Unfortunately, we don’t need a reminder that there is much suffering in this world. Any brief glance at the daily news is enough to confirm your worst fears. Somebody’s nightmare is being lived out somewhere, at nearly any time of day. Last night, Nov. 18, during a Bible study that Tezi and I attend, a woman was expressing with much passion how seemingly unfair it is that God should allow so much suffering to take place. Examples were given, of course, of the terrorist attack in France, but we need not look far to find other examples, such as the college shootings here in the States, homelessness, chronic illness, untimely deaths, the list goes on and on. Her basic point, and I hope she forgives me if I mis-characterize her, was to express the notion that it is unfair of God to allow such grave suffering to continue, on and on, year after year, now some 2,000 years after the life of Christ.
Her impassioned pleas incited a lively discussion among the participants and potential reasons were given – such as, humans only learn from great suffering, that God is not responsible for these things, rather, our own actions and sins are responsible – but the whole conversation seemed to boil down to a truth to which all of us resigned ourselves: ignorance. Or at least, speaking for myself, the recognition I came to was that her questions were excellent questions, and have been asked by virtually everyone from the beginning of time. The problem of pain.
The conclusion that I came to, far from answering the question, simply states a reality which I believe we are all called to face, and that is that no matter how much suffering takes place in this world, in people’s lives around you, or in your own life, we are called to live by faith. Our plight is no different, I’d wager, than that of Adam and Eve, Moses, Job, Jeremiah, a Jew living under Nazi persecution, or Helen Keller. All suffer in different ways and to different extents, yet we’re all called to give an account of our own lives.
Do some suffer more than others? Yes, it seems so. It seems to me that this truth should foster a response of gratitude within us, that at the outset, we know that no matter how bad off things are in our own lives, there is somebody somewhere who suffers more. Second, though that might be cold comfort, we really don’t have the power to change our circumstances much. My life is my life, your life is your life, your challenges are your own, and mine are mine. It doesn’t really get us anywhere to compare or even groan over the realities. We simply are responsible for our own consciences, our own souls, before God.
These are words that perhaps I would have liked to share with the woman at the Bible study last night, and I thank her for having the courage to say difficult words, for it’s given us all, including me and Tezi, food for thought and a reason to humbly proclaim, “Lord, not my will, but Your own.”
The quote above states that when I think about the terrorism that’s been committed in France, in the States, and around the world, I’m half agony, half hope. Here’s what I mean by this. I’m half agony, of course, due to the horrific atrocities that these terrorist attacks wreak. The death, the injuries, the destruction of lives is so great that it’s hard to even comprehend. The suffering extends to the families of victims, who had no warning, no time to prepare, just brutal and instantaneous loss of their loved ones – husbands, wives, children, parents. The devastation certainly leaves us awestruck with eyes toward the sky, asking why. I can’t help but agonize over such ruthlessness. But I’m also half hope, as Jane Austen sublimely notes as a possibility, and my hope is that in the wake of these tragedies, we can rally yet again to the banner of Truth, Goodness, Compassion, Community, remembering what we are here on earth to do, which is loving God alone and treating our neighbor (including our enemies) as ourselves. Perhaps the suffering that comes from these calamities can inspire a rebirth of compassionate humility within our communities, one human to another.
Lofty idealism? Perhaps. But anything is possible.
Thank you for allowing me to express my heart and mind. Please share your thoughts.
Find Your Voice.
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