Why do we suffer?

The most spiritual moment in my life happened in church. But it's not what you think. It was in the church were I was baptized (as an adult), not the church were I was married or went to funeral masses.

There was a guest clergy delivering a sermon in the summer. A long sermon. A rambling sermon. He spoke about everything. Politics. Living. Christ. Honestly, it was hard to follow; it was all over the place. But then, deep into the sermon he paused. "Why do bad things happen to good people?"

Like I said. He was all over the place. Somehow he'd worked his way to one of the most important questions we have in our faith.

Again he said "Why do bad things happen to good people? How can this be true if there is a God?"

A long pause.

"Because we are human. It is our human condition to suffer," he retorted, as if summoning a dash of Buddhism. "We suffer because our bodies are weak. Our minds are weak. We seek the Lord to strengthen us. But we are still human. And our human form is neither unbreakable or permanent."

Neither unbreakable or permanent.

And how many people have struggled with this question: Why do bad things happen? Surely, if there is a God and we lead a life in the model of his Son, then bad shouldn't happen to us. Or happen to us less? Or at least there is some great reward at the end.

Many church scholars or clergy will point to Job and his trials as an example of how to deal with bad or why bad things do happen. That the pain we suffer on earth brings us closer to our God. Or even that it is symbolic of the pain which Jesus suffered at the end of his human life.

But this part of the sermon really struck with me. We are human. We think we have freewill, but we don't always. We think we are indestructible and will live forever when we are young. But we won't. It's part of our human condition. And it is not a reason to doubt faith. It's just being human. Part of being human is suffering. We are built to survive, first, then enrich, then enrich others.

A friend of mine passed away today. He was a father, husband, coach and Christian. He was the father of two children, one, like my son, with an autism diagnosis. His daughter, an accomplished young athlete had many accomplishments that made him proud. But the every day victories for his son made him just as proud. He'd had a brush with heart problems a few years ago that almost ended his life. His human body was saved and God allowed him more time on earth, even if it was a few more years, to see his wife, children and family and friends. He laughed and lived and saw his children go closer to their adulthood... a few more years of precious times.

And I'm sure if he had his choice he'd take the suffering and challenges of life, parenting, struggling and sorrows instead of the eternal bliss of a Christian afterlife which he earned, at least now. But what made him human was spent. There was no more life to live.

I can't help but to think of a Buddhist cop out that all relationships, even that of a spouse or parent, is finite and to take joy in the times you have. I'm too human to go there right now. I'd rather be this way, flawed, built by God in flaw. But if we suffer too much by our own thoughts and sadness, our bodies become prisons and our lives go by unlived. We must take from Buddhism that everything on earth is finite, because we are finite - and appreciate the good. We should suffer, but we can suffer less with faith, hope, love and in my friend's case, humor. A lot of it.

There is no good answer as to why good things happen to bad people. None. No scripture. No philosophy of removing ourselves from our own humanity. And that bad things do happen to good people does not mean there isn't a God to believe in or that there is even a heavenly reason or justification to it. It's just us being human.

I'd rather be this. Flawed. Human. Finite, but able to love, hope and keep faith. We will all suffer in life, because we are human and that is unavoidable. But we can strive to enjoy this life and our flaws and accept it.

No comments: