How does one cope, when you live in a small country, Jamaica, where, year after year, for many years now, quoting popular singer Etana’s Wrong Address, ” people die there every day”. And where so far over 200 persons have been brutally murdered. Mostly by the gun!
How do people in devastated Syria cope? With aircraft raining weapons of death on innocent people, including children, day after day. Or when ISIS was active, how do you cope with relatives being beheaded, or with acts of mass raping of your women. How!
How will children in the richest and technologically most advanced country in the world, America, cope with continued and heart wrenching episodes of mass murder in their schools? How will that society respond?
How do people cope with the devastating news of the sudden death of a loved one? Or ” bad news” about cancer, or HIV or a broken relationship? How! And why!
One Perspective about Life
Isn’t life not supposed to one where boy meets girl, fall in love, dance to the music of Drifters, Temptations, Bob Marley and Skatalites in one era. Or Chronixx, Protege, Rihanna Beyonce and Adele in another era.
Get married, or shack up if that’s your thing or a visiting relationship, have children, work hard, love neighbor, vote in or vote out governments. Stay home and build a nation or go abroad and send money back home ” as you quint the money reach “. Send for your family or go back home and apply for the post of Commissioner of Police, or start a business and make some other contribution to nation building. Watch TV, enjoy Carnival, or Dancehall music, hang with friends in a club or at the local bar. Eat roast yam, jerk chicken or pork, go to the beach on a Sunday while others worship God, or watch Messi play for Barcelona, cuss Arsenal’s coach, live for Basketball, play dominoes and try don’t ” colt de game. Dig yam hills, carry your tomatoes and lettuce to ” Curry” or the local market to sell. Run the ” One Order” hoodlums, or pay the ” tax”. Beg the taximan or Coaster bus driva to slow down.
Send your children to a good school and pray that they will come out to something good, don’t disgrace you, and look after you when you get old.
Then retire early, call Hotline regularly, capture your children’s children, grow them up too, or refuse because you have a life to live. Grow old with your partner, serve God, when you are old and have nothing else to do, or start when you are young in obedience to your mother’s teaching. Or continue to wonder who God is. Die and go to one place or another. Or doesn’t everybody get to go to heaven! Or don’t we all turn to dust, and that’s it.
Isn’t that the story of life!
I have been reading, again, a book which I started before Lent, entitled ” Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by New York Times best selling author Rev. Timothy Keller. And he paints an entirely different picture about life. And argues, in my view, successfully, that Christianity alone of all the world’s religions, and ideologies and philosophies, best prepares us for the inevitable suffering and pain which are natural parts of human life and existence.
Keller’s opening statements in his book:
The Rumble of Panic beneath Everything
I think that taking life seriously means something like this: that whatever man does on this planet has to be done in the lived truth of the terror of creation….of the rumble of panic underneath everything. Otherwise it is false.
– Ernest Becker, The Denial of Evil
I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and be glad. O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together. ( Psalm 34:1-3).
Suffering is everywhere, unavoidable, and its scope often overwhelming. If you spend one hour reading this book, more than five children throughout the world will have died from abuse and violence during that time. If you give the entire day to reading, more than one hundred children will have died violently…..thousands die from traffic accidents ( crashes) or cancer every hour, and hundreds of thousands learn that their loved are suddenly gone…..
Shakespeare understood this when he wrote:
Each new morn
New widows howl, new orphans cry,
New sorrows strike heaven on the face.
….. and Becker expose the common ways in which we try to deny the rumble of panic. This book is an effort to do what they urge – to take life seriously. I want to help readers live life well and even joyfully against the background of these terrible realities. The loss of loved ones, debilitating and fatal illness, personal betrayals, financial reversals, and moral failures – all of these will eventually come upon you if you live out a normal life span. No one is immune.
Therefore no matter what precautions we take, no matter what how well we have put together a goid life, no matter how hard we have worked to be healthy, wealthy, comfortable, with friends and family, and successful with our career – something will inevitably ruin it.
No amount of money, power, and planning can prevent bereavement, dire illness, …..human life is fatally fragile and subject to forces beyond our power to manage. Life is tragic.
We all know this intuitively, and those who face the challenges of suffering and pain learn all too well that it is impossible to do using only our own resources. We all need support if we are not to succumb to despair. In this book we will argue that inevitably this support must be spiritual.
Final comment: I am preaching, in part, tomorrow at my church, St. Andrew Anglican Parish Church, on familiar words from the Gospel about suffering. Pray for discernment and revelation. And to speak boldly!
Some of my friends are going through a challenging time dealing with life threatening ilnesses. We need to pray without ceasing for each other. For mercy and comfort!
We have to be very careful and be willing to be nuanced in our understanding of the Gospel. Which is why I posted this message from Keller’s book on Twitter last night.
So suffering is at the very heart of the Christian faith. It is not only the way Christ became like and redeemed us, but it is one of the main ways we become like him and experience his redemption – #TimothyKeller #WalkingwithGodthroughPainandSuffering
Nuance! However, ” I don’t want to celebrate suffering, prescribe it for everyone, or minimize the moral imperative to to reduce it where we can. I don’t want to ignore the pain that ripples out from each diagnosis of cancer…God is grieved at our grief – Keller https://t.co/oTBvMHrJaY
Hope at the end of Lent
#Parkland shooting and #100murdersin20days, as well as other tragic events across the world continue to pose serious questions about what is life all about. But as we journey through Lent to Good Friday and Easter we are assured that God not only cares, but He cares even to death on a Cross. And He is still sovereign. And is willing through the Ressurection of His Son Jesus to offer those who believe, new and unending life.