Of Lost Boys and Suffering

"The family accepts. God meant it this way."

The words of a family who lost a boy. The words of a family who will sit with his empty chair for the rest of their lives. Who will mourn the lost voice, the laughter, the future they thought was theirs.

I keep arguing with myself, keep going 'round on this. But now I finally want to write it down. Even if the family accepts it, I do not believe God meant it that way.

I have wanted to glide past this part of Chapter 5. For days now, I have wanted to glide past it. This dialog raised by eight little words: the question of suffering and evil in the world. Why the little boy lost? Why Haiti? Why the girl in the brothel? And the mother lost to suicide? Why?

I do not believe God means it this way. This "creation groaning,"* this fallenness, this "human beings sold as slaves."**

I do believe God works to transfigure, as Ann says. And that we are transformed when we can give thanks "at all times because He is all good."

But who am I, in this great dialog that has been going on throughout the ages? Just one little voice.

There are bigger voices who can continue this dialog better than I, and I hope to read them in the days to come. One is After Shock: Searching for Honest Faith When Your World Is Shaken, by Kent Annan. The other is The Innocence of God, by Udo Middelmann.

And I am curious to hear what they have to say.

*Romans 8:22
**Revelation 18:13

Quotes from Chapter 5 of the beautiful book One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.

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Blogger Claire said...

He wills it this way in the sense that He allows evil to reveal itself but simultaneously He breaks Himself in the process.

The mortuary scene which held my father's mutilated body still blurrs my vision. It was not God I saw that day. I saw fallen humankind. God was holding me tight.

But I too ask these questions: I ask, why not me? Why do I not live in a shack? Why is my home not destroyed by earthquake and flood? Why does my abundance seem so much greater?

Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Claire, wow, about your father. I'm breathing hard.

I think the world is "groaning" as Paul says. So if I live on a fault-line (shoot, I do :) or in the shadow of a volcano, I can expect the possibility of difficulty.

But God willing evil, I cannot accept that, I admit. I know it gets to be a very philosophical conversation, because it means that if God let us sin then maybe he was okay with that idea and somehow willed it.

Okay, the world will go on even if I don't figure this out. But I think it might be important to find the innocence of God. Maybe? Are there practical reasons to do so? Maybe.

Thinking out loud. Just thinking and struggling.

Love you. :)

Blogger Maureen said...

The great Buddhist Chogyam Trungpa says, "Pleasure is not a reward. Pain is not a punishment. They're just ordinary occurrences." Somewhere in the world there is always someone, usually many someones, experiencing the very same thing, and in the realization of this, that not one of us experiences tragedy or loss alone, or joy alone, asking "why" becomes unnecessary. What results, then, is connection - you to me, we to them - through something fundamental to all of us. And if we can sense that connection, "why" and especially "why me?" lose power to be so personal. At least that what's I think Trunpa is saying. It's really the only way I can understand a statement like "God meant it this way".

Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Maureen, that is an intriguing way to put it.

Interestingly, we humans use pleasure as a reward and pain as a punishment. I am musing now about how that fits into this whole discussion.

Blogger Abby said...

I don't want to take the easy way out and say it's 'mystery', 'manna' as Ann says...

but I don't think she took the easy way out and i know you don't either...

i wondered if you had stopped sharing about the book or were stuck...

i thought of dylan thomas' 'rage against the dying of the light' i heard quoted in a tim keller sermon when i read this quote in Ann's book...

i hear what maureen is saying too as those that suffer don't want answers but presence...entering the mystery and speaking from it or speaking from eternal silence...

these are the pieces flying free not tied into the endless circle that is the coming dawn

Blogger Megan Willome said...

Ah, yes--Why? I don't know. My way through pain has been to ask, "Lord, where were you?" And he has always answered where he was, but not why. Maybe he will when I get to heaven. Or maybe, when I see him, I won't care anymore.

Blogger Susan Deborah said...

Sometimes in our human parameters and definitions, we try to understand god but I think it is something beyond that. I like Claire's point where she even asks: "Why does my abundance seem so much greater?" I have not come across anyone who asks that question.

Why do we always have to think that god is behind every thing like earthquakes, floods, etc. America is a prosperous country and they say that god is blessing America. Well, if it is so, the crime rate in America is also way high. Does god have a hand in that as well? I am just trying to think aloud here. Economics and catastrophes are always associated with god. Why?

Can't it be that we just trust him and hold his hands tight through anything we face. Can't it be that simple? Perhaps, not.

Apologies if I rambled a bit too much.

Joy always,

Blogger Solveig said...

I so appreciate this--and the link to your article. I also struggled with the same verses at one time. One of the things that helped me move beyond them was Mitchner's "The Source." After reading about the corrupt societies, their destruction did seem like an act of mercy.

But this comment will be quite long for another reason. Please bear with me. My mother died when I was a Freshman in college. She'd had health issues for years and had prayed she would live to see me--her youngest--through high school. When she died, I was truly grateful she'd lived as long as she had--and I did not mourn.

When we almost lost a son, I wanted my mama and finally mourned--not for the son (who did live and who has brought great joy)--but because I'd lost my mother. Through falling apart in anger and tears, I found release for something very deep--but still comforted myself with the idea that she'd not gone until her time was up.

Decades later, I faced the issue again. This time I concluded that, regardless of the health issues, her death was premature. God's will did not include either poor health or early death. I also concluded I'd comforted myself with a lie and that it had distorted my worldview and my Christian walk.

Reality is that much happens which is not God's will. Evil is alive and well on planet earth. Yes, we have to accept what happens. God is bigger and He will be with us. We have to mourn the loss and even move on. But that's not the same as thinking God willed it.

Your article was excellent and covered the big question. Working through that probably comes first. I also think we have to deal with evil when it happens on a much smaller scale--like the death of one son or one mother. Or abuse by male father-figures. Because those things aren't small when they're personal. Actually, resolving them sets people free to love God. Asking the hard questions is a start, and providing the testimony of one person's answer is vital, too. It offers hope as each of search for understanding regarding evil and its impact on us and on those we love.


Blogger Maureen said...

This post has stayed with me. And today I came across something from the Rumi Card Book that offers an explanation via what Rumi called "the alchemy of Agony": the necessity of ordeal, which posits that suffering is unavoidable and that by understanding its "inner purpose" - that it will lead to deep wisdom - it is transformed into "the gold of Grace".

Blogger Joelle said...

Mmmmm. I'm no theologian, but I think Jesus taught us to pray, "Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven," because God's will is often not done on earth. I agree: God didn't want it that way. I think suffering goes against God's grain. And so we beg for peace and love and beauty in a world so fraught with suffering. And yet the miracle is that so much good can come out of pain.

Blogger Sam Van Eman said...

Thoughtful comments here. Such a tough topic to consider when it comes to looking for answers.


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