22 February 2007

Suffering and God

My cousin Cathy's husband John is in the hospital today (as he has been for several weeks now), having his right leg amputated. It's the latest blow in a horrific battle with flesh-eating bacteria. I posted the following note about it to two e-mail lists of my dear faith/church friends:

Sad news on my cousin John

He's going to lose his leg:


Cathy's my first cousin, but I never really knew her and John. Now, in the context of this incredibly hard circumstance, I'm learning that they're people of amazing strength, courage, love, faith, and determination. They'll get through this, and be a strong and active family again, but - so hard. Asleep on the job *again*, God? :-(

(That's a link to Cathy's blog about their ordeal, if you want to read more about it.)

Tina read my message, and said, sadly, "But that's not God's job." And she's right, of course. It's not. God doesn't prevent us from suffering. God didn't prevent His own suffering on Calvary, and God doesn't save us from ours, either, most of the time. That's just obvious.

But we can't but keep on asking, "Why the hell not???" You could, if You wanted to, couldn't You, God? Or, You could have made us so we understand better, couldn't You? Couldn't You have come up with something better than this, You incompetent hack?"

(But answers apparently aren't God's job either, because we almost never get them.)

I'm not really despairing as that might sound. But I think it's a fair question. And if you read the Psalms, it's certainly the sort of question that's got plenty of precedent in our tradition - even Scriptural precedent.

I kind of felt like Tina was saying, "Take it easy on God." And I thought about that. But I don't think that's right. God deserves our worship, praise, and thanksgiving. God deserves our faith, trust, and confidence. God deserves for us to give our whole lives in service to God's mission and dreams. But one thing God doesn't deserve, in my opinion, is our sympathy. This is one f**ked up world, and a lot of that is clearly our fault, but from my admittedly limited perspective, a lot of that would appear to be Your fault. I got nobody else to blame, unless and until You can fix either the world, or me. 'Cause both of those colossal botch jobs are Your handiwork, you f**king hack.

So I'm not sure God deserves our sympathy. Except maybe on Good Friday. And even then, my heart breaks more for the human nature of my brother Jesus than for the Father, who, again, it seems, could have come up with something better.

Sorry, the warning at the top of this blog about rudeness and spicy language isn't usually necessary. But two posts in a row, it has been. Maybe I have some anger management issues to work on this Lent.

UPDATE: HOPE!!! Holy crap! God, you wily old bastard! Follow through, now, will you please??



Cori said...

Rather bizarrely, I really appreciated what you wrote here. My cousins one-and-a-half year old adorable little daughter, Heidi, is dying from some rare children's-cancer and is spending more hours in the hospital than out. It is so hard to read their daily updated on the blog (in Dutch, I'm afraid) and become aware of the tremendous, heart wrenching strength and courage of Heidi's parents and know that they should NEVER have had to be so strong and courageous. They should never have had to be updating a blog on the progress of their little child's chemo. It's so maddening. And such a relief sometimes just to be angry, and to hear someone else be angry, at God. No platitudes. No excuses. No justifications. (Even if somewhere at the back of my head they're still playing off and I feel a little guilty...).

Mike Croghan said...

Re: feeling a little guilty: yeah, me too, Cori. A little. Especially when I seem to be getting one of those "tiny message storms" that I tend to interpret as a message from God. Does that ever happen to you? When, like, in the course of a day, two or three friends, my morning Bible study guide, and one or two other things I read all seem to say the same thing, coincidentally? This time, it's, "Remember that you are dust. Patience. Wait on God. God's time is not your time."

So, OK, I hear You. I'm trying. But the fact that I haven't seen an update on my cousin makes me terribly afraid that he lost his leg yesterday. And expressing that kind of anger toward You is something that the Psalmists did all the time, so I don't feel that guilty.

So I wait, and try to be patient. But I don't wait serenely. I wait with some anger, because faithful assurances that "it's all going to work out just fine in the End, when the Kingdom comes" sometimes ring pretty hollow.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mike-man,

I haven't reaad your blog in a little while and I'm sorry I had to come into it again to hear such sad news. I wish there was something I could say that would ring truer than a "it will be all right in the end" hollow-sounding platitude, but I don't, except that I'm praying, and I'm praying that something bigger and grander comes from this seemingly maddening personal tragedy.

Here's to hope!

With you,