I, like many well-wishers empathize with him, and wish him the best. What caught my attention was the barrage of comments reprimanding him for his ‘faithless’ outburst. Others were fervently ‘encouraging’ him to “believe and it will be well!” There were even stronger challenges about God being so good not to “allow” him to die at such a young age.
As much as I believe in a benevolent God, these simplistic comments did not sit well with me.
How about the multitudes whose get-well prayers and faith-laden hopes ended differently from what was expected? Did God suddenly cease being good? Does He reward some and frown upon others because their faith was not strong enough?
And why do ‘bad things’ happen to ‘good people’ anyway? How about the earthquakes and tsunamis that destroy human lives and totally destabilizes cities and nations? And let’s not talk about wars! These are very hard and prickly questions.
You can understand, I’m sure, why I was thrown into another cocoon of puzzling questions as I re-read some of the well-meaning comments.
I thought long and hard till the meanderings of this mental gymnastics hurt my brain. I concluded that I, like most people have a BIG problem with problems. I don’t like them!
Left to me alone, life will be free of problems and troubles of all kinds. I take pleasure in the problem-free seasons of life. I smile better, talk better and walk taller!
But I have long abandoned the idea that some fortunate people will live in a problem-free world. The sooner we make peace with, and continue to remind ourselves of that harsh reality, the better we will come away with somewhat of a proper – not perfect – understanding of problems, a healthy appreciation for them, and a way to manage them courageously.
A wise teacher once said, “. . . in this world, you will have trouble. . . ” Incidentally, He happens to be the same one who made this world.
That means, while here on earth, people will get sick, some may get better, but others will not. Close friends will be betrayed, divorces will rip relationships apart, gas prices will soar, and loved ones will die! The truth is we will never be completely happy on this earth.
So why do most of us recoil at the slightest hint of problems?
Some people have even made a religion out of avoiding problems and feeling good all the time. They frown upon people who encounter any type of problems pretending they never face any themselves. You are even labeled ‘faithless’ or thought of as having some kind of secret sin or being punished for something you did. In some circles, people are lead to believe that the devil, some witch in their family, or some other sinister enemy is responsible for their troubles.
Whether self-induced or otherwise, it seems that we’re unconsciously programmed to avoid any semblance of problems.
We go the extra mile to prevent them. No wonder anything that promises to alleviate problems attracts so much attention and usually money too! From wrinkle reducing creams to get-rich-quick schemes. You name it. Come up with a “new” and “improved” way of solving a problem and you become a household name in no time.
Many have also fallen victims to special spiritual figures who give directions or pray special prayers in order for them to be exempted or overcome their problems. It is sad to see the manipulation and deception that goes into such gimmicks.
It is usually out of these misguided beliefs that I find some of these ‘encouragements’ and ‘positive confessions’ like those offered to my friend.
The absence of problems does not in any way prove the goodness of God. The presence of problems does not invalidate His goodness either! God is good not because He ‘blesses’ people, but because His nature is that of goodness, period!
The BIG question then is why are there problems? I don’t think I have THE answer!
My consolations are many though. Soon after a perfect beginning for humankind, a sad chapter unfolds with a brotherly homicide. Everything soon went downhill from there.
I’m consoled nonetheless, and this is neither mere rhetoric nor an artificial belief of prosperity and a cotton candy claim. As aptly captured in the words of Max Lucado;
“we are not happy here because we are not at home here. We are not happy here because we are not supposed to be happy here. We are ‘like foreigners and strangers in this world’.”
And so even though I’m saddened about the plight of my friend, and I wish him well, I’m equally strangely prepared to handle whatever outcome that stares me in the face.
The truth is;
The Red Sea doesn’t always part.
The Lions don’t fall and die when thrown into the den.
The Bread and Fish are not always multiplied.
But the benevolent God has not lost control!
So I still have a BIG problem with problems, but like the man Job of old I’m learning to say, “though He slay me, yet will I trust Him . . . . ”
. . . to take me through them,
. . . or to have some answers for me now, or later.
Or maybe never!
In the meantime, I’m confident in this one thing, the Maker of this universe has promised to never leave us or forsake us even when the Newsflash remains the same; PROBLEMS ARE PART OF THIS LIFE!