Dear Pastor Paul,
My 12-year-old daughter has seen more in her lifetime then she ever should. My husband is terminally ill with a rare disease called elephantiasis. Since this bombing in New York, my daughter is petrified. She clings to me like a magnet. She is getting counseling, but I need some reinforcement.
-- Claudia Smith

Dear Claudia Smith,
I'm very sorry to hear what your daughter and you are going through. It continues to be a shocking time for all of us, and we all will respond differently. Some will withdraw, others, like your daughter, will need to cling to the only source of safety and permanence they know--in this case, that's you. Her overwhelming dependence is perhaps unhealthy for her. It's equally difficult and draining for you.

I'm glad your daughter is getting counseling. You might also want to enroll her in a support group for young people who are facing a terminally ill parent. This will help her relate to her peers and reduce her dependence on you. Make sure as well that to take care of yourself. You may wish to find a therapist or counselor to listen to your own burdens during this stressful time.

I suggest taking your daughter out into the world as much as your schedule allows. Let her help you to plan outings that interest her. Try to attend events where people are helping one another and using their creativity: maybe a craft fair aimed at young people. Even a few hours at the park, or in the country will expose her to the healing powers of nature. Go to a place of worship, where your daughter can interact with other young people in a safe, healing environment.

The life we have been given will always have a certain amount of loss and suffering. But your daughter's recent experience, and your own, has been saturated with fear and pain. In times like these, it's important to proclaim that love and beauty still exist. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 13 is often used as a passage for weddings, but more than a description for love, it is a strong proclamation of the existence of love--always, everywhere and forever: "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends." Your daughter is like a sponge for love. Make sure you take every opportunity to seek and experience Love until she and you are made whole again.

Dear Pastor Paul,
I'm having a rough time with my faith in the light of the recent attacks on America. I've tried to turn to prayer for comfort, but there are nagging questions left in my mind. Why did this happen? Why did God allow such terrible evil to happen? Where was he?
-- Laura Pratt

Dear Laura Pratt,
Your question boils down the bombings to fundamental questions about the ominipotence (all-powerfulness) and benevolence (basic goodness) of God. We all ask these questions during times of suffering and death. I struggled with these questions when I was a chaplain in a hospital and saw patients that I loved and knew to be good people suffer and die. I continue to struggle with them as I also recover from the attacks.

Suffering does exist in this world. Evil does exist in this world. God is not in the evil. God did not promote or participate in any way in these attacks any more than God participated in the cancer that killed my beloved patients in the hospital. God is in the response to the evil--which can prevent further evil. God is all powerful insofar as we are willing to receive God's grace in transforming evil into good and suffering into compassion.

Continue to pray. You can be angry at God, you can be sorrowful with God. Ultimately, instead of asking God to answer why--which does not lead to truth, but only human rationalization--ask how. How can you be an agent of God's grace in a world filled with evils like war, starvation, violence and hate? How can you be the touch of compassion in the face of suffering? How can God's will be done through you?

Through these acts, you will begin to feel God's immediate presence in the world, and perhaps understand the Divine in a deeper way than you thought possible. People will point to the work you are doing and remark on how God is working in the world. They will want to join the work of building the Kingdom of God from the ashes.

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