We've been to so many funerals this past year. I have a feeling that this trend will not let up as we get older. Two of those funerals were of family members and my husband and I were the recipients of condolences. People say many things that sound like cliches or benign comments just so they have something to say. But I reminded my husband that people often say things that they truly believe. Many years ago I said something that I meant to be comforting but was distressing to the mourner. I will never forget that and try to think before I speak in those situations.
None of us can truly know the mysteries of this world. Why do some people seem to have easy lives and others suffer? Why are there wars, crime and natural disasters? If you are a person of faith you must decide what you believe God's role is in this earthly life we live. As I've written before I believe that we are given free will and the vast majority of our circumstances result from our own choices. God allows us to make our choices he doesn't cause them.
At the time of a death many people, in their desire to accept and understand, will say it was God's will. Or they may say that God needed another angel in heaven. While these notions can be comforting, they also blame God for the death. Do you believe God wants to hurt us? Make us suffer? If so, we are doomed, aren't we?
An essay in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Saturday made excellent points. The essay was written by a well-known local pastor, Rev. Kenneth Chalker. His writings and ideas make complete sense to me and are so reasonable. He wrote on the topic of whether God is good or whether he causes disasters and suffering. You no doubt heard that God was punishing our nation with Hurricane Katrina and 9/11. Rev. Chalker writes:
There is, to be sure, a living, loving Creator of us all. God reveals God's self, not in the cause of our suffering but rather in the great mystery of good. God is in the inspiring presence that motivates discovery and encourages science and learning. God heals through the development of medicine, thrives in the hearts of first responders and long-term caregivers. Look for God there.
God is not in the earthquake and the storm. God is found among the emergency crews and those doing the best of things in the worst of times. God is the still small voice within us that brings joy. God is the presence that encourages, uplifts, transforms, does justice, resists evil, strengthens, gives hope and is the source of purpose in all our days.