I have to tell you, I struggled mightily over whether or not to write this particular entry. I always have a hard time writing about people I know. Even when it’s good, I feel like I’m invading their space. When it’s not so good, like this time, I agonize over it because I don’t want to use someone else’s pain for my own ends. In the end, I decided to do it. That was hard enough; coming up with a way to do it and not seem like an ass was worse. But, this is what I came up with.
Yesterday, a friend and co-worker experienced the worst thing that can happen to a parent: the loss of a child. I didn’t know the young man personally, but my youngest daughter did, she went to elementary school with him. I don’t know the details and, to be honest, I really need to; death is death and details don’t really matter. That doesn’t mean you don’t ask why, though. When death comes in the random manner that sometimes happens when young people are involved, it upsets our apple cart and the neat, orderly little world we’ve spent so much time constructing is shattered. In moments like this, “why” is a question that leaps to the front of our mind. Why did this have to happen? Why did my child have to die? And, very often, why did God let this happen? I wish I had an answer to this, but I don’t. I suppose I can take solace that the question of suffering has been studied for about as long as anything has been studied and by people much smarter than me. But, if there’s any comfort in that, it’s mighty cold.
I may not know why bad things happen, but I have a pretty good idea it’s not because it’s part of God’s plan; that’s just humans looking for order in a chaotic universe. It’s not because God is testing us. Would you cause bad things to happen to your children to test them? Of course not, so why would lay that heinous act at God’s feet? It’s not because God doesn’t love us. William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury said
“There cannot be a God of love,” people say, “because if there was, and he looked upon the world, his heart would break.” The church points to the Cross and says, “It did break”
And, Nicholas Wolsterstroff said
“God is love. That is why he suffers. To love our suffering world is to suffer…The one who does not see God’s suffering does not see his love. So, suffering is down at the centre of things, deep down where the meaning is. Suffering is the meaning of our world. For love is meaning. And love suffers. The tears of God are the meaning of history.”.
But, in reality, none of that matters for the rest of us, those who aren’t suffering at the moment. What matters for us is how we respond to people’s pain. The best way that I know comes from a friend of mine. Hugh Hollowell, director of an inner city ministry in here in Raleigh called Love Wins tells a story from the early days of his ministry when someone needed his help to pay their power bill. It was only $120, but things were tight and it was money he just didn’t have. When he told them he didn’t have it, they became a little upset, telling him if he was really their friend he’d give them the money. He said “I can’t keep your lights on, but I will come and sit in the dark with you after they turn them off.” And, that’s what we can do; sit silently in the dark with our friend.