I had a funeral for a man who had died much too soon. The last few years had been difficult for him. I will never understand why some people have to suffer. Yes, I get the fact that we live in a fallen world. That doesn’t make it any easier. So how do you make sense out of it and explain it to a friend?
People have asked me, “If God is so good, how come there is so much evil in the world?” They point to a news report or act of injustice that tears at your heart. As people of faith we want to believe that by doing the right thing we will never have to suffer the consequences of other people’s sins.
Unfortunately that’s not how it works. Matthew 5:45 says that God “causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” In other words, stuff happens! We’ve all experienced some pain in our lives. We’ve had losses or been through a streak of bad luck.
In Scott Peck’s book, “The Road Less Traveled,” he begins with the words, “Life is difficult. This is one of the greatest truths ... Once we accept this truth, life becomes much easier.” Rabbi Harold Kushner took it a step further in his book, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.”
Following the death of his son, Rabbi Kushner tackles the question of human suffering. He comes to the conclusion that “Pain is the price we pay for being alive. When we understand that, our question changes from, “Why do we have to feel pain?” to “What do we do with our pain so that it becomes meaningful?” The secret of dealing with pain lies in how we answer the question.
In AMC’s television series, “Fear the Walking Dead,” the survivors faced a harrowing ordeal. In the aftermath, the protagonist, Alicia, feeling defeated, says to her friend, Victor, “We’re all going to die. What do you do with the time you have left?” He looks at her and says, “You make the most of it!”
I think that this is the key to dealing with these tragedies. You turn them around and make something good of them. You find a way to turn defeat into victory. You do something to honor your loved one. You establish a fund or start a program that will keep the legacy alive. You take charge.
That’s what God did. It is the power of the cross. The devil thought that he had the last word when Jesus was hanging there. It was the ultimate slap in the face. But God turned it around. He raised Jesus from the dead. God turned the cross into a symbol of grace, forgiveness and new life.
Today the cross reminds us that it isn’t over, until it is over. God will always have the final word. So hold fast to the hope of the Gospel and remember that God will see you through. Then go out and bless someone. Be a light in someone else’s darkness.
The Rev. Cal Lord is pastor of Central Baptist Church in Westerly.