by Melodie Davis
for release August 25, 2000
Where is God?
A family who has already gone through the accidental death of one child, loses a second child in a separate accident. They say that there is no greater pain than experiencing the death of a child. To have it happen twice is just not fair. "No fair!" we rail at God. Such families need double and triple the amount of usual emotional support.
Yet these tragedies happen all the time, disproportionately often to some persons, families, or groups of persons it seems. Where is God? One of the greatest/most terrible questions of the ages is why is there suffering. Accidental suffering is one thing. Suffering inflicted by the hands of evil-minded persons is something else again. "If only you would slay the wicked, O God," says the writer of Psalms in 139:19. Why doesn't God destroy the evil doers? At first glance, we might think, well, it is because of God's great love for all. But then we must ask, well doesn't God love the person that the evil doers kill or hurt?
The answer is yes, but God doesn't interfere. One of the greatest gifts we have is our free choice. It is a gift and a curse: a gift because free choice allows us to soar far beyond the eagles and mere animals; a curse because we are subjected to suffering at any moment.
A woman's wrist was shattered when the car in which she was riding rear-ended a pick up truck. The trucks' bumper aligned with the sensor for the car's airbags, and they deployed, while she was holding a cold cappuccino in her right hand. She writes, "It is a horrible sense of vulnerability. I now know (in a way I didn't before the accident) that it only takes a second to do great damage to our fragile bodies."
Other suffering comes by deliberate or conscious choice. Solomon, who along with being the smartest and richest man of his time, was also one of the biggest womanizers (700 wives and 300 concubines). When God asked him in a dream what he desired more than all else, he was smart enough to ask for wisdom to govern, and for the ability to discern between good and evil. His pursuit of wisdom was admirable. He blessed us with insights like: "Accept correction, and you will find life; reject correction, and you will miss the road." (Proverbs 10:17) What a wonderful beginning for a very wise man.
But he was his own ruin. He was forced to make compromises to accommodate the many conflicting alliances made by marrying women of many religions. One novelist makes this graphic by imagining a scenario where the cat god worshipped by one of Solomon's wives eats the sacrifice off the altar of another religion. The priest of the stolen sacrifice is enraged; the cat must be killed! And he kills the cat, thereby angering the cat worshipper. To make peace, Solomon gives the cat a very fancy burial. And we can begin to imagine the difficulties brought about by Solomon's choices. So there is much evil and suffering in our world that comes as a result of free choice-bad or poor choice.
In answer to the question, where is God?, those who have suffered respond, "God is there, first wrapping arms around us in shared grief." Someone has said, and it bears repeating, that "God's heart is the first one to break in tragedy." God helps us pick up the pieces and find a way to live again, sometimes through long emotional, physical and social upheaval. Your life may never be the same, but it can go on.
There are many verses in the Bible that speak of God's provision, care and protection. I confess I always wince a little, because it is those verses that make us ask in times of tragedy, "Where is God? I thought God promises protection!"
There is one verse that can be a great comfort during times of suffering and tragedy: "The Lord shall ... preserve your soul." No matter what happens, our souls-whatever you think them to be-the part of us that is really us and that is not our body-is loved and preserved and kept by a God greater than all the terrible things that happen here.
For a free booklet, "Making Sense Out of Suffering," send to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from a number of organizations including the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three growing daughters.
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