Why Does God allow my friends to suffer long, painful deaths?
"Today I sat in my car and let out a scream before the crying could ensue. Between my sobbing, I raised my fists at heaven and cursed at God more times than I want to admit…"
The above statement is an excerpt from my journal nearly a year ago after I learned my friend had died, ending his grueling battle with cancer. I still get a visceral reaction when I remember the moment I heard the news. I still cry remembering how much promise and life he should have left. It never stops feeling cruel that he is gone and that the last moments of his short life were lived in pain.
There is something that feels wrong, and even unholy, about witnessing the suffering of the people we love.
My natural inclination is to turn to God and ask why. Why would God, the Almighty and the Creator of life, allow for a bitter ending to someone's life?
As a pastor, I have spent numerous hours in seminary classes and pored over books on this very question. I have learned there is no shortage of answers given for why God allows such suffering, which the church even has a doctrine for – theodicy.
However, for all of the religious and philosophical work seeking to provide answers to this great quandary, none of it suffices to speak to my grief and the grief of the others I have walked alongside in mourning their loved ones. I have come to believe that maybe I do not really need answers. Perhaps, we all need more than that.
During Jesus' ministry on earth, he experienced the agonizing death of a close friend. A man named John recounts
Moreover, Jesus not only watched his friend suffer, he too endured a painful death. From the cross, barely breathing, Jesus cried out to God, asking, "Why have you forsaken me?"
When we mourn, Jesus understands. Jesus knows how we feel. He has been there as well. Jesus lost his friend, and he grieved. Jesus was tortured, and he died. But the story didn't end there for Jesus, and it doesn't end there for us either.
Because of Jesus' resurrection from the dead, suffering, pain, and death do not get the last word in our lives. As theologian Frederick Buechner says, "The worst things in life are never the last."
Faith is not a vaccine from suffering and loss. However, faith reminds us that God is with us in the middle of the pain. I believe God even mourns with us. And faith tells us that pain and suffering never get the last word. Because of Jesus, we can live and die as people of hope.
Honest to God Sermon Series
It’s okay to ask questions. Yes, even the difficult ones about God and faith. In our current sermon series, “Honest to God,” Rev. Paul Rasmussen and Rev. Matt Tuggle answer some of the tough questions that we all have.