Why suffering?

The hospice volunteers wanted to hear my “biblical perspective” on suffering and pain. These compassionate caregivers, who spent hours each week with critically ill patients, were taking some time to wrestle with questions repeatedly posed to them.

“They want to know why this is happening.”

“She asked if God is mad at her.”

“He wants to know what he did that was so wrong to make him so sick.”

“Why is God doing this?”

As a local pastor I was invited to provide insight and maybe encouragement to these every-day angels who are on the front lines, bravely going into people’s homes to offer care and a listening ear. It’s hard work, that kind of caring. The patients tormented these well-meaning Nightingales with bewildered and sometimes angry questions. What could they possible say in reply?

What, indeed? If life were fair, only bad people would experience illness while the good ones would somehow be rewarded.  That certainly doesn’t seem to happen. How do we respond to arbitrary suffering when we often want to shake up fist at the universe or shrug our shoulders in despair?

What would you say?

I didn’t fool myself into thinking I could provide any “answers.” The mystery of grief and illness has tormented humankind ever since the Garden of Eden. But that gave me an inspiration.

“Let’s look at Genesis, chapter 1,” I suggested.  You’ve heard the story – in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

When God lovingly, carefully, deliberately crafted humankind , God looked at those fragile, marvelous creatures, made in the image of God. “Very good,” God said.

Right from the beginning, there was a special relationship there.  God chose us, right from the start. When God looks at us, God sees

  • Someone very good.
  • Someone who is loved and lovable.
  • Someone filled with God’s Spirit.
  • Someone who is created and creative, filled with endless possibilities.

I don’t know why bad things happen to anyone.  But I do know this – God doesn’t send sickness or earthquakes or Zika viruses or droughts or car crashes to punish people.

Sometimes we harm ourselves.

Sometimes stuff just happens.

What God does promise is to be there when we need God most.  Sometimes God shows up looking just like a hospice volunteer, ready to hold a hand, wipe a tear, and with a reminder that we are precious in God’s sight.

 

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