I know, I know, there are thousands floating round the internet. But seeing as I am sitting propped up in bed and have just taken painkillers, I have a window where I may be able to pen something that makes some kind of sense. Possibly.
First of all I should link to Adventure Bloke’s musings on the subject – he preached it on Sunday, and it is Very Good. http://carterclan.me.uk/sermons/so-what-about-bone-cancer-in-children/
I think that words like Mr Fry’s can be seriously shocking for some folk who have perhaps not thought too deeply about suffering, or who can bat them away with not so nice words about the man himself. For me, the words resonate, because it is the experience of humanity throughout the ages. I’m reading the sequel to ‘Call the Midwife’ at the moment, ‘Shadows of the Workhouse’ by Jennifer Worth and it is incredibly, deeply harrowing, an account of children’s lives in a turn of the century workhouse. I.m sitting there reading it thinking God, where were you when this 6 year old girl was beaten almost to death for nothing. Where were you when these childrens’ parents both died and they were sent to the workhouse and treated so abysmally. It’s sickening that one human being could do such things to another. Where was God in that?
I’m pretty ill right now. I’ve got pleuirsy pain, breathing’s hard work, I’m sick. I feel helpless and frustrated. Missed Adventure Boy’s parents evening and will miss the Girl’s tomorrow. It’s Not Fair. Looking at other situations such as those described above it’s far less Not Fair than some. Yet in my situation, as in other suffering across the world, I can look to God and find…not answers, really. But something. I can find hope. The sensation of a God who looks at all this stuff and weeps. Weeps with us. That may not feel enough to that child abused so young – after all, if God was weeping with her, why couldn’t he do something? I don’t know. All I know is that this world is well skewed off centre. Not what it was created to be, and people are not who they were created to be. Something went stinkingly wrong and that resonated through history. And God weeps.
He doesn’t just do that. He sent Jesus. Jesus born in squalor, died in agony. Jesus the one who can identify in our suffering, Jesus the one who went into our suffering. An immense statement of that Father’s love for us. He didn’t sit back and do nothing. He knows.
I’m aware it’s still not enough, in terms of answers. There simply are not sufficient answers. But we can look at the Bible, we can look at the Psalmist ranting and railing at God, we can look at God’s huge emotions spilling over his world in the writings of the Prophets, we can look at Jesus’ time on earth and death and glorious resurrection and we can find a voice that speaks through the suffering and says ‘I am here’. We can find hope and we can find a depth in the suffering we never guessed we would.
I’d like to be better. I’d like this chronic illness to stop overshadowing my life and cancelling my appointments. I’d like to find out who I could be if I had strength. But I have found so much of God in the depths, that it’s difficult to imagine that other life. I live this life, and am called where I am, in the body I am in. I need to decide daily to ‘press on’ whether in pain or not. Not so much to come to the conclusion that the illness is sent from God to teach me a lesson. Nope. That’s not how it goes. People everywhere get ill. They just do. Nothing they did wrong, nothing they did right. It happens. It happens because of the creation groaning, waiting to be righted. I’m waiting for that too, in pain and in hope.
I like Mr Fry, I’m fairly fond of QI when there’s nothing else on. 😉 I hope he finds what he so desperately needs, and wish him happiness. If nothing else, his words have sparked so much thought and debate which can only be good. Christians need to be honest, to say that their lives are not easier than other lives because of our faith, to say that we struggle too, and we don’t get it either. But to testify to the more that we see, to the peace beyond understanding that we sometimes fleetingly catch hold of, to the beauty underneath the pain, to the world groaning in its’ wait for healing.