My grandmother is dying. She has a large cancerous tumor in her stomach that is visible to the naked eye beneath her skin just above her waistline. She is in a great deal of pain that may only be ameliorated by regulated amounts of morphine. As of this morning, she can no longer communicate. Such are the remaining hours of life for an octogenarian, dying in America, in the capable hands of Hospice, surrounded by family, and abandoned by God. I can’t stand to see anyone suffer. It’s much worse to see those whom I love suffer. It’s even worse to see family and friends pray that God may relieve my Grandmother’s pain and day after day the pain grows worse. God does nothing. Our prayers fall on deaf ears. The final trip over the river Jordan is inevitably delayed time and time again. One might come to believe God doesn’t care, isn’t listening, or that suffering is endemic to the human condition despite our relationship with God. I keep telling my mother (it’s my job, remember) that God has intervened on behalf of the faithful throughout history. I hate being made out to be liar, especially to my own family. Despite my protestations, God remains silent. My Grandmother lingers in pain because, as one nurse told my mother, “she’s fearful of dying.” So that’s why she’s suffering, the God I’ve dedicated my life to serving is keeping her alive (and in pain) out of her own fear of eternity. How do people become so misguided in their understanding of God?
Where is God in all this? Where is the connection between Christ’s suffering then and being active in the world now? One child goes into remission, one person gets healed, one marriage gets restored and we claim proof that God still answers prayers. Yet for the one, the sole example, millions of people go to funerals and leave hospitals without the miracles, only to be told, “I guess God needed a new angel”. We have no good answer for the people who don’t get their prayers answered the “right” way. Our only responses are clichés; pat answers that pour salt on the open wounds of grieving souls. Again, I hate being made out to be a liar, especially on such a pretty afternoon.