By now, you’ve probably read the story of Brittany Maynard.
She’s the young newlywed who is taking the route of assisted suicide in light of her terminal cancer diagnosis. She has decided to “take the pill” on November 1. Her story was publicized by CNN. Pain can be a devastating time in life. I had a friend who took her life because of physical pain she was enduring.
Perhaps you’ve also read the response of Kara Tippetts. She is the young mother who also has a terminal cancer diagnosis. For me, a summation of her response to Brittany is found in this paragraph:
“In my whispering, pleading, loving voice, dear heart- will you hear my heart ask you, beg you, plead with you — not to take that pill. Yes, your dying will be hard, but it will not be without beauty. Will you please trust me with that truth?”
Kara’s response is full of grace and compassion from one who is walking the same road.
For me, this story of their interaction places the topic of suffering on the front burner. It reminds us of this simple fact: Suffering is a part of life as we know it. You can’t escape it. No one can. And yet, why are we surprised when life takes a southward turn for us? And why does it seem that Americans are the most surprised? Other cultures, especially the less advanced cultures, don’t seem to be as shocked by suffering. But we Americans, in our pursuit of continued comfort, get all stressed out and are the first to cry out, “Oh GOD, why me?!” when the internet connection is slow. That response is normal, I suppose, when much of your life is pleasing and comfortable.
Suffering is a part of life on earth. Regardless of how good or bad a person is, suffering will happen. Every moment of every day, innocent people around the globe are suffering. It’s been going on ever since the day that two brothers battled and Cain killed Abel. He had done no wrong, but he died at the hands of his brother.
The situations like Brittany, Kara, and Abel prompt us to ask the age old question “Why do good, innocent people suffer?” While I have no satisfactory answer to that question, it did force me to think deeply about the philosophy underneath the question. I realized that this question of bad things and good people is based on the idea that a universal force protects good people from pain.
I need to be brutally honest. There is no karmic power in the fifth dimension that protects anyone from suffering. There is no unwritten law that bad people will suffer and good people will not, at least not in this life. Instead, suffering just happens. There is no rhyme or reason to it. The worst things seem to happen to the best people and the best things seem to happen to the worst people. It rarely makes sense. My heart breaks for Kara and Brittany. I don’t understand it at all. I don’t understand the Ebola virus or SIDS or Autism or child sex slaves or kidnappings. It seems that those kinds of things happen to the innocent. And it happens all the time. It just makes no sense.
“In this mess of a world, few things make sense…faith, hope, love, joy….these things do. And that’s where you’ll find me – soaking in every ounce of blessing that is born from every ounce of pain. Even in the worst of times, suffering bleeds joy. ”
- Work for justice in this world. Injustice is a reason why the innocent suffer. Let’s make things fair for all people. Let’s protect the innocent.
- Be compassionate. Care about people and show it. Step into their moments of suffering and wait with them. No words will explain it. So just show up. It’s the most powerful thing you can do.
- Pray. Pray for those who are suffering, like Kara and Brittany. Pray for comfort and peace for them and their families. Pray about your role in alleviating the suffering in the world. What should you do to help those who are enduring difficult times? Ask GOD to enable you to do what needs doing.
Suffering reminds us that this world is not our home. We belong somewhere else and one day, there will be no more sorrow, tears or suffering. We will get there and it will not be because we achieved it. It will be because of the astonishing mercy and grace we found in Jesus.