I am reminded all too frequently about the bad in the world by the never-ending issues that people face, many of which are displayed on social media, network television and the local radio stations. It’s all around and there is absolutely no way any of this can be avoided. This has been a topic of discussion by many people, groups, and even within many organizations and yet, no one seems to have the answer as to why this is. In my small but intimate men’s group, this has also invaded our peace and comfort by raising its evil head by something that has happened to one of us, all of us, or to someone we know. Maybe it’s just a news story we come across somewhere and we discuss it during our time together. All around the world, bad things happen to good people…and then seemingly, life goes on.
Let me just say at the onset of this blog, I don’t have the answer to this either, but I do love to dig deep into the occurrence and at the very least try to understand as much reasoning as possible to get a better handle on it. I look around me at family and friends and I am greatly aware of some of the disappointments in life for many of them. Perhaps a death of a loved one, loss of jobs, divorce, abuses that occur to the elderly and children, incurable diseases, and so on and so on. So much destruction of people and of families. Once this question is on the table, it is soon followed by:
How do we cope with this?
How can a loving God allow this to continue?
How do I handle an issue I have no control over, like facing the decision to withhold artificial life from someone I love because they will never come out of this incurable sleep?
How do I answer that for them? For me? For my family?
In his book entitled When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Rabbi Harold Kushner writes this uncanny statement, “We could bear nearly any pain or disappointment if we thought there was a reason behind it, a purpose, to it.” Seriously?? This quote is even difficult to rationalize for me even if I knew there was a reason behind a major disappointment. I do know this though, in the middle of pain and hurt, there is a God in heaven that knows all, and I feel that if I ask Him the question, He may choose to allow me to know the why, but I also recognize that if He chooses not to let me know, He has a reason for it. I guess because I do have a faith that believes in a great and good God, the concept of knowing or not knowing answers comes through with a comfort and peace that I do not get by trying to make sense of Rabbi Kushner’s quote.
In the time between 2003 and 2004, my wife was diagnosed with a form of cancer that had potential to become life threatening. We had experienced adversity and big life challenges before, but nothing like this. This was devastating to us. We were in a new city, new jobs, no family or close friends that we could take comfort with. It was just us! We never really had any illusions of immunity to the hurts in the world but it was like in one swift kick, our lives were upended and we had nowhere to go, no one to talk to, nothing to cling to except our love for each other and our faith in our God. That’s it, nothing around us for hundreds of miles so it seemed and yet, after the initial shock, we both settled in to trust and believe there was a reason. Somewhere and for some unknown reason this happened. Honestly, I was all up in God’s face asking, “why did this happen?” or “Why us?” Yes, I admit I was a wreck, and I was just the husband but when I observed my wife, I stood breathlessly admiring her as there was a peace on her face that just seemed to smile. When people asked her if she struggled with such a diagnosis, she simply and characteristically responded with, “yes in the beginning, but now I just know that God has this under control, and it will turn out for the best. All things work out for a greater good.” For several months following the diagnosis, we lived with the worst of thoughts and lived with tremendous uncertainty. Somewhere along this journey, it all dissipated, like a mist when the sun rises, it just away. Since then, we’ve never looked back.
Here's the thing…when we go through things in our lives, particularly bad or negative, we are accustomed to knowing the reason why we are experiencing these things. For all intents and purposes, we seem to be a people that seeks meaning and “answers” to any questions we may have. We feel like all things must have a purpose for being because our curious minds do not adjust well or make sense of random or unexplainable occurrences. We want, no, we demand answers and until we have them, we will use every breath we can draw, trying to peel back the onion layers of any issue. I get tired just thinking about all that energy I wasted to only wind up back at the beginning of said issues. I’ve even spoken to people that feel that they are being punished for, only God knows, what they have done in their past. A self-proclaiming guilty verdict and we accept it because it makes sense. Never mind that there was no court attorney, or judge, or any for or against testimony, no jury, just our own minds that cite internally, “guilty as charged”! Now this verdict makes sense, doesn’t it? We accept it because we are starved for a reason, a purpose, an announcement that I am going through this because of this or that. My mind and brain are now comforted, now fully functional, and deal with the sentence given. It doesn’t matter what it is, it only matters that I came across the reason the adversity came into my life.
Now, after all of this let me ask you this question because I really want to raise your awareness of the issue again…. now that something has happened to you how will you deal with? You cannot just give it a name and move on. In a manner of speaking, since you named it, you birthed it and now it really comes alive in your life. Hmmm…just knowing a reason or purpose for what has happened isn’t enough is it? And so here comes another onion to peel.