Why does God let us suffer?
I have often pondered on this subject. If God loves us, why does he allow us to suffer? How is it that some people die quickly and silently while others are forced to endure long, slow and painful deaths? Why do some people live lives of struggle and pain?
Recently I was asked to deliver the sermon for a friend's mother. She had suffered for years with cancer. The last years of her life were painful and crippling. She was cared for by her children and became totally dependant on them.
I have to admit that I have only met Lucile once many years ago at her son's house. Although we did have a nice chat, I really didn't get to know her that well. I do remember one thing she said to me.. She told me to never leave her son. I wasn't quite sure what to read into that advice.
After talking to her son about her on and off over the years and recently after her death, I learned that Lucile was a very good singer and dancer. She passed this wonderful gift on to her daughter. She was a very beautiful woman and she had a wild heart. From what I gathered from my conversations, she loved her children but probably wouldn't get mother of the year. I also learned that towards the end, she died slowly and suffered quite a bit. She had to rely on her children to take care of her.
When her son asked me to speak, I was trying to figure out what I could say that would be appropriate. I prayed to find the message in all this. God gave me the answer when I saw a photo. It is a photo that her daughter took with a cell phone. She sent it to me to see if I could possibly get a print out of it. The photo was grainy and low resolution but I gave it a go. As I worked, I was wondering why God let Lucile suffer so much. It is a question we ask ourselves and God often during our lives. What good can come of this? We wonder if it is some kind of punishment. As I looked at the photo I started to see the answer.
It was all about the moment. It was a precious moment of a grandmother, sharing perhaps her last Thanksgiving with her grandchildren. I wondered if her wild heart would have let her have this moment if she were well during her life and died suddenly. Perhaps this was God's way of slowing her down to remind her of what her life was really about.
Life for all of us is so fast. We sometimes work two jobs to keep our families fed and living indoors. We keep chasing after things we think matter and tell ourselves we are doing it for our family but we totally miss out on the moments. We miss the point. When our time comes, we don't take with us the accomplishments or the possessions. We don't take the house or the car. God doesn't care if our house was clean. He doesn't care about all the little details we think are important. All we take with us is the love. All we take with us are these moments. Perhaps God allows us to suffer sometimes because it is the only way to slow us down enough to gather these moments. By making us rely on our loved ones to care for us, he reminds us why we are here.
This is what Lucile will take with her. She will carry this moment through eternity. I printed out several copies of the photograph to remind her friends and family that we need to stop now and then and take our own moments. We need to remember that it is only the love that comes with us. I think when Lucile gave me her advice; it was because she loved her son so much that she wanted him to be happy. She wanted him to have someone to give him the moments she couldn't. When I think about Lucile, I look at the photo and think about the lesson she taught all of us that day.