There seems to be a lot of crap things happening at the moment.
The problem with this statement is that I seem to be saying it all the time. Which has led me to the conclusion that the earth is, in fact, a giant rotating crap-generator which we can neither stop nor escape. Happy days.
When the feeling's gone and you can't go on.
Tragedies are the cockroach of human experience. No-one likes them, no-one knows why they exist, but for some reason they just keep coming back (sorry if there are any die-hard cockroach fans out there...). Even when you think you've finally got rid of one, another is just around the corner. And even though underneath it all we know we will survive, they still freak us out to our very core.
Somehow tragedy is only palatable if there is a purpose for it, or if something good comes out of it. Then we can all breathe a sigh of relief that God has a plan, everything happens for a reason, and Jesus still loves us. Because the idea that God has the power to stop bad things from happening but chooses not to is only OK if we can give a good reason why.
While the 'God has a plan' line sounds nice, I don't know if it is particularly helpful. Aside from the inherent flaw that we don't know God's plan and don't often see any good come from tragedy at all, I'm not convinced it is the fix-all we want it to be. While I'm sure it might be a comfort to a grieving mother to know something good came from her child's death, I can't imagine it would take away any of the pain and heartbreak.
I've heard many other justifications in my time at church, but each just seems to open up even more questions.
"The world was perfect and free from pain until humans disobeyed God and now we live in a fallen world" — is it really fair to punish all of mankind because some woman ate an apple she wasn't supposed to?
"God doesn't want to wrap us in cotton wool, He doesn't shield us from the world because then we wouldn't grow" — that's all well and good if you're falling off your bike and grazing your knee, but couldn't He step in for the big stuff? Wouldn't it be better for everyone if the world was good and there was nothing to shield us from?
"Suffering makes you stronger" — so does protein and weight-training. Surely there must be a better way? Something that isn't so destructive? A way that doesn't take lives, or destroy homes, or break families?
Why do bad things happen to good people?
Will there ever be an answer to that question that is good enough?
Even if one person was to die so that another could live, I would still want to go back to the drawing-board to find a way for them both to survive. Even if I was told that my granddad died so that no-one else would ever have a heart attack, I would still want more time with him. Even though I know I 'grow' through 'suffering', I would rather there was no such thing as suffering. Maybe I'm just being spoilt, but isn't that what we all want?
The truth is I am never going to be able to answer that question in a way that makes me feel OK about poverty, terrorism, war, natural disasters, disease, murder, rape, death and any number of horrific things that happen in this wonderful world of ours. It will always break my heart, I will always wonder why.
Deal or No Deal
So the question then becomes, is it a deal breaker? Does it still make sense to follow God when He doesn't stop the devastation in the world He created?
Honestly? Right now I can accept that I can't know everything, or control everything. When I watch the news and see all the awful, unfair things happening around the world I find it a little harder.
At the end of the day, for me, the existence of tragedy and my infuriating inability to change it doesn't mean that God doesn't also exist — but you better believe I will have a hell of a lot of questions for Him when it's my turn.
First published August 21, 2014
Casey Murray works in marketing for a beauty company, where she plays with pretty things and eats too much chocolate. She writes to try and make sense of the chaos, and in the hope that she isn't the only one.
Casey Murray's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/casey-murray.html