The terrific Religion Blog at the Dallas Morning News website has started a new feature called “Texas Faith,” which involves a panel of clergy weighing in on a question.
A recent question was this: What do you find in your faith tradition that helps you deal with or explain the reality of suffering?
All the answers are worth reading, but here is a sobering response from Gerald Britt, vice president of Central Dallas Ministries:
I found that I can’t explain the reality of suffering. I’m alternately amazed and amused by those who try. For those of us who are Christian, to try and lead with that in a discussion of faith usually leaves those who are not of our tradition with the impression that we are evasive or trying to escape reality.
Twenty-two years ago, our 11 year-old son died from schleraderma. We have no idea how he contracted the idea and it was approximately seven months from the time of his diagnosis to his death. It was excruciatingly painful to watch a previously healthy boy, die painfully and inexplicably.
Last year, our only living son was murdered in a senseless domestic violence incident. Less than a week before his death, he talked about how he forgave his wife and wanted to just move on. Three days later he was dead.
We lived to see him become a young man, who loved his daughter and had great plans for his future.
The week after his funeral, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
I can’t explain why any of this happened. My faith however, helps me in two ways:
One it teaches me the insufficiency of answers. If someone, anyone were to explain to me why I and my family had to go through any of this it wouldn’t help. Ultimately, I’d rather have my boys back and my health unimpacted by illness. No answer with regard to this suffering would be sufficient.
Secondly, I choose to stubbornly believe that God is good. The Book of Psalms is punctuated throughout with these words: ‘The Lord is good…” and there are no qualifiers. He is not good, ‘if’; He is not good ‘when’; He is not good, ‘as long as’; He is not good, ‘until’. He is just good. I choose to stubbornly cling to that unqualified goodness – even when things that happen to me are not good.