God is good.... and yet there is suffering.
retold by Deborah
Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill can be seen from miles away. Nobody lights a lamp and then shuts it in a closet, but sets it up on a table where it can illuminate the whole room. That’s how you’ve got to be: let your light shine so that others can see your good works and give praise to your Father in heaven.”
As many of you know, this past week my husband had a follow-up exam with his oncologist. Blessedly, the results of his recent CT Scan and associated blood work were all clear. With a sigh of relief I passed along the good news to my “angel team” of friends — who responded with thanksgiving and delight.
And yet — happy as I am for us, it pains me to see among my angel team the names of some who didn’t receive such good news when they were walking this road with those they love. Any thinking, compassionate being must ask: Why? Why does one survive and another perish? John is a good man — but others were good people, too; loved and needed and, now, deeply missed. It seems so sad and wrong and unfair.
The question goes farther: why is there suffering and pain and disease? Why does God allow this #%*)^ to go on? If the Divine Source is good and all-powerful, how can God permit bad things to happen? Is it heartlessness or helplessness? And, if it is one of those — or worse, intentional design! — is that the kind of god anyone wants to worship or believe in?
No one has a suitable one-size-fits-all answer. Each of us makes our peace with Life As It Is in our own way.
When I was in high school a boy in our neighborhood was killed in an auto accident. The death of a child is always traumatic; the height of incomprehensibility: so much possibility lay head, so many years, so much life! We were all in a state of shock; how could it be? He was just here, running and playing. And then… Why??
Mr. Francis, our across-the-street neighbor who had left the priesthood in order to marry, said, “Andy must have accomplished all that he needed to do.” It was a statement unlike anything I had heard in Sunday School, and it changed my thinking about why we’re here.
If we have come to life in this time and place for a specific purpose, then our days and hours have meaning beyond just “getting and spending.” We can look at life — and at loss, not as a series of random, meaningless events, but as a program of learning, and of opportunities to grow in grace and truth.
This does not deny the reality of suffering and pain, nor does it glorify it — but honors its power. In the face of hurt and harm something is evoked in us demanding a response: we are called to comfort, to heal, to change what is hurtful; to bless. Our lives, in whatever form they take, can serve to transform this world for the better.
This does not mean that we understand the reason for all of what happens, only that we take it on faith as being meaningful. We believe that our lives are filled with possibilities, and that we can do good — whoever we are, wherever we are.
God doesn’t make garbage, and God doesn’t make mistakes. Each and every life is of ultimate value, and has the capacity to bring forth beauty and grace. Each life contains a spark of divine power which can contribute to the “building up of the kingdom.” The choice is ours: it is up to us what we will do, say, hope for, and believe.
That we have a truly meaning-filled existence means that every day, every hour, every minute counts. There is never a time when we are unimportant, nothing we do is trivial. Like the proverbial Amazonian butterfly, our souls influence the environment; our very thoughts can change the world.
Our lives; each and every one, is important.
How do I know these things? What makes it possible for me to believe in the power and grace of human life?
I know because I have heard, and seen, and experienced Holiness made manifest: in love, compassion, friendship, encouragement, the welcoming of a stranger. These things shine forth in radiant testimony of a Spirit of Grace that overshadows the world.
I have met the Lord Christ in a young widow, in an elderly World War II veteran, a teenaged grocery clerk, an emergency room nurse, a tow truck driver, and in a stranger who helped me load a wheelchair into my car. Time after time, in the midst of daily life, in large ways and small, often when darkness seemed to press all around, compassion shined forth.
A heart shivering with fear has been warmed by kind words and deeds, a soul weighed down with worries has been raised up, again and again. With Mary Magdalene I can say, “I have seen the Lord.”
Our lives, each and every one — in everything we do and say, everything we hope for, pray for, and believe — is important. For however long we are here, we can be blessing-bearers, hope restorers: children of the living, radiant, loving God.
Virtual hugs and real-time blessings,
Be radiant, as your heavenly Creator is radiant. (Matthew 5:48, interpreted by Deborah)
"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." ~ Abraham Lincoln