Catastrophes

February 3, 2014

There are many things about life that I just don’t get. Maybe on the top of the list is the fact that some people seem to breeze through their designated years with nary a problem. No crisis seem to befall them, no illnesses, no premature deaths in their families, no broken relationships, no divorces… all just seem to be hunky dory all the time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not upset with them. But it makes it hard to know what to say to folks whose lives seem to be one long string of catastrophes. People die prematurely, dreadful illnesses strike them and those they love, relationships break and/or die…

Of course there are those who try to answer these things with simple anecdotes or “prescription scripture.” You know the one I mean: 1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

Seriously, it you have ever quoted this or paraphrased it to someone in the midst of a crisis… lean in a little toward the screen… I’d like smack you. I have yet to find anyone who finds this comforting while in the midst of calamity … maybe afterward…. possibly after the shock and when the tears dry… but not during… please. Sometimes we can say the dumbest and most insensitive things! Years ago I taught a course on “death and dying.” It was actually more interesting than you might think. On our last day I asked the class what things they found comforting while in a crisis and what things were dreadful. In the “dreadful” category: One lady had lost her husband. She told us that while she was standing beside the casket greeting mourners one lady said: “Your husband looks about the same size as my son. Do you know what you are going to do with his clothes yet?” WHAT?!?!?!?! I didn’t even know what to say to the insensitivity of that! On the “comforting” side of things one person said: “I didn’t want people to say anything… just having them with me was enough.” Hurray, someone with a brain and a heart! Christian “know it all’s” who want to give theological answers to “heart” issues nauseate me. I feel sort of strong about this… can you tell? I tend to be a heart person… i.e. I allow my heart to dictate my behavior before I allow my brain to catch up. I tend to write these ruminations from the heart. Occasionally my brain later tells me what I should have written. This rumination might be one of those.

In the midst of someone else’s crisis… if your goal is to explain or make their pain go away… I suspect you need to go away. Pain, shock, grief and often unanswered questions are all part of our lives as Believers and unbelievers. Explanations in the midst of it all are likely fruitless and often insensitive. Loving kindness however… well few folks find that offensive.

I’ve kind of strayed from the original question: “why do bad things happen to some folks over and over while others seem to breeze through life?” Honestly, I just don’t know. Don’t get me wrong… sometimes folks are responsible for their plight… they make bad decisions over and over that bring about disastrous consequences. For example if you have been a 2 pack smoker for 40 years and get diagnosed with lung cancer… well questioning God just doesn’t make much sense does it? But I’m not asking on behalf of those people. I’m wondering about those who seem to lead exemplary Christian lives and yet have to deal with the most dreadful circumstances over and over and over again. It’s to them I say “I don’t know… I only know that I am deeply sorry for you and your loved ones, and I will love you and support you to the best of my ability.”

At the end of the day I do believe in a God who loves us… that is not to say I understand why things happen the way they do. I suspect this is not the message we give in an evangelistic setting… i.e. come and embrace a God who you will often not understand, and who will cause or allow his children to go through the worst kinds of things. But in the end, in what is sometimes inexplicable… this God loves us.

And all the people shout: amen!… sort of.

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