In Scripture, the character of Job struggles with a common question: “Why do I suffer?”
We ask this all the time:
Why do bad things happen to good people? Why is there poverty in a rich country? Why did this person die so young?
The frustrating part is that the Book of Job does not give a straightforward answer to any of these questions. In fact, God tells us it is beyond our understanding. In short, God is God and we are not.
As Christians, we are not around to provide absolute answers to people’s pain, but to remain with them in solidarity as they endure it. We must become vessels of grace and hope so that God can shed light on the answers we seek.
Last week’s ministry brought this challenge to the forefront. Brother Jim and I went walking through the projects and stumbled upon a home visit. Our ministry has been working with this family in a variety of capacities throughout the years, but the central focus of the week was on a woman suffering from a terminal illness. She is a long-time addict who is grappling with AIDS. She’s emaciated, is in and out of the hospital suffering from seizures, and struggles with memory loss and other ailments. This week was a positive week for her, and she talked to us a lot about preparing for death, her struggles with it, and about her last wishes. The only thing that mattered to her was family surrounding her, and the desire to spend the remainder of her life clean. Her kids moved in with her, and they and the grandkids were by her side. She asked Brother Jim to preside at her funeral, and we both looked over her will to make sure everything was ready. Brother Jim blessed the house, and we took her to a doctor’s visit and lunch. Despite the somber nature of the situation, there was much laughter to be had by all throughout these serious tasks.
I share this story because despite the tragedy, it is not a depressing story. We could easily cling to the “why?” but will get no further than Job in our understanding. Instead, we must focus on what we do know. In the end, this woman has what she needs. She’s calm, not afraid of death, and surrounded by people that love her and have forgiven her for anything in the past. It highlighted for me the common adage that we are all human, no more and no less. It did not matter who we were or what we’ve accomplished to her. It didn’t matter what any one of us in that room ever did to another. Despite all the pressures and emphasis we place on status and fault, it all comes down to one thing– Can you face your life stripped of all those labels, status symbols and judgments and see love? In any given moment can you give and receive love fully? In this lies true worth.
Repeatedly the stories we face from day to day with families underscore the same things. People that have other people to lean on are usually going to be okay, one way or another. They are going to survive. The ones that end up homeless or starving or hitting rock bottom are not any less human or any worse of a sinner than the rest of us; the difference is that when they made mistakes or fell on hard times, no one was there to lift them back up. Think of it: The tragedy of a homeless person is not that they do not have a physical shelter. The tragedy is that they do not have a single person to call that would let them in and get them rehabilitated.
Why is there suffering in our world? That’s the wrong question.
Instead, let us ask ourselves: What can we do about it? The first pillar of the Brothers and Sisters of Love charism replies: “Love Everyone. “ That is the answer that has led Brothers and Sisters of Love to find the Kingdom of God amidst the suffering. Be the love that someone struggling needs to get back on their feet, and witness the grace that God gives in return.
How can you live this out today to bring forth the Kingdom?
—Megan Sherrier, BSL