Eric's Sunday Sermon; Why Does God Let Us Suffer?
This bouquet is for a sad occasion.
There has been a great tragedy this past week. A terrible shooting in a town called Roseburg Oregon. At a community college named Umpqua. Lives taken as they sought a path toward higher learning. During the shootings apparently Christians were somehow called out for death. Clearly guns were involved. Clearly a very mentally ill person committed the atrocity.
In such times the preacher is called to “help make sense of the senseless horror”. The preacher endeavors to somehow explain why a God would let such terrible things happen to His children. The preacher fails miserably most the time.
The question remains and always will. What possible omnipotent God would let His children suffer? And the answer is just plain frustrating. It is simply not enough for us and never will be. We look toward the Bible and we look directly toward God seeking an answer that fills us with a better feeling. Perhaps you are a lucky one and are blessed to find solace there. But most likely in our human condition you find no answer satisfactory. Sorrow runs deep and no matter how hard you try to deny or avoid it you are left with a bitter sorrow that includes anger with God, your God.
Let us go together down this path toward understanding our anger and perhaps appreciating our God a little more.
Sometimes it just don't make no sense to take it easy. Sometimes you just got to take it hard.
There are some hard times.
u·to·pi·a (yo͞oˈtōpēə) noun: Utopia; an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect. First used in the book Utopia (1516) by Sir Thomas More. Synonyms: paradise, heaven (on earth), Eden, Garden of Eden, Shangri-La, Elysium; idyll, nirvana, God's country.
Hopefully you comment to yourself: “what a strange sermon to start out with a definition.” Indeed it is a look at the notion of what is the exact opposite of where suffering occurs. And so we confront ourselves with the idea of “would I want to live in Utopia?” It sounds so blissful. It sounds so…. Perfect. A world without tragedy. A world of perfection. It is with great sadness that I tell you that if you go there I cannot follow. For I am far, far, far from perfect. I would not and could not reside in such bliss.
Would I change myself to be perfect in order to go to this place and space of perfection? No I would not. You see I am hopelessly in love with striving. Other than my children, I find no greater joy than I do in overcoming. And truthfully in my children I find no greater joy than in watching them overcome.
We humans are just plain hardwired and softwired to grow. It seems to be an organism thing. A natural fact. Have you ever considered the concept of “graduating” from life? Wouldn’t that mean you are done with life?
Man as a whole is really not that much different than man as an individual. There are bits and pieces of all man in each one of us. And there is a bit of us in all man. So what does it mean when “we” fail?
Someday. Give me your hand.
Don't make the moon shine above, let it shine above.
Please God remove the struggle?
This is a football Sunday. Millions will watch grown outstanding athletes compete on a field of misery. As I was given the opportunity to play this wonderful sport as a youth I am familiar with the physical aspect thereof. Imagine getting up from your chair and running full speed into a 200+ pound man doing the same thing. If that does not hurt you, you are numb. Being slammed to the ground is painful.
Just assume that I am over a half a century old. I try to workout 5 days a week. My thirty year old son is a cheerleader, mentor and coach in this seemingly futile endeavor of mine to stay in shape. He asked me point blank just last week if it hurt the next day. I immediately responded that I live to avoid pain. He told me to get over it and push harder. To set goals and achieve them. No more pansy ass just doing the exercise but bump it up a level and look forward to getting stronger.
There is a good writer buddy of mine who is aggressively pushing me to publish a book. Oh sure I can write. But publishing a book is way outside of my comfort zone. It will require hard work, sacrifice and painful activities that I do not want to undertake. But dang it I want to grow in writing so I will suck it up and do the do. He says “spread your wings and fly” I say Icarus was a fool. But I will feel the burning sun melt my wings or fly no matter the suffering.
So what of this thing when man creates suffering on man? Do we not do it also to ourselves? Do we not intentionally set out to struggle? And in taking the risks required to grow do we not sometimes unintentionally fall and suffer the wounds of living? And is it not in the rising again and continuing the growth that we find the greatest achievement?
Can we have freedom for free?
Level of suffering
I was fortunate enough one time to be on a dirty muddy polluted backroad in an overpopulated city in a “developing” country in Southeast Asia. We happened upon a small, about 12 year old boy who was not begging but instead weeping on a filthy curb next to filthy sewage running down the street. I begged my moto driver/friend/interpreter to help me to talk to the boy to find out what in this squalor, muck and human suffering could make a boy cry. Turned out that he had dropped a single loaf of bread into the river of sewer and it had been carried away. The dropping of something so small and “meaningless” caused this boy to suffer within suffering. Of course my man Manh and I understood immediately. That bread may be the only thing his family had to eat for the day. The boy suffered over letting the family down not the hunger in his belly. *
You just suffered the loss of a spouse due to cancer. You are suffering. Do you suffer more for the loss of a life than the boy suffers over the loss of a single loaf of bread? You are the one who died. Do you suffer more than the wife with an alcoholic abusive husband? Suffering is real and it is real personal.
Would we insist on a God that made it so our hand does not slip and drop a piece of bread? Do we want no control over our lives?
Control or freedom?
Do we desire a control freak for a God? I do not. I want a God who is like a parent that I could never be. Somehow knowing exactly when to pull in the reins and when to let them out. I will make mistakes. My mistakes will cause others to suffer. A lone deranged gunmen bent on killing will kill. It will cause others to die and to suffer. Damn I wish it were not so. I wish I could live in Utopia. But I cannot.
That horrible day when we take the training wheels of our child’s bike. And we finally let go. And that horrible day when we wipe the tears away, bandage the wounds and console our child when they made a mistake and fell hard with their bike. Just somebody tell me it does not have to be this way. But in the end it must. A good parent does not prevent the fall of man, he is simply there to help the man get back up and ride again.
So the presence or absence of God does not prevent or relieve suffering. That is a man deal. In this sermon we approached the anger. Not by confronting the anger but rather by thinking of the basis for that anger. God is not a control freak. He will let us make mistakes. Do we think that we should be control freaks about God? Funny how we can understand about not judging our fellow man but the moment a tragedy happens we can blame and judge God.
I leave you in your sorrow. It is your sorrow. It would be wrong of me to interfere with your sorrow, you own it. But let me lift you up a bit out of anger. And by that I mean let me help dissuade your anger at God. You and I can do better. One by one we can do something.
*By the by, of course we got that boy some bread. But we got him a shoeshine kit. Not exactly a prize present. But last I checked in with Manh in April while I was there visiting family, the boy now 15 years later, has a little street front kiosk for shining shoes and two boys of his own. Life goes on.