My wife and I have a deal when it comes to our daughters- she gets the biology questions, I get the theology questions. I agreed to this covenant years ago, partly thinking I was getting off easy since I have a strong background in theology but mostly because I am almost clueless about females (at least I admit it.) I’ve had the easy questions- where’s heaven, what does God look like, and so forth. Back in February I was hit with some difficult questions after our beloved 12 year old hound dog passed but none of those questions or the fancy diploma or the stacks of books on my shelves could have adequately prepared me for tonight. Theodicy- a concept I’ve taught for years and answered questions about countless times, and I stumbled. It’s a concept that drives believers to doubt- the painful question of “why do bad things happen to good people?” My 10 year old daughter was diagnosed with an auto-immune disorder (once again, not a biology person, so the name eludes me) that is attacking her blood vessels and her joints. For days we have sat helplessly beside her trying to calm her as she cries in pain. I’ve taught her breathing exercises and ways to overcome the pain because there is little we can do other than attempt to comfort her. Then she ponders and asks that most difficult of questions: “why did God let this happen to me?” And I found myself grasping for answers. Answers that I’ve given for years and all the sudden they all feel so inappropriate now. The little girl who prays every night that God continues to give her departed hound dog a belly rub for her in heaven is now wondering how that same loving God can be so cruel as to put her in pain. And I ask it as well. The answer I gave brought comfort to my beautiful daughter but still aches me in a way I cannot grasp. I reach for comfort and I hope to find truth in my own advice. The Divine does not cause the pain and suffering- those things just happen. What God does provide is the strength to overcome suffering. Bad things just happen but it is through our faith that we are able to find the strength to overcome.
Dealing with the question of Theodicy is never an easy one. Job searched for answers to his needless and unjust suffering even though he was a man of strong faith. Even the writers of Job we grasping for answers and find reasoning in explaining the only justifiable answer for Job’s suffering is that God and the Adversary we using Job as a pawn in their game. Suffering and illness is never easy and exposing it to children is ever more difficulty because the stoic “poop happens” approach may not be enough.
So now I watch my child as she suffers helplessly and I wonder the same as Job but I think my conclusion is a bit more just than two deities using the life of an innocent child for amusement. We must seize the teachable moment if not only for our children but also potentially for ourselves.