Case of the Whys?
When I was twelve, my grandmother suffered a cerebral aneurysm and was near death for weeks. During that time, which seemed to last forever, I asked myself again and again, "Why? Why did this have to happen to my grandmother? Why did God let it happen?" Although she was never again quite the same, my grandmother mercifully recovered. For that I have always been immeasurably grateful, but I have never forgotten that first encounter with the whys? of life during those childhood weeks of uncertainty.
In the course of a lifetime, all of us face the whys? of our fragile existence. After forty-one years on this world, I wish I had a better understanding of why things happen the way they do, but the mystery of life’s trials and tragedies remain for me - and I suspect for most - frustratingly difficult. Certainly, the freedom woven into creation is the cause of some of the world’s tragedy and suffering, and the brokenness of life - human sin, if you will - accounts for a great deal as well. Nonetheless, even though God may allow tragedy to occur as the inevitable result of our freedom, surely God does not prescribe it. Such a notion would be contrary to everything we understand about God’s love. If this be so, what are we to say when we are touched by the tragedies of life?
In my own life, I have come to several conclusions that might be described as signposts of faith. First, in the midst of any tragedy, look patiently for God’s presence and gentle touch. Every moment of suffering and every instance of tragedy also contains the promise of God’s healing and redemption. Next, as St. Paul pointed out long ago, realize that we are earthbound and only see dimly beyond the temporal affairs of this life. One day we will see all things clearly, and in the economy of that world we have not yet experienced, the crazy patchwork of our earthly existence will have a new order and meaning.
Finally, recognize and, indeed, celebrate the unending dialogue between death and new life, between endings and new beginnings, between crucifixion and resurrection. To put it succinctly, look to the Cross. The Romans described it as a “machine of death.” The followers of Jesus Christ from the first Easter until now have known that through its suffering runs the path to a new and more abundant life. As we continue this Lenten journey together, know that in the end, God is making all things new.