Summary: Why does God permit such tragedy to happen to a believer?
Tragedies smack us in the face too quickly and unexpectedly, even when we are trying our best to serve God. It just doesn’t seem fair! At some point we all find ourselves asking life’s most troubling questions, “Why?” and “Why would God permit this to happen to me?”
We believe that not only did God create the universe, but God maintains an active relationship to the created. This is called God’s Providence.
Scripture is full of places where we are taught that: “No one knows the thoughts of God,” (1 Cor 2:11) and as “we know not the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so we cannot understand the work of God.” (Ecclesiastes 11:5) Additionally, God’s judgments are “unsearchable” and His ways “past finding out!” (Romans 11:33) Unless God chooses to explain these events, they will remain beyond our understanding. What this means is that many of our questions, [today] especially those that begin with why, have to remain unanswered. We have been given too few facts to explain the heartaches in our world. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13:12 reminds us that we will not have the total picture until we meet God, and he implies that we must learn to accept this partial understanding. Basically, there are times in our life when circumstances don’t add up and God doesn’t seem to make sense.
One thing we can be sure of is that God’s heart is especially tender towards our sufferings. He knows every tear we shed. He feels our intense pain and suffers along with us. Isaiah tells us: “Do not fear, for God is with you. He will strengthen you and help; he will uphold you with His hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
We know that Jesus experienced human emotion. We see this [in today’s gospel] when Jesus wept for Lazarus his friend. So the pain you are going through now, is not a pain that God doesn’t understand. Additionally, it is not a pain that was sent to you by God. Many times we interpret pain as our victimization by God, and this causes disillusionment. While this is a normal human response in times like this, we have to be careful that these feelings don’t lead to despair. If we hide this pain, if we bury the pain, we usually become consumed with anger and resentment. We might avoid others so we don’t have to be reminded of our own losses and we stand the chance of losing them as well. Rely and demand, the support of your family and friends gathered here. Not just in the next few weeks, but in the months that lie ahead. This is the meaning of God’s Providence. God placed these people here with you, in order to support and help heal you in the months ahead.
Interestingly enough, even at this time, all of us have a sense of God’s Providence that helps make sense of life. Those of us who are here today may wonder why we have been spared.
Most of the time, our regrets come out of unreasonable expectations of ourselves. We need to recognize these feelings but also admit, after a review of the event, that our “survivor’s guilt” creates additional sorrow and the demand for yet another answer. There is no answer.
Take the time to work through this loss. It is not likely that it will be done in a moment. There will be moments of calm and the pain will return, once again, in an intense manner. Eventually, and over time, the pain will get further and further apart, but the wonderful memories you have of [ ] will still bring sadness. In the book of Lamentations, in the Hebrew Scriptures, Jeremiah says: “I have been deprived so I say, ‘My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord.’ I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness. I remember well and my soul is downcast within me.” (Lamentations 3:17-20) Although Jeremiah opens his heart in a gut-wrenching fashion, he later on looks for the wisdom beyond his struggles. He sees how God’s concern affects his life. After time, and much healing Jeremiah says: “Therefore, I have hope because of the Lord’s great love and His compassions never fail.” (Lamentations 3:21-22) The grief, anguish and pain led to healing, over time which allowed Jeremiah to say: “We are not cast off by the Lord. Though life’s events bring grief, God shows compassion. So great is God’s unfailing love.” (Lamentations 3:31-32)
Facing sadness, then, on a daily basis, no matter how severe the loss has been, will enable us to grasp Jeremiah’s understanding of God’s compassion so that we can have a life ahead of us worth living.
Joyce Rupp, a Servite of Mary nun, wrote a book entitled “Praying Our Goodbyes” and in one of her chapters she shares a poem The Ache of Autumn in Us. The last stanza of the poem is: And so I begin my vigil,