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Mindy_Airr
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I truly first questioned my Christian faith when my mom was diagnosed with kidney cancer on Nov. 30, 2006. She had a kidney removed in January and began chemo in Feb. She passed away on May 28, 2007. She was such an incredible woman and I watched her go through so much pain. She had to give up more and more of her dignity as she grew weaker and weaker. So I, like many people have at various stages in life, asked why would a God who loves us so much do this? I would hear about horrible stories on the news about murderers, rapists, etc. and they will probably go on to live longer lives than my mother. I have been told, "she's in a better place", "sometimes we can't understand God's plan", and so on. I just don't by it. I have come almost full circle and am going to church and praying. Still, there remains that question, why did this happen?

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I truly first questioned my Christian faith when my mom was diagnosed with kidney cancer on Nov. 30, 2006. She had a kidney removed in January and began chemo in Feb. She passed away on May 28, 2007. She was such an incredible woman and I watched her go through so much pain. She had to give up more and more of her dignity as she grew weaker and weaker. So I, like many people have at various stages in life, asked why would a God who loves us so much do this? I would hear about horrible stories on the news about murderers, rapists, etc. and they will probably go on to live longer lives than my mother. I have been told, "she's in a better place", "sometimes we can't understand God's plan", and so on. I just don't by it. I have come almost full circle and am going to church and praying. Still, there remains that question, why did this happen?

 

Hi Mindy. I am sorry to hear about your mother, and I am sure there is no philosophy or theology that can, nor should, remove the existential impact of her life and death. Personally I do not see how such undeniably tragic events, including the murders, the rapes, the wars, the famines, can possibly be justified by some clever explanation that ties it all into God's will and the fact that we just don't have the full picture. To me that sounds an awful lot like 'the ends justifies the means', and an attempt to ultimately sweep the reality of these evils and tragedies under the rug. All this makes me question the existence of a God who exists in such a literally personal way.

 

The mystics would say that God is not anything that we could ever define. But it is in that supreme 'Undefinable' that the full import of life is stored. In this sense, only God has the final say, only God bestows the full meaning on anything, on anyone, on any life. In this view, my life and your life do not speak only for themselves; they are not absolute. God has the final say on the meaning of our lives, and not any particular circumstance we find ourselves in. Ultimately I think your question is unanswerable, but ultimately, I also think the question might dissolve, or perhaps, be intimately wrapped up in the true mystery of life's secret meaning in God. Perhaps he has hidden it so well, or held it so close, that not even he knows or can objectively say what it is all about.

 

So indeed we do not have the full picture, because nothing we ever encounter in life is inherently complete in itself or absolute. Nothing fully explains its own story, everything must be tied in with the Divine. Yet for these events to have meaning in the Divine, they must truly be real, in order that they might be truly and inexplicably be tied into the 'full picture', and not just swept under the rug. Life within life, meaning within meaning; no justification, only perspective. So it is not so easy to just explain away the facts of suffering, tragedy, and evil, and I would say that their sheer reality must be taken in if we are to seek a deeper meaning and reality to them.

 

Those are just my thoughts for whatever they might be worth.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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Mindy,

 

Like Mike, I'd say that there are no easy answers. Ultimately all answers couched in words fail - maybe because true answers can only be lived/experienced, not thought. Some time ago now my own mother started a long slide into dementia and things only got worse when my dad died. I was left to "cope" and "care" as much as I was able, alongside the demands of my own partner and daughter. One time mum went out and had an accident, knocked down by a car, and she ended up convalescing in a local hospital. Early one evening I got a call and was told to get to the hospital quickly as mum had suffered a stroke and would possibly not survive. I rushed along and soon sat beside her bed holding her hand. By this time in her dementia she often regressed to childhood and spoke in a little girl voice, like a six year old. As I held her hand she asked me:"Why is this happening to me.......I've been a good girl." The memory breaks my heart even now, as there is no answer, except to stay with the moment, feel the anquish and offer what compassion we can. If our head runs to "answers" then it is running away, seeking the psuedo consolation of words, creeds or doctrines.

 

Long ago, before this time, I worked in an office. One of my co-workers was a "born again" Christian.Once he took a couple of weeks off as his mother was ill and he needed to be with her. When he returned another colleague asked him how his mother was. "She's never been better" he replied without a waver in his voice. Before anyone could respond, he added......"she's in heaven with Jesus." He was a good man , and I am not putting him down; in allprobability he had cried his tears alone, yet just thought that his few stoic words would demonstrate "faith". Instead, when he was out of the office, one or two of the others just said that his attitude had ended any interest they may have had in hearing his beliefs, let alone ever sharing them.

 

When Luther lost his own 12 year old daughter he is reported to have said...."How strange, to know that she is with Jesus in heaven, yet to feel such sadness." This is more the way of faith, opening the heart to the reality of loss, even anger at the "injustice" of it all, while not losing sight of the ultimate hope. ( Just a brief word on the "injustice" side of it, the "bad" prospering while the "good" suffer...........if it were not so in at least some ways, "good" and "bad" would dissolve into self-interest and would in effect cease to be. This is not offered as some sort of "answer", a theodicy, but is a thought to reflect upon)

 

Really, I've offered you nothing. I just believe that often its better to live with questions rather than answers. I believe that I exist in a reality that is infinite compassion/love. That the more my own heart shares this love, the clearer my eyes will see and understand. And that my heart is learning to share this love because of the workings of a Grace that never ceases to share Itself. That's it really. Just how some things "fit" I don't know, and I know some would say this is all a cop out. Yet how can I ever try to close my heart to the worlds suffering?

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Mindy,

 

Sorry about your mother.

There are many branches of Christian faith, and for me its a mistake to think Gods will or plan is reflected in every event. It only adds another layer of pain when were going through affliction or loss.

In the open theism view, the Creator set up the physical universe with stable laws that remain constant. God limits his power to give us freedom of choice, rather than controlling all circumstances or knowing all of the future. God allows natural law and human decisions to determine our world, and rarely intervenes. Yet He is always personally, relationally accessible to us as companion on the journey-- the message of Jesus life. I know this cant bring much comfort either, but just to offer an alternate perspective.

 

My father died last year after a miserable decline / dementia, now one of my brothers has cancer - I know these things arent Gods will, and dont expect miracles, but think it helps our own spirit to cast our burden in prayer.

 

Peace to you

Edited by rivanna
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Hi Mindy,

 

Welcome and sorry for your loss. Both of my parents and step father have passed away. My mother after years and a prolonged bout of leukemia and the dreaded Alzheimer's and my step dad died in my arms from heart failure after much suffering. I am not a stranger to loss nor to the suffering in others. I offer no explanation except to say that i have come to know that things are the way they are and I accept that at a very deep level. It seems to me, I have found a deep trust without a communicable answer to the question in a power that at times is not 'other' but is the very source of being itself. I am moved by this to take this temporal existence known as human life 'lightly' as there are no pat answers to questions that transcend what appears to us as reality.

 

Perhaps knowing you are not alone in this dilemma is in some way consoling.

 

Love in Christ,

Joseph

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You have my sympathies as well, Mindy. The responses to your question have been thoughtful and quite thorough. I will just add a couple of comments. First, the best book I know on the subject is When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Rabbi Howard Kushner. The other is more personal: I just don't believe in a God that is so powerful as to purposely allow such things to happen.

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[Job 3:20-21, 24-26]

20 "Why is light given to those in misery,

and life to the bitter of soul,

21 to those who long for death that does not come,

who search for it more than for hidden treasure,

24 For sighing comes to me instead of food;

my groans pour out like water.

25 What I feared has come upon me;

what I dreaded has happened to me.

26 I have no peace, no quietness;

I have no rest, but only turmoil."

 

Why do innocent people suffer, and are victimized, if God is all good and loving? These are great questions and I don’t think they can be answered sufficiently, but they are important. I don’t think philosophy can answer the question because that is a mental exercise. The answer I feel has something to do with compassion and love. I like philosophy because it answers the questions my mind has, but suffering goes beyond the mind. It goes beyond the individual because we suffer as individuals, families, and countries and as a world community. No religion or culture has a monopoly on compassion, but all express it in a different way.

 

My deepest and most rewarding Christmases were in non-Christian countries alone with nowhere to turn, but inward. They were rewarding because I was turned away from physical and mental pleasure to a spiritual joy I still can’t understand. This joy drives me forward and inward to a place beyond words, I can’t understand it because the situations were so stark. The intense suffering didn’t prove to me that God does not exist, which is a philosophical statement, but showed me a God that works amidst the suffering. I am talking about the Muslim, Christian, Hindu and Jewish God. They, the one we all call God showed me a place where pain can’t touch you. Pain penetrates the mind and body, but the spirit can’t be touched. Consciousness is the vehicle that takes us on a thousand journeys only to end up where we started, a place so near, and yet so far.

 

[Matt. 5:3-10]

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. . . . Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. . . . Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

 

May we all be strong enough to have more of those intense moments.

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Thank you all for your kind words. Even though it's clear there is no definitive answer, your words give me comfort and somethings to think about. Thank you.

 

Yes, I think we are all in this together. I did think further, after my own attempt to "answer", that any "christian" answer involves not a "god" who remains aloof from the world, merely dictating events, even coldly "judging" them, but Who has shown that He shares them and lives amid them Himself, suffering with us. For me, we need to rest within the mystery and seek to remain open to the redemption/transformation that is promised within the teachings of all Faiths.

 

He doth give his joy to all,

He becomes an infant small,

He becomes a man of woe

He doth feel the sorrow too.

 

Think not, thou canst sigh a sigh,

And thy maker is not by.

Think not, thou canst weep a tear,

And thy maker is not near.

 

O! he gives to us his joy.

That our grief he may destroy

Till our grief is fled & gone

He doth sit by us and moan

 

(William Blake, lines from "On Another's Sorrow")

 

And another story came to mind, of a group of rabbi's in one of the concentration camps during WW2. Seeing all the suffering around them they decided to put God on trial and argued back and forth on whether there could be a god given such suffering. After the many arguments had concluded they gave their verdict..."No. God could not exist." Then the siren went indicating a particular time of the day. The rabbi's noted it was the Jewish time of prayer, so knelt and prayed.

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I was advised by the Moderator a couple of days ago that as I indentify as a Pure Land Buddhist that I am not strictly entitled to post on this section of the Forum. He has, however, generously allowed my posts to stand. I would just like to offer my apologies if anyone feels offended, particularly Mindy..... the rules are plain enough, I just didn't happen to really read them!

 

I will endeavour to steer clear in future.

 

Derek

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I truly first questioned my Christian faith when my mom was diagnosed with kidney cancer on Nov. 30, 2006. She had a kidney removed in January and began chemo in Feb. She passed away on May 28, 2007. She was such an incredible woman and I watched her go through so much pain. She had to give up more and more of her dignity as she grew weaker and weaker. So I, like many people have at various stages in life, asked why would a God who loves us so much do this? I would hear about horrible stories on the news about murderers, rapists, etc. and they will probably go on to live longer lives than my mother. I have been told, "she's in a better place", "sometimes we can't understand God's plan", and so on. I just don't by it. I have come almost full circle and am going to church and praying. Still, there remains that question, why did this happen?

 

Mindy, I think most of us at some point in life ask the very same question. "Why!" I'll quote something I wrote about this to you. Not that it provides an answer, but just to let you know that you are not alone. My question was less about sickness, and more about the violence we face in our world. Take heart, Mindy ... You are not alone with your question.

 

"It's amazing how a single event can change one's perspective on God, and life, and the reason evil exists. Up until tonight I thought that evil actually served a purpose for mankind. I thought that it helped us grow, and learn, and further develop as individuals and as a species.

 

I now realize that some evils serve no purpose at all, but rather hinder our overall growth as a peoples. Why then does God allow evil to exist, and even more so - How can a loving God allow us to be subject to it. Does He not care, or is He just not as involved with the world as some may think?

 

I realize that God is not the one committing such acts himself. I realize that He has allowed us certain freedoms. What I don't understand is why? WHY? It seems that Christ Himself asked the very same question when He cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

 

It looks like we are responsible for ourselves, for others, and for the world we live in. It looks like WE need to take action against those who would force their will upon our own. Are we to just sit back and do NOTHING, or are we to get involved?

 

What does God expect a 114 lb woman to do against a 260 lb raging bull of a man who is raping an innocent, disabled, and mentally challenged boy? Is that where sacrifice comes in? To lay down our own lives for another?

 

Who could muster up such courage to face the possibility of being beaten nearly to death, killed, or being raped themselves? That 114 lb woman would have to kill the man in order to save the boy AND herself if she were to get involved. What good could possibly come of her getting involved without a means to protect herself and the boy? Where was God in this scenario?

 

---------------------------------------

 

Well, I've been sitting here thinking and praying for the better part of four hours about my current dilemma. I've been thinking about how evil (Calamity) has challenged my views about God. How can God be love as stated in 1 John 4:1-21, and still allow evil to be present in our world?

 

I've come to the conclusion that He is simply giving us a chance to come to Him and to turn from our self serving ways. Perhaps He does have hope for us after all. Perhaps He is letting us live in this evil world in hope that we will come to the understanding of how we can help change it.

 

It seems to me that if I focus my efforts on the root cause of evil (Which is the absence of love) my efforts will produce more fruit in the end. At the same time, I am not just sitting by doing nothing when calamity befalls me or another. To love isn't a call to just love others in heart, but it is a call to take action also."

 

Take care, Mindy and I hope you find the peace and answers you desire...

 

James

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I truly first questioned my Christian faith when my mom was diagnosed with kidney cancer on Nov. 30, 2006. She had a kidney removed in January and began chemo in Feb. She passed away on May 28, 2007. She was such an incredible woman and I watched her go through so much pain. She had to give up more and more of her dignity as she grew weaker and weaker. So I, like many people have at various stages in life, asked why would a God who loves us so much do this? I would hear about horrible stories on the news about murderers, rapists, etc. and they will probably go on to live longer lives than my mother. I have been told, "she's in a better place", "sometimes we can't understand God's plan", and so on. I just don't by it. I have come almost full circle and am going to church and praying. Still, there remains that question, why did this happen?

 

I am really sorry about your mother, Mindy. I don't think any words from anyone can help with this. Whether your mother died after great suffering or not, her loss would be impossible for you to bear. Adding suffering to this seems so cruel to us; so unnecessary.

 

I have no answers. I am really, really sorry.

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"It's amazing how a single event can change one's perspective on God, and life, and the reason evil exists. Up until tonight I thought that evil actually served a purpose for mankind. I thought that it helped us grow, and learn, and further develop as individuals and as a species.

 

Sometimes experiencing evil shows us how selfish we are.

 

Most of us know that people die. Most of us know that many of these deaths involve suffering. I think the challenge is to ask ourselves at what point do we find these deaths intolerable? Is it when someone we love finds themselves in this situation? Is it when we find ourself there? Is it when evil strikes close to our own home, or even in our own home?

 

Why find compassion only when it comes close to home? Are we not in effect saying, I can tolerate people dying in agony; I just can't tolerate it happening to my friend/relation/child?

 

In which case, we are not actually railing against suffering at all. We are railing against being treated the same as the rest of humanity, when clearly God ought to choose 'them' and not 'us.'

 

I remember when the bombings happened in London some years ago. All my friends on a message board posted about their relations, who had been in London, and thanked God that they were safe. This seems natural in one sense, but in another sense, what is that all about? Why thank God that a stranger was chosen, and a loved one saved? Surely our grief ought to be the same, whether we know the person who died or not? 'Thank God that all those who died are strangers to me' is a bizarre prayer, in my view.

 

In response to these posts, I then posted the poem by John Donne, 'For whom the bell tolls'. Some understood, many did not.

 

I have had a disability for over 10 years. I am not about to give details here, because it is not appropriate. I have honestly never once asked, 'Why me?' Life is unfair; everyone has good experiences, and everyone has bad experiences. Some are lucky, some are not. I think I am one of the lucky ones, to be honest. It is certainly true that with great suffering can come great blessing as well, even if in realising how much we have.

 

The Lord asked for the cup to pass from him, when he was in Gethsemane, but submitted to God's will. The question for anyone challenging God about what they have experienced is, if you want your cup of suffering to pass from you, who would you give it to?

 

For whom the bell tolls

by John Donne

 

No man is an island,

Entire of itself.

Each is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less.

As well as if a promontory were.

As well as if a manner of thine own

Or of thine friend's were.

Each man's death diminishes me,

For I am involved in mankind.

Therefore, send not to know

For whom the bell tolls,

It tolls for thee.

Edited by Anglocatholic
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