Monday, May 30, 2011

Suffering and Hope

After suffering from sinus/migraine headaches for the last 4 days, I awoke this morning free of pain. What a difference feeling healthy and good makes! While battling swollen sinus passages, a constantly throbbing head, and a sour stomach I managed to plant a new garden on Thursday, attend a family Memorial Day bash on Saturday, practice trumpet twice, and make it through leading Sunday morning worship. But by then I'd had it with the headache and with the rash of poison ivy I'd piced up on vacation. Off to Texas Medical Clinic where I received a prescription for steroids.

Monday morning I got up feeling great and spent an hour weeding, mulching, and watering the gardens; then straightened up the garage a bit, and finally jumped into house cleaning with vigor and satisfaction. What a difference relief from suffering makes. The change in my mood from yesterday to today puts me in mind of the song: "Sure feels good, feeling good again."

I'm thankful my suffering could be alleviated by medication. Recently Don and I drove through Birmingham, Alabama. I remember Joplin, Missouri, from a visit there many, many summers ago - a pretty spot. The suffering brought by a string of tornadoes in Alabama and a single, but massive tornado in Joplin will not be quickly or easily relieved. The stories have been heartbreaking - a mother found dead, covering her teenage son with her body (he survived). A young woman ripped from her boyfriend's arms as they hid in a closet - he survived, she did not. The pictures are shocking - neighborhoods leveled, rubbish everywhere, mangled trees and household goods intertwined.

Where is God in the midst of such suffering? It's a question that has been pondered from the beginning of time. Why does God allow tornadoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes to hurt and kill people? I don't know. I cannot say why people suffer. It might be that reflection on suffering so as to learn from is is the best we can do. (I remember my Dad telling me that no experience is wasted if we learn from it.) Still, those who have lost so much, who face such daunting circumstances trying to put their lives back together might well wonder why God allows this kind of destruction in the first place. Can't God stop tornadoes and floods from happening?

There are biblical scholars and believers who would say that, no, God cannot stop natural occurrences from taking place. I disagree. I think God is able to do whatever God wants to do. A better answer, it seems to me, is that this is the world God has chosen to create. And the way this world operates, storms, floods, and natural disasters are a part of the mix. God is present and concerned wherever people suffer (scripture testifies to this). Those of us who love God also seek to be "present" with the suffering, to assist them and comfort them however we can.

This memorial weekend our thoughts turned to those who have suffered for the sake of the nation. We remember those who have died in service to our country, those who have survived combat but returned injured in body, mind and spirit. We cannot blame the suffering and loss that results from war on God: building and maintaining relationships (personal and between nations) is our responsibility. Even so, God is present on battlefields with the dying, with those afraid and those unafraid. God tends lovingly to those struggling to heal from their wounds and their memories. God is with us, too, as we pray for our specific loved ones in the armed forces - for their wellbeing and their survival, for help and guidance in difficult situations.

We can't explain the reason for suffering. Neither can we insulate ourselves from pain. Loss, hurt, and sorrow are part of this world, part of life. When they come, God is near - to hold us, to hear us, and to lead us back to life. May God bless you and your loved ones, whatever your griefs, and restore you to fullness of health.


Pastor Kris

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