Then the phone call came through that our daughter, Narcie, who is married to a wonderful guy, Mike Jeter, and mother to our 2 grandchildren, Enoch (3) and Evy (1.5), had a seizure while she was with students and other campus ministers at the United Methodist Student Forum in Winchester, Va. Narcie is the Wesley Foundation Director at Winthrop University. They have subsequently found a tumor on her brain and are waiting in these few days to find out what it is, what motor skills will surgery affect, what is the best course of action, and more…and with each answer there are more questions. She is scheduled for surgery this Friday, June 11 (Cindy’s birthday) at 1:30 pm at Carolina’s Medical Center in Charlotte. Please pray for her.
I have taught theology in church and seminary. I have been with people when they faced the unanswerable question of, “If we have an omnipotent God who loves us, then why do bad things happen to good people?” I have seen babies die, young parents, good people with so much to give and I think my theodicy is pretty sound, but it’s shaky right now. Theodicy is the theological study of suffering. It literally means to “judge God.” That’s something I think we all want to avoid, but read Job and you’ll find that God is okay with it. He can handle our anger and our questions of “Why?”
I think the main reason God is okay with us balling up our fists and pounding on His chest is because He utterly loves us. The other reason that comes to mind is because God doesn’t cause any of our suffering. God does what God does best and that is to redeem the junk that comes our way and help us. The problem is why do some people get the help and others don’t. My dad was given 6 weeks to 6 months to live with cancer when he was 48 and lived another 36 years. He outlived his first doctor, but my mother who was frankly more of a saint died too young and too quick. I have buried someone’s only child who died in a freak accident only to hear her minister talk the stuff of Rick Warren and God’s will and purpose in taking another angel to heaven. Well, that doesn’t cut it when you’re on the receiving end of tragedy. THERE IS NOTHING THAT CAN BE SAID.
There is something that can be done, and that is to listen to people, hug them, let them know that they don’t suffer alone, that Jesus knows all our griefs, and causes none of them. Why do bad things happen? What’s my theodicy? Bad things happen because: #1 Our choices #2 The choices of others #3 The general decay that’s in the world since Adam and Eve first sinned (probably the most likely culprit behind suffering) #4 Evil (yep, EVIL). But no matter if the tragedy is because of evil, Jesus is greater than all the principalities and powers put together. But not everyone is healed, and if it just depended upon faith then I think there would be some 200-300 year-old saints walking around, but they aren’t. They die and go home to be with Jesus which is palatable if they die at 90 and not 30 with 2 small children, a loving husband, and a vibrant ministry.
So why doesn’t Jesus act quickly and decisively, and, trust me, I’m still asking for the whole shebang for Narcie when they do the Functional MRI on Tuesday. The answer is love and freedom. Jesus loves us enough to let freedom reign. We’re not puppets on a string made to love God and shun evil. The whole creation acts freely and Katrinas and tornadoes whip us upside down. So what’s left? The answer is the same answer that’s always been there: faith, sheer faith in a God who can turn Joseph’s near-death experience into something that worked for his brothers’ good; or Jesus’ crucifixion into the salvific fulcrum upon which the redemption of the whole world balances. So in the words of the “Casting Crowns” song “Voice of Truth” I am going to “Choose to listen and believe in the Voice of Truth.” I choose God and His power even when I don’t understand and probably never will on this side of heaven.