The problem of pain

by Richard on January 30, 2007

Thought I’d share my latest piece for my church newsletter.

As I write this I am also preparing to travel to Burnley to take part in the funeral of Michael Blakey, who was so tragically killed in India last year. I go with a great sense of the privilege at having shared in Mike’s life but also a continuing anger that he has gone. Over the last few weeks I have heard similar phrases repeated over and over again: “It isn’t fair…” “Why him?” “How could God allow this?”

Some will find comfort in clinging to the belief that this and similarly distressing events are part of the mysterious plan of God, that if we could see the ‘big picture’ we’d know that these things are sent by God to achieve some greater purpose. For myself, I will have none of this. I simply do not believe that God inflicts suffering on people. The brutal murder of a young man, the premature death of a mother, the devastation of flood and earthquake — do not look for the hand of God in these things and ask, Why does God let this happen? He doesn’t. The truth is, though we struggle to accept it, that we live in an ‘open-ended’ world in which chaos, coincidence and accident are part of the very fabric of creation. “Stuff happens”, to paraphrase a once-popular phrase.

But God is not absent from his world. He is ever-present, in our mess and suffering as he is in our joy and creativity. The question we continually face is not “Why?” but “What?” What shall we do in response to the suffering we see around us? We can choose despair and hopelessness, or we can refuse to allow evil to have the final word by facing the world with faith. God’s presence is surely to be found wherever injustice and hate are challenged. Wherever there is a hand of forgiveness and a word of encouragement, he is there. When women and men are lifted from despair to hope, where fresh starts are offered and life is affirmed — God is there.

Where was God when Mike Blakey died? He was in the same place as he had been in Michael’s life: right by his side.

He is there still.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1

PAUL BLAKEY 01.30.07 at 9:19 pm

Richard. Thankyou for your positive, thought provoking piece.

Michael has gone elsewhere-no rhyme or reason-we will all struggle with that for a long time. But His death should not be totally in vain, some good must come out of bad.

He achieved so much in his life and left so many of us with much to ponder & pursue. He enhanced many of our lives in such a positve way. We can all continue to help fulfill his dreams and his lifesworks, through our prayers, through our thoughts and through our efforts. He has brought us all closer together with his passing.

We can all take solace in knowing that Michael’s memorial fund-with much effort- will come to fruition and help to continue the fine works that his and all his colleague’s started. The resulting welfare & medical centre will be of immense benefit to the deprived people, that he and his colleagues, so dearly wanted to help.

God willing, together, we will achieve this goal.

“A waste of a life but a life far from wasted”

2

DH 01.30.07 at 10:20 pm

Richard, I think you misrepresent those who believe God’s handiwork on things. These bad things are not sent by God. To say that ALL so-called bad things are not allowed seems wrong in light of Scripture. Look at Job we are quick to say God allowed it but remember it was Satan that actually did the work. We live in a sinful world. Where does the Scripture “All things work together for good to those who are called according to His purpose.”? I say this not to contradict but to show about ALL of the possibilities of reasons for encouragement. Could it be that God loved this man so much that He wanted Him to be in heaven? I know many people who came to Christ at funeral’s could it be for the greater good of those people that things like this can happen and thus for the greater Kingdom work. I know that if more souls entered the Kingdom by Faith in Christ by myself dying as opposed to the numebr of souls entering the Kingdom living I would rather die and have more in the Kingdom then live and have a less number of people enter the Kingdom. (I’m not wishing myself dead but helping to put into perspective our limited understanding of God’s plan and our limited understanding of determining what is good/bad in light of the fall of Adam/Eve.

Again, I care about this family and pray that God would do like what He says in His word and make all of this that the family experiencing for God’s good. Not that what happened was good in our eyes but God being all powerful can make it good. Praise God for His wonderful Word and the encouragement therein.

3

DH 01.30.07 at 10:23 pm

I take no encouragement in ““Stuff happens”.

4

Richard 01.30.07 at 10:47 pm

I don’t say that good can’t come from tragedy and evil - I pray that it will. But I don’t believe that God inflicts these things on people. I just don’t.

5

Eugene McKinnon 01.31.07 at 12:51 am

DH,

The only person who dies to bring people to God is Jesus you nearly got your martyrdom confused there with the ultimate death. Martyrdom is a witness to the ultimate death of Christ. Richard was only trying to show that God is not some arbitrary judge who cuts cords like the Greek Fates and that God is there when someone has something good or bad happening to them. Our God is empathetic not a divine judge.

Eugene

6

Graham 01.31.07 at 9:09 am

I hope I haven’t misunderstood what you were saying or missed the point to badly but I have to disagree. Of course our God is empathetic, but to say he is not a divine judge is too ignore huge amounts of scripture that say exactly that. Isaiah 11:4 for example shows us a compassionate judge who dispenses justice. “but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.” All through the OT God judges his people and the people around them, and then this carries on with an eternal theme in the NT, as Jesus is given the authority to judge us when he comes again, John 5, 8, 12 to name but a few references- without even starting on Paul’s letters. Finally if God was not a judge why did Jesus need to come into the world and die in our place?

7

Wood 01.31.07 at 11:26 am

Is this really the time or place to be discussing this?

8

Wood 01.31.07 at 11:32 am

Incidentally, for the first time in ages, I’m not joking. I’m not yanking chains. I’m not taking the piss.

Discuss it somewhere, but - I’m saying it again -

This. Is. Not. The. Time.

9

ee 01.31.07 at 12:22 pm

Richard - I like your piece and find it comforting. Thanks for posting it. I feel the same as Wood though about debating whether it’s scripturally correct. If someone is grieving, and believing something or other is a help, it’s not the time to pull that particular rug from under their feet. Whether you agree with the belief or not. I know ‘the truth shall set you free’, but that needs to be communicated sensitively.

10

Richard 01.31.07 at 12:48 pm

I’m with Wood - I don’t really want to pursue a theological conversation on this one. Not now.

11

graham 01.31.07 at 2:45 pm

sorry- you are right of course.

12

DH 01.31.07 at 3:31 pm

Well when did the theological get brought up? I believe that was in the second paragraph of this post. What is so wrong with looking at the “bigger picture” when God tells us that in God’s Word for encouragement? I’m not trying to pull the rug on anybody. I have faced some terribile things in my life nothing like Wood’s family but it wasn’t until I looked at the “big picture” or at least looked into ALL of the possibilities that I was able to find out from the Spirit what was truly going on in terms of reasons for it. In the end it was “all things working together for good..” and my Faith was strengthened. I believe if I had an attitude of questioning God back then I would be as strong in my Faith as I am. Not that I’m so great in my Faith but I think you get he point.

EE, however, I agree with you. “I know ‘the truth shall set you free’, but that needs to be communicated sensitively.” Thanks for the admonishment and correction here. This should go for all of us. If a person is trying to encourage someone we should try to take the rug out from under them as well. That goes both ways. However, sensativity is in order and I totally agree with you and will heed your advise.

13

Eugene McKinnon 01.31.07 at 7:59 pm

Wood,

This is definitely not the time for a theological debate. If I have upset you in any way I’m sorry. I know that this has been a difficult time for you and the last thing needed right now is a team of theologians instead a fraternity of friends who mourn with you.

Blessings,

Eugene McKinnon

14

DH 01.31.07 at 8:07 pm

Amen, Eugene. I wasn’t trying to bne theological but the start of the post by Richard seemed theological to me. I hope Wood you can at least appreciate the encouragement I’m trying to relay to help you like David and Job (not that what you are facing is what they went through but at least can identify in some way) responded in the midst of their tough situations “yet I will praise Him”. This isn’t theological, even though it is in the Bible, but from my heart. Wood, stay strong in the Lord. May God give an extra measure of peace during this tough time. :) Your friend, DH

15

Eugene McKinnon 02.01.07 at 2:21 am

DH,

Wood has to come to a conclusion on his own and no amount of quoting Scripture can help and “Yet I praise Him” is not necessarily appropriate. We just need to be there for him. You mean well, but I think its time we end this discussion.

Blessings,

Eugene

16

DH 02.01.07 at 5:33 pm

Eugene, your are right. At least you can see that I’m well intentioned.
It is hard because when I read Paul’s letters and Jesus statements to people they used Scripture to encourage people for Faith, and to strengthen Faith. I respect what you and Wood say but I guess I don’t have to understand not being encouraged by God’s Word. Maybe it falls in the scripture “Give a word in season…” and it is a matter of determining if the word is “in season” or not. Eugene, at least I’m trying. :)

17

FP 02.02.07 at 11:24 pm

Wonderful! Methinks
me’ve just found meblogs
Saturday/Sunday
words of Wisdom.

Best,
Faithful Progressive

18

DizzySheep 02.03.07 at 6:31 pm

“We can choose despair and hopelessness, or we can refuse to allow evil to have the final word by facing the world with faith. God’s presence is surely to be found wherever injustice and hate are challenged. Wherever there is a hand of forgiveness and a word of encouragement, he is there. When women and men are lifted from despair to hope, where fresh starts are offered and life is affirmed — God is there. ”

Richard, that is the most beautiful and inspiring thing I’ve read in a very long time. Thank you.

19

Pamela 02.09.07 at 12:22 pm

“Where was God when Mike Blakey died? He was in the same place as he had been in Michael’s life: right by his side.

He is there still.”

Thank you, Richard. More than i could ever say.

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