Ahhh, the age old question – why would a powerful, loving God allow bad things to happen to good people? Or, more simply – why does God allow suffering?
The ancients and the moderns have written eloquently on these issues. The problem, of course, is that there really isn’t a pleasing answer. The most convincing arguments for me go something like this (and I generalize magnificently):
– God has created all that is seen and unseen;
– God has created people and given people free will;
– God is able to influence that world and is capable of dramatic intervention but at the the end of the day dramatic interventions are rare enough to be known as miracles and the “influence” thing is a great mystery – yes it happens (and is apparently influenced by prayer) but we don’t really understand how or why it happens;
– Since people have free will to do as they please they can often make perfectly horrendous choices – that could mean driving drunk or it could mean beating a child or working for the mass extermination of a group of people;
– Since people have free will to do as they please they can often make perfectly beautiful and noble choices – raising families, giving up their life to save another life, working to end genocide.
And on and on it goes… but at the end of the day the answer to the question of suffering and misery is this awesome mystery.
This has all been well and good in my life. I’ve had great things happen and I’ve had not great things happen. But rarely have I wondered, “Oh why me?”
All of that has changed since Uganda. That is true because of the slums that I saw in my first days there. But it is more true because of the horrendous suffering I saw at the pediatric cancer “center.”
I have found myself virtually unable to pray – unable to talk to God, unsure it was worth the price of the phone call. After all, if God allowed that sort of suffering what good was the conversation? It isn’t that I thought God was bad, just that God was… impotent.
Then, over the weekend, in the midst of my latest (16th!) round of chemo (light), I found myself falling asleep falling back into my habit of talking to God.
I don’t remember all of the details but it went something like this:
– I was thinking about the horrible things I’d seen, thinking about the fact that as I lay there in my very comfortable bed in my very comfortable home, that misery was occurring and that misery was just a tiny fraction of the misery that existed elsewhere.
– I asked God why it happened… why he let it happen… whether it was worth even talking to him… whether it mattered… and he didn’t strike me dead.
– I asked him how he could allow that suffering…
– “I don’t. You do.”
That’s pretty much what I heard. It wasn’t condemning. It wasn’t guilt-inducing. It was pretty matter of fact.
Then the simple – for I major in the simple things – thought… it isn’t that God allows suffering… WE DO. Right? Let’s think about this. How much money do we make? How much do we spend each year on… oh… coffee? clothes? computers? cars? How much do we spend to become fatter than we should? We have the resources to change the world… we just use those resources on ourselves and curse God for allowing suffering.
The old excuses – well, aren’t there just a bunch of corrupt dictators who take all of the money? – are exposed for what they are… excuses… yes, there is a lot of corruption but there are plenty of African leaders who aren’t corrupt who preside over nations with much horror… we can always start there.
THESE ARE NOT NEW THOUGHTS. I know this. But, I have a passionate grasp of the obvious so bear with me.
I’ve been angry at God. I’ve been questioning God… and God has just been waiting for me… patiently, quietly, lovingly… waiting to remind me that this world of suffering didn’t just dawn one horrid morning… the suffering has been building… decision by decision.. indecision by indecision… and all the while God was there… whispering into an ear, “No, please no,” or perhaps “Yes” or perhaps “Go”. And he has been trying to intervene and still is… even now… even at this moment… even in my ear… even in yours…
What does this mean? I HAVE NO IDEA. But I am finally on the other side of the something I’ve not been able to scale…