
How in the world …. why, O Lord … does a shooting take place, killing 9 people as they prayed in a historic church in South Carolina? Lord — could you not protect your people in church?
In 1978, conservative Rabbi Harold Kushner tried to answer the questions surrounding suffering, pain, and evil in his book, “When bad things happen to good people.” Rabbi Kushner dedicated the book to the memory of his son who died at age 14. As a “man of God” he endured his own depression and wondering about a good God, a caring Father ruling over a world —- would allow such evil to occur.
Here are thoughts:
1. We live in a good world that is broken, fractured. Another day we can think about why this is so, but for now — the good world is broken. The rain shines on the good and the evil; the sun shines on the good and the evil. Bad things happen without explanation. I do not like it — I do not want it ——- but, experience seems to tell us, it is true. Death will come to my mother, my father, my sister, and my brother ….. and even me. No one has left this world without dying. Poor Lazarus died twice.
Again, it is an ILLUSION to think we can escape pain and suffering. Storms come, rains fall, earthquakes happen, tornadoes rip across our nation, tsunami reek havoc all around.
2. Our bad choices can add to the already weakened human nature and the structure of the world. We choose not to go to the doctor. We smoke when the warnings of ill are clear. We drink and we drive. We tell a lie that leads to another lie. We run a stop sign and are involved in an accident. We fail to keep a promise — and suffer the consequences. We overeat and we get gout.
3. God sits with us, walks with us, wraps arms around us — an omnipotent God, is with us through thick and thin. God seems to be asleep — at times God seems to be absent — at times God seems to be uncaring. There is no REASON that 9 innocent people die in a Charleston Church or that a mother dies in birth — yet, it happens. AND, God is there.
As Jesus stood with his mother when Joseph died — as Jesus stood with Martha and Mary when Lazarus died — as Jesus was there when Peter’s mother-in-law was ill — he is here today. Yes, he healed Peter’s mother-in-law —- but, she did die one day and Peter suffered a martyr’s death.
4. No human person, no human experience can prevent the pain of loneliness and the pain that comes from hurt — we feel the support of others, we know human love, we enjoy the pleasures of the world ——- and yet, there comes a point when no-thing, no-one stops the inevitable —- and we call out to God in anguish. AND, WE FIND HIM RIGHT THERE — all along.
5. We need not be embarrassed by a lack of faith, times of darkness, depression or even sin —- if we do not have these experiences, then thank God. But, if we do — we see our human nature, our lack of faith. AND, GOD DOES NOT LAUGH OR SCOLD OR CHIDE ….. he reaches out to help us …… and to see us through the storm.
In my own life, the storms have not always ended immediately. And, when the storms have passed, the mess still has to be cleaned up. The debris has to be cleaned up. Sometimes, rebuilding is required.
I know of no prayer or mantra to dispel all pain and suffering. I do not have enough holy water or prayer cards to dispel to ward off all evil. But, in faith, I know I can survive, thrive. Despite the storms … life is good.
Make my faith strong O, Lord.