THE REV. PAUL ROCK, Second Presbyterian Church: When my son turned 8, my wife and I created an afternoon of fun to celebrate his birthday. We made his favorite foods, invited his favorite friends and played his favorite games.
They had a fabulous time, and two kids got hurt. There was a nasty collision during touch football. We dabbed away tears, blood and dirt, applied ice and layered on the Band-Aids.
Although not intended, my wife and I had created an afternoon filled with potential for laughter, fun, joy … and pain.
On this side of heaven, there will never be an adequate theological response to our questions about pain and suffering. But apparently God, in all of his wisdom, chose to create a world where all sorts of interdependent organisms would thrive and play, interact and grow. And in the course of our growing and interacting, some organisms get damaged and some bugs end up where they shouldn’t.
It’s the dangerous risk inherent in any interactive, dynamic life system, and at times the ache and disease can seem to outweigh the joy and ease.
And yet, if God created everything, then God also created neighbors and nurses, Band-Aids and families who can, at best, heal our diseases and, at least, provide company.
During this season of Thanksgiving, with tensions stirring around issues of race and immigration, perhaps a more useful question is not why is there disease, but how can I, even in my pain, be part of the cure?
THE REV. JOE NASSAL, Precious Blood Center, Liberty: This question takes on a personal quality for my family as we approach the fifth anniversary of my sister’s death at the age of 47.
Mary entered the hospital on Halloween with what was thought to be the flu. After spending a month in ICU on a respirator, she died on Nov. 29, 2010. In the end, modern medicine was impotent to stop the spread of death that was advancing in my sister’s body.
We wrestle with the question that if God is all-powerful and all-loving, why does God allow suffering in the world? The answer is often boiled down to free will: God gives us the freedom to choose, and sometimes we make poor choices.
Or perhaps the answer depends on the lens through which you view the question: creation or evolution. But even if viewed through the creation lens, research reflects how some viruses are used to develop remedies that save lives from previously drug-resistant bacteria. Unfortunately, no army of antibiotics could stop the advance of death in my sister’s body; anti-viral drugs and dialysis offered hope for a while but in the end provided no defense.
There is another lens through which to view the question: redemption. Jesus spent much of his earthly ministry healing people of various diseases. His health care plan was simple and direct: meet the people in their brokenness and heal them.
But in the end he died, taking the evil in the world and the sickness in our bodies and souls upon himself to redeem us.
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