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It's easy to believe in a kind, loving, fair-handed God when everything is going well. However, how do you reconcile the suffering of good people? It's an age-old question, but what kind of God allows good people to suffer needlessly?

 

My grandmother is on her deathbed, and it appears it may be a bit of a drawn-out situation. It seems so heartless to me to have her suffer (and everyone else suffer, watching her) instead of just letting her go to sleep and not wake up again. My grandmother has had her faults (haven't we all?) but she's a good person. Why would God make her suffer through something unpleasant and die, instead of just taking her peacefully?

 

I know there really isn't an answer to the question...but I'm assuming most here have been through this same situation with a loved one. How do you handle it and not lose your faith?

 

Also - is it wrong to pray for it to just be over? It feels like praying for her death, though of course I don't want that to happen. But there is zero chance of her ever returning to who she was, and she is in pain and suffering a lot. Praying for her to live seems cruel, when she won't live a good life.

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Hi Raven,

 

i think everyone who has family and friends experiences those thoughts at some point in their life. Personally i accept it as an integral part of life and see no conflict with my faith. I think suffering has its purpose for humankind but such a discussion is better left to other areas of this forum as this area is for support of your story.and journey. I think its normal that you are praying for a painless death and my empathy is with you..

 

However i will also point out there are a number of existing threads that address the suffering issue and may be of interest to you.

"On Suffering" in Debate and Dialog and "Suffering as Illusion" in Other Wisdom traditions to name two specific threads here.

 

Hope that helps,

Joseph

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However one conceives of the journey from life to death praying for a less painful passage is a appropriate. God did not cause the suffering but God is with you in the suffering. I don't believe God is holding back; I don't see that an image of God involves "do this,: "do that".

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However one conceives of the journey from life to death praying for a less painful passage is a appropriate. God did not cause the suffering but God is with you in the suffering. I don't believe God is holding back; I don't see that an image of God involves "do this,: "do that".

 

Exactly what I was thinking.

 

Raven, my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. I know how difficult and challenging to our faith things like this can be. I believe, sometimes, its perfectly okay to "tell God" exactly how you feel about the situation. I have done that a few times, just said "God, I'm hurt (angry, scared...), and I don't understand why this is happening". I find it to be cathartic if nothing else.

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On another forum there has been a discussion of the Book of Job from the OT. Someone mentioned god's "non-answer" to Job. I replied.......

 

 

Regarding "God's answer"........Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much.

 

As I see it, this was said to a human being who identified himself only with the ego/self, a self that sought to use reason and logic to come to an "answer" to suffering. As such the answer of God is a perfectly good answer. Where was THAT "self" indeed!

 

I've tried. Once I spent the large part of a couple of years reading a few of the classic "answers" given by Theodicy within the Christian tradition, and another that sought to present the answers given by all the worlds of faith. I filled my head with such answers and was quite proud of it. Until I witnessed in the cold light of reality the simple pain and suffering of a dog hit by a car, and heard the cries of its owners as they sought to comfort it as it whined and twisted by the roadside. My answers left me in an instant. Just as they did when my mother, suffering from the effects of a stroke, her mind slipping into dementia, asked me simply....."Why is this happening to me? I've been a good girl". Well, she had been a very good girl to me, and all I had to repay her then was to hold her hand and kiss her forehead.

 

There can be no answer to suffering in "thought".

 

For me it comes back to the insight of the Buddhist thinkers who saw that there is a fundamental flaw in "reason" and "logic" itself, that the solution is not another position, but a "no-position" that transcends all positions. Oh yes, "mumbo jumbo" no doubt, yet how can words be anything other than "mumbo jumbo" if such be true? Life's "answers" can be lived, but not thought - which can only take us so far. The divine can be "known by love, but by thought never."

 

 

 

Again, the Bible tells us who created evil, one of its greatest intuitions...

 

Isaiah 45:7 ;- I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these [things]. ... from the King James Bible Online (KJV Bible).

 

Such are the dualities in which we live and some take to be final.

 

Yet as created things they are not real in the same sense as the "ground of being" (the Divine "himself"/"herself"/"itself" ) is "real".

 

The Hidden Ground of Love that is revealed when we go beyond the dualities, revealed as Grace, gift to the "pure of heart".

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I don't think of it as God 'causing' or 'allowing' or of suffering having some 'purpose,'...suffering, of the physical body, mind, emotions, is simply part of the conditions of this life experience in this world.

 

Jenell

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How do you handle it and not lose your faith?

 

Raven,

 

I know what that's like. After my grandfather passed away my grandmother got really messed up with alcohol and her oldest son's alcoholic influence. The doctor's gave her a year to live, but she managed to stay alive for nearly 10, albeit with almost complete dementia and quite a lot of physicasl disability, which was a huge heartache and guilty-burden for the family.

 

I guess it depends on how your faith is styled.

 

If it is styled on an interventionist God that may answer prayers if one prays long enough and repeatedly enough, then I can't see how such faith could be sustained. I know Christians who write-off what appears as God's inaction in response to a prayer request, as simply the mysterious 'will of God', but in the same breath praise God for answering some piddling prayer about finance for Aunt Kate's power bill situation! That doesn't make any sense to me.

 

A recent senior family friend suffered a stroke and went into a coma for several weeks, before finally passing away. My fundamental Christian mother's response was "well better that God take her than leave her a vegetable". (My thoughts were more along the lines of "no, wouldn't a preferable result be that God made her better rather than kill her to take to heaven, or leave her a vegetable). IMO some people prefer no to think their beliefs through.

 

If your faith is more along the lines of being open to God and 'what will be will be', then I think you could still maintain your faith. Whatever/whoever God is or may be, we all die, many of us suffer, good people get bummed. That happens. To me it seems to happen equally to christians, non-christians, those of other religous persuasions, those of no religous persuasion. Death and suffering is a part of life. As you accept, just why it is so is anybody's guess.

 

I don't have any faith of a God so to speak, but I imagine sometimes if I could believe. If I could it would be of a God who somehow, somewhere, knows best and will ensure that any pain and suffering we experience will be for a better reason - it's just that we can't understand currently how that can be. Perhaps that God is simply an experience, or is hydrogen, or is some entity sitting up there somehwere on a cloud (I actually don't think that last bit :) ).

 

As for your grandmother, I don't think you should feel guilty. You don't want her to pass away because you're selfish, but rather because you love her so much and don't want to see her reduced in any way. That is love.

 

I would suggest that the only way to maintain faith through this situation is to believe that whatever the circumstances may be, God is in control or at the very least, is approving or responsible for the process. It is life.

Edited by PaulS
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A recent senior family friend suffered a stroke and went into a coma for several weeks, before finally passing away. My fundamental Christian mother's response was "well better that God take her than leave her a vegetable". (My thoughts were more along the lines of "no, wouldn't a preferable result be that God made her better rather than kill her to take to heaven, or leave her a vegetable). IMO some people prefer no to think their beliefs through.

 

Paul,

 

I think this just represents a view (to which I don't object) that helps us deal with the loss. If someone dies quickly, we tend to be thankful for the lack of suffering. If they were suffering, we are thankful that their suffering has been relieved. So, in either event, it helps us to think that they are better off.

 

George

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hi, i watched a tv show last night about kids with extreme autism. the parents of most of the kids appeared to be devoutly religious. they were of the typical christian believe that their child's condition was God trying to teach them, the parent, something.

 

this is something i always had a problem with when i heard fellow christians talk that way. to hear a woman say that God had given her son a condition (where he could barely talk, had uncontrollable tantrums and beat himself) just to teach her something or other is unpalatable to me. another of the parents said she couldnt understand what God was doing as she was already a good person before she had her kids and didnt need to be taught anything.

 

For me, God is not interventionist, and suffering is part of this world. yes it is possible to find peace in God while suffering, but i dont think peace is found in searching for the meaning of each bad thing that happens to you.

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Hi everyone,

 

Thank you for your kind words and your insights. I'm sorry I didn't pop back in sooner - "exhausted" doesn't begin to cover it. During this difficult time, however, it is good to feel part of a community that cares. This is a nice place. :)

 

Things at the hospital continue to be confusing and draining. It still looks like she won't be getting any better, but they're unsure of a lot of other things. It's especially difficult because my grandmother has advanced stage alzheimers, so she can't even tell them where the pain is, how bad it is, what anything feels like, or anything.

 

I guess, in reference to my original post, part of me is angry because our family has already suffered through several years of watching my grandmother disappear with this disease - for me, it's a moment of, "Haven't we all been through enough already?" Alzheimer's is a terrible disease, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone - or their family, since it's very difficult to watch, helpless.

 

I have prayed for her comfort. I have prayed for a swift end, if there is to be an end. I have prayed for a recovery, though there is no recovery from alzheimers - not yet, anyway. (I figured it couldn't hurt.) I have prayed for my family to stay strong, and for the doctors and nurses to do their best and treat her gently. I'm not sure what else to do at this point. I have found comfort in prayer, but I hate feeling like there's nothing else I can do.

 

I remember, when each of my other grandparents passed away, there was always someone telling me that they were in a better place, that God is mysterious and it's not for us to question, that there is no more suffering, etc. If death brings an end to suffering, then it's a good thing - in the sense that it could ever be a good thing, if you catch my meaning. Sometimes it seems so meaningless though. For someone to have an illness like alzheimer's to begin with is terrible (and scares me to death for my own old age) but to then compound it with drawn-out discomfort and pain just seems unkind.

 

I believe it is all part of God, but I can't figure out what part, exactly. :huh: Life can be very confusing.

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Sometimes we just have to live with the confusion, with the "contradictions" - which often turn out to be paradox's, and they are resolved "further on". Resolved sometimes by seeing that our questions were the wrong ones, rather tha having the wrong answer, or finding one. I remember a few words of Martin Luther, when he lost his 8 year old daughter. He is reported as having said......"How strange, to know that she is safe in heaven with Jesus, and yet to feel such sadness." So he lived with the reality, never used his faith to stifle the sadness.

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Paul,

 

I think this just represents a view (to which I don't object) that helps us deal with the loss. If someone dies quickly, we tend to be thankful for the lack of suffering. If they were suffering, we are thankful that their suffering has been relieved. So, in either event, it helps us to think that they are better off.

 

George

 

Absolutely George. My point was more that my mother believes that God caused this person's death so as to end her suffering. So my mum was happy to believe God intervened by causing somebody to die, but didn't question as to why God might not intervene to stop her from having a stroke in the first place.

 

It may be a way of dealing with the grief, but I think it isn't well thought through.

 

Cheers

Paul

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My answers left me in an instant. Just as they did when my mother, suffering from the effects of a stroke, her mind slipping into dementia, asked me simply....."Why is this happening to me? I've been a good girl". Well, she had been a very good girl to me, and all I had to repay her then was to hold her hand and kiss her forehead.

 

There can be no answer to suffering in "thought".

 

For me it comes back to the insight of the Buddhist thinkers who saw that there is a fundamental flaw in "reason" and "logic" itself, that the solution is not another position, but a "no-position" that transcends all positions. Oh yes, "mumbo jumbo" no doubt, yet how can words be anything other than "mumbo jumbo" if such be true? Life's "answers" can be lived, but not thought - which can only take us so far. The divine can be "known by love, but by thought never."

 

What if your thought becomes a way of prayer?

 

I know what that's like. After my grandfather passed away my grandmother got really messed up with alcohol and her oldest son's alcoholic influence. The doctor's gave her a year to live, but she managed to stay alive for nearly 10, albeit with almost complete dementia and quite a lot of physicasl disability, which was a huge heartache and guilty-burden for the family.

 

A member of my family is beginning the journey of the consequences of his drinking...

 

this is something i always had a problem with when i heard fellow christians talk that way. to hear a woman say that God had given her son a condition (where he could barely talk, had uncontrollable tantrums and beat himself) just to teach her something or other is unpalatable to me. another of the parents said she couldnt understand what God was doing as she was already a good person before she had her kids and didnt need to be taught anything.

 

I fell into that escapist mentality. To pass it all off on God, saddle him with the responsibility for suffering even if it was for "good."

 

Suffering comes in all varieties. Today I find myself called upon to listen to people's expression of their pain. My job is not to "solve" their problems, merely hear them and let them know someone cares. As I watched my mom suffer the consequences of a blood disease that led to her death I found I could not always be there as much as I would have prefered. When she died they were draining her lungs literally every hour. The last person to see her alive was her nurse.

 

I recall from someone else's experience with death and dying, that people will often wait until they are alone to finally let go. Also, I have heard how those who are close to death will look for permission to finally pass on.

 

The romantic notion of someone dying with their loved one's gathered around the bed may make for good stories or movies, but I wonder how much that happens in real life?

 

After 55 years of watching my own very dysfunctional family suffer through the assaults of their own pesonal demons that all I finally learned was the art of "Letting Go."

 

When I was in Al-anon, I heard it frequently as one of the program's primary slogans. I never was able to grasp its meaning with my mind, but my heart got it when I finally grew tired of holding on to my old patterns. Someone in the program told me once that they thought one of the more famous sayings, "God will never give you more than you can handle," was a lot of Horse (you know). They retranslated that saying to "God will never give you more than s/he can handle."

 

That was something my "dis-eased" mind could accept.

 

Empathy implies the journey whereby I walk with someone through their pain and not try to fix anything. Just listen or hold their hand or encourage and give them a hug sometime.

 

Other than that, I really don't know what else to do... Even about my own stuff.

 

Peace,

 

Brian

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I wanted to add one more thing to the thread on Suffering.

 

30 years after my father died, I was still experiencing some sigificant personal issues. I went back into Counseling for the third time and one session with my Therapist the undexpected popped out of my mouth. I basically told her that I had never grieved for my dad.

 

When I was nine, my mom left me with a family friend while she and my brother went to my dad's wake and his funeral. 30 years later, it finally dawned on me that his death had remained an open account. I had never grieved for him. I had never let go of him. And there was the issue of my anger at him for dying and leving me alone which I still saw through nine year old eyes.

 

For the next two years I worked on that. When I finally arrived in Miwaukee to begin my second try at Seminary I sought out a resident Therapist and began working with him on that.

 

By the time I arrived back in Palm Beach County in time to be with my mom before she died, the seeds of a poem took shape that would become my ticket for "Closure." A Ticket I finally cashed in almost 14 years later when I wrote the following poem.

 

Here it is:

 

 

 

MY FATHER'S GONE

My father's gone ... he died. He's dead!

Yet, no one helped me calm the dread

I felt with every passing day

at home, in school and even play.

No wake or grave did I attend;

no closure meant:
"There was no end."

 

So as a shroud of sadness fell

my life became a living hell

of constant pain; a rising flood

that chilled and froze my very blood.

My body grew, but still a boy

in temperament, no childhood joy

 

could lift my eyes above the clouds.

In time, I learned to act for crowds

that garnered accolades of praise

yet, told me nothing of the ways

of how I should become a man;

my mother's son - my father's clan.

 

Teachers... priests... nobody knew

the real reason I was blue

and so depressed. I could not speak

about a world I saw as bleak.

I dared not dream that I could thrive

within a soul still-born alive.

 

A counselor I had paid to hear

me talk about my greater fear

stumbled on the unseen pain

I carried every year in vain,

until right then. What utter shock

that after 30 years o'clock

 

the big hand came around at last.

With tools I learned, I now could cast

my story in a different light.

Nobody understands the blight

of silence stealing time to mourn,

when souls we love, from us are torn.

 

The truth unearthed, prepared me for

what shook me at my very core

the year my mother finally died.

At 39, this rushing tide

around me surged. I kept my head

and made my grief my daily bread.

 

Twelve years have passed since '96

when I stared down the River Styx.

It's not too late to seek to share

by writing what is good and rare

about a twisting, rough hewn path

through unshed tears and silenced wrath!

 

January 10, 2009
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What if your thought becomes a way of prayer?

 

The romantic notion of someone dying with their loved one's gathered around the bed may make for good stories or movies, but I wonder how much that happens in real life?

 

 

Yes, I speak of thought as the attempt to seek a purely rational explanation that will "satisify" us, and thus deaden us to the reality of suffering itself and a true existential response. "Prayer" could well be such a response.

 

And as far as how rare such a thing is, I know that it is not just in the movies.

 

:)

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Wonderful poem Brian,

 

BTW, concerning the romantic notion of someone dying........ My Mom died (her last breath in hospice) with the family all around her. My step-dad died in my arms. My paternal dad chose to say goodbyes, send us on our way and die a couple days later alone with his wife only present.

 

There can be pain in life but to me, suffering takes place in the thinking mind as it continually tries to compare images of the present moment to the past or the way it 'thinks' things 'ought to be'.and judge them. Suffering to me, is living in the could be's and should be's which i no longer entertain. Where then is my suffering if i accept life as it is? .

 

Raven,

 

May your grief be short and complete and may the grace of the One satiisfy all questions with peace.

 

Joseph

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Wonderful poem Brian,

 

Thank you Joseph.

 

Raven,

 

May your grief be short and complete and may the grace of the One satiisfy all questions with peace.

 

I do second that. However, I also know it will take as long as it takes. The work place normally only allows three days for such matters. That may be good or bad in terms of preventing someone from just sitting at home depressed. But there is an unfortunate attitude that accompanies that on the part of people not touched by death.

 

"Why are you still depressed?"

 

As a nation, we tend to be far too removed from death and dying. We've sterilized the whole affair by the way most funeral homes "manage" it all.

 

There are times when, depending on who dies and who the deceased is, that grieving may be significant or stoic. In particular I recall a woman who lost her husband at the Church that used to be my home parish. She was the church organist. She was also a member of a Charismatic prayer group. She was quite literally sobbing during the service and at one point felt so overwhelmed by the whole thing that she began to wail in "tongues."

 

An older priest, an italian, who used to be a missionary got a horrified look on his face and another priest who was in attendance rushed over to try and silence her. I don't know if it were because they feared she might become histerical or what. But tha memory stayed with me and demonstrated the way in which Western Culture tends to stuff feelings and control emotions. In many ways, I still don't know what to think about that.

 

My grieving for my dad, as you might see by the poem turned into an unexpressed anger, because even following his funeral no one bothered to talk to me or ask me how I was feeling. There seemed to be this assumption that I could never understand (at nine years old) what had happened. My mom and her brother spent a lot of time talking - before he had to fly back to Connecticut - and my brother just left and went somewhere, I never really knew where.

 

I was left by myself, which became the overarching narrative of my life.

 

Depending on how people deal with grieving younger family members it can set a tone for their rest of their lives.

 

Even after all these years my brother has never spoken to me about that time and when our mother died, he went off to his side of the house and I went to mine.

 

Happiness or Joy are some of the most important emotional highlights of life. They can be a source of bonding and spiritual growth.

 

It has taken me the better part of my life to "thaw" out and get in touch with my feelings and my sense of who I am; which I found to be my true vocation in life.

 

The sad part is that I don't know who my brother is. I don't know if it will be worth trying to share with him, because there are parts of my life I already know he can not accept. Too bad. He has no idea who I am either.

 

Peace,

 

Brian

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Brian,

 

Thank you for sharing your personal story with us. I'm sorry to hear that your experience with your father's passing caused you so much pain later on.

 

I'm fortunate that I work from home and (mostly) make my own schedule, so I can be at the hospital pretty much whenever. It's not so much for my grandmother's sake, as she is asleep a lot of the time and doesn't know who I am most of the time she's awake. However, my mom is at the hospital full-time every day, so I feel it's important to keep her company and talk about other things - it's easy to get tunnel-vision, especially with grief.

 

Western culture, I think as a nod to some of the British origins, usually has a "stiff upper lip" approach to grief - even stress or sadness. Good or bad, I don't know. Sometimes I think it's bad, because holding it in can be so harmful. However, it's also taught me how to hold it together when I need to, so that's maybe a good thing.

 

Joseph,

 

I really appreciate your kind words and thoughts. Thank you so much. I am working to stop torturing myself with "why" and let go of that part. It's not in my nature, but I'm working on it. I appreciate the support.

 

***

I stopped by the church yesterday while out for a walk. It was the first time I'd been there in almost exactly 3 years - the last time was Easter Sunday three years ago. I sat in the sanctuary for a while (after getting let in by the secretary - how sad that a sanctuary must be locked to prevent theft and destruction!) and allowed myself to just be quiet, pray, think, cry, be still. I didn't leave with any answers, really, but I did leave with a feeling of peace and calmness. Afterward, I went to the hospital, and was glad to find that with the calmness inside me, I was able to be a good support for my mother and handle the situation. I am not going to the hospital today as my schedule does not allow for it, but I will be going back tomorrow.

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