WORD OF FAITH
God, with us in suffering
BY REV. JOHN P. CUSHFROM A READING FOR FEB. 4, FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
'I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the Gospel, so that I may share in its blessings...' -- 1 Cor 9:22-23
In 1981, a conservative Jewish rabbi, Harold Kushner, wrote a best-selling book titled, "When Bad Things Happen to Good People." It addressed the problem of God and evil, commonly called "theodicy" in philosophical terms.
The rabbi wrote this book after his young son, Aaron, died of progeria, a disease that causes a young person to have advanced aging.
You'll note that the book is not titled, "Why Bad Things Happen to Good People." Kushner states that, if the choice is between an all-loving God or an all-powerful God, then he would rather choose an all-loving God. Good people suffer. It is a fact of life.
In an interview with Time magazine, Kushner stated: "Given the unfairness that strikes so many people in life, I would rather believe in a God of limited power and unlimited love and justice, rather than the other way around. Why do we worship power? Why do we assume that total power is the most wonderful thing we could ascribe to God, even if it means compromising his fairness and love?"
Job, the figure at the center of Sunday's first reading (Job 7:1-4,6-7), must have wondered about this question: "Why does God allow the good, those who love Him, to suffer?" Job lost everything he had: his children, his livelihood, his home, his health, all gone in an instant.
In Sunday's passage, Job is bemoaning his fate. Listen to his words: "Is not man's life on Earth a drudgery? So I have been assigned months of misery, and troubled nights have been allotted to me."
Suffering can cause us to doubt the goodness of God. Pain, doubt, worry and anxiety, even death can make even the strongest of believers question the mercy of God.
No less than the great Christian writer C.S. Lewis, most famous for "The Chronicles of Narnia," offered a deep theology of God and human suffering in his work, "The Problem of Pain." Lewis holds for the goodness of our all-powerful and all-loving God. He describes suffering as "a megaphone to rouse a deaf world," making us recognize our dependence on our Creator.
Suffering puts to death our pride and helps us grow in humility. Lewis writes: "We must not think pride is something God forbids because He is offended at it, or that humility is something He demands as due to His own dignity -- as if God Himself was proud. He wants you to know Him: wants to give you Himself."
In Sunday's Gospel (Mark 1:29-39), our Lord encounters suffering head on, and, in each case, His touch heals. From the mother-in-law of Simon whom the Lord heals, to those from whom He drives out demons, people come, in humility, to Jesus, the mercy of God.
C.S. Lewis writes: "if you really get into any kind of touch with Him you will, in fact, be humble -- delightfully humble, feeling the infinite relief of having for once got rid of all the silly nonsense about your own dignity which has made you restless and unhappy all your life."
As the psalmist tells us (Ps 147:1-2,3-4,5-6): "Praise the Lord, who heals the broken-hearted." The choice is not between an all-loving God and an all-powerful God. Our God is both. All we need to do is to turn, in humility, to Him who is the creator, the only one who can heal us. The Lord is there in all our suffering, loving us even through our suffering.
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