One of my fraternity brothers-in-loss sent me this article from the May 2017 issue of Guideposts’ Mysterious Ways magazine. I recently read it on a plane to Montana with Hilary, our daughter and her family. I commend it to you. Thank you, Bill. [click on the link below]
WHY GOD ME? The Meaning of Suffering,by Diana Aydin
I’m sure many of us have asked ourselves that question. Why did You take our child, our spouse, sibling, our closest friend? Or, why did You cripple me with this disease or affliction? And spare others this nightmare. How could You do this to me?
Or even a bigger question: If God is all powerful and omnipotent, certainly He could easily pull a few strings and cure us or bring our loved ones back to life. If not, why not? Does He care? Has He singled us out for this pain? Why?
And perhaps the really big Questions: Is there a God? Is there a Heaven? Is there anything after THIS? Is Jesus, the Resurrection and promise of Eternal Life just a fairytale made up hundreds of years ago to empower the churches and religious orders to subjugate and fleece their naïve subjects?
Ms. Aydin’s article brought to the forefront a lot of things I’ve been thinking about. Stirred the pot, if you will.
When we lose someone we deeply love, it shakes us to our core. We feel our foundation—the ground we stood upon and thought safe—crumble beneath our feet. We question just about everything—sometimes even our faith.
I’ve decided to break this down into three posts:
-I will start with the Why God Me article and a few of my takeaways;
-Next, I will go a little deeper into the second “even bigger question” as I reflect upon a sermon delivered in 2016 by a Monsignor of a Catholic Church that was specifically directed to a group of us parents who have suffered the loss of a child; and
-Lastly, I will explore how death can actually open the door for us and our departed loved ones to step through and help each other heal and—if I may borrow some words from Rabbi Regina Sandler-Phillips—mend relationships beyond our bodies and our lifetimes.
Speaking for myself, I cant’ wait to get to Part 3!
Here we go with Part 1.
WHY ME GOD?
I appreciated Ms. Aydin’s research on the topic of suffering, and the many thought leaders she interviewed for her story. These are some takeaways that resonated with me and our own experience with loss and suffering:
“I would say pain is like a hearing aid. When it happens, it’s up to us to tune in and use our suffering as an opportunity for growth, for helping others, for any way to redeem it.” Philip Yancey, author of Where Is God When It Hurts?
And this, too, from Philip Yancey whose father died from polio when he was a baby:
“Why didn’t God answer the many prayers to heal my Dad? But we know how God feels about it. All you have to do is follow Jesus around to see how he handles people going through suffering—a widow who lost her only son, a person with leprosy, a blind person. He was always on the side of the one who suffers, and he responded with compassion and healing. That is the brightest clue we have as to how God feels about us when we go through pain.”
Aydin talked to Katharine Flexer of St. Michael’s Church in Manhattan about their shared feelings of an inexplicable closeness to God while in the depths of despair. Ms. Flexer observed:
“Maybe the meaning of suffering can’t be explained by the logic of this world. God aches with our pain, but He also knows what we can’t see around and ahead of us. This is the holy ground of suffering when our defenses are down and we get a glimpse of how close God truly is, even when he appears to be silent.”
Ms. Aydin reflected upon the plight of Christ: “It is difficult to imagine any agony worse than Christ’s. It is one of the great lessons of the cross, a symbol of both suffering and salvation.”
I thought again about how his Father did not step in to alleviate his Son’s suffering or death. Or that of His mother. He certainly could have. He and his Son had done so for others. Of course, we all know what happened three days later. I’ll come back to this in Part 2.
Sharon Salzberg, the author of Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience, believes:
“There’s another ‘crack of light’ that breaks through the darkness of suffering. Suffering is inevitable. Suffering itself doesn’t make you noble. There are plenty of people who suffer and grow really bitter and angry. Then there are other people who use suffering as the springboard to greater compassion for others.”
Roberta Messner has lived with excruciating physical pain most of her life.
“Even though it has been a life of suffering, I wouldn’t trade it. That sounds so crazy. But I just feel so at one with people. I feel their suffering intensely. And I’m so vulnerable when I suffer that it makes me more open to the mysterious. What I ask God is how can I use my suffering to help others.”
We talked about this in THE CHOICE WE MAKE. And it is worth revisiting Tom Zuba’s sage observation from his book Permission to Mourn:
I firmly believe that for many of us
If we were able to take in
really take in
the enormity of what has happened to us
we would not be able to live.
I believe our bodies would shut down.
Our minds would turn off.
Our spirits would take flight.
have two voices in your head
One voice tells you that you will be okay.
That you will be happy again.
That life will feel good again.
That you can do this.
you have the courage
the grace to live again.
Or for the first time.
the other voice says “No.”
It is too scary out there.
You will be hurt again.
You will not recover.
The loss is too great.
You are doomed to a life of pain
get to decide which voice you listen to.
Make room for.
It begins with setting the intention.
The intention to say “Yes.”
Say yes to life.
Then there are those like Tom, Susan Hannifin-McNab, Patty Reis and many others who take it even further and use what they’ve learned from their suffering to help others.
Ms. Aydin knows about pain and suffering. She was born with a dislocated hip and had to wear a body cast the first year of her life. She then endured 10 years of debilitating recovery from brain surgery at the age of 14 only to be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the age of 24. Through all this she continues to enjoy a very successful career as a journalist, writer and editor. For many years she was managing editor for Guideposts’ Mysterious Ways magazine. http://www.dianaaydin.com/aboutme
She concludes her article with this:
“Why, God, why? Maybe I’ve been asking the wrong question.
Diana Aydin is also no stranger to miracles. In fact, she was front and center on this one back in 1984 when she was not yet two years old.
Stay tuned for
WHY GOD ME? Part 2- God listens Luke 7:11-17…