There are some problems for which religion has no “correct” answers. Problems like suffering, uncertainties, the silence of God and death. All these lead to what has been described as “the long sigh of the soul.”
I’ve stood numbly in the hospital hallway while my three-year old son was undergoing heart catherization in those early days when they knew very little about that procedure. I watched my mother go through 16 days of hell in her final hospital stay. My five-year-old sister died of a strep infection of the blood.
When my son was going through that heart procedure, my mind tumbled with fear over the uncertainties, panic and confusion he must have been feeling. I kept wondering why God would allow such things to happen to my little child.
When my mother was going through medical hell with pancreatic cancer, I kept remembering all the dying people she had stayed with and prayed for and asking why she couldn’t be rewarded with relief of her own pain. I wondered why a saint had to go out this way.
Shortly after my sister died of a strep blood infection penicillin was discovered. If she had gotten sick a little later in her life, she would have been cured. A million times my mind has asked why.
There are people with glib answers to these questions that chase us down like hungry wolves. But glib answers only add to the torment. I have heard preachers say the solution to every problem is found in the Bible and I must disagree with that. There are thousands of mysteries in this life that no book and no person can explain.
Sarah Breathnach says, “Before we can change anything in our life, we have to recognize that this is the way it is meant to be right now. For me, acceptance has become what I call the long sigh of the soul. It’s the closed eyes in prayer, perhaps even the quiet tears … This is simply part of the journey.”
Maybe saying, “this is simply part of the journey” gives you no comfort. But acceptance of things as they are at least cools our frantic fighting with life.
Weirdly, I get some help out of knowing how much more primitive man suffered. Many died from infected teeth. Things we now solve with walk-in surgery put them in the grave. They must have suffered terribly in those days before morphine and other painkillers were invented.
What kind of “help” do I get from such a thought? I can only describe it as a feeling of community with the family of man. I am sorry they had to go through so much misery and sorry that we still have to go through it, but I am honest enough to admit that we have it good compared to them. So I let a slight feeling of gratitude wash over all my pains and uncertainties.
Sarah mentions how we close our eyes in prayer. Maybe that is how we admit blindness in the face of all our questions and mysteries.
I will not speculate on why God allows all the pain and the catastrophes because I don’t know. Neither does Pat Robertson although he cruelly claims to speak for God and explains these things in a way that would make any fair-minded, sane man hate God.
There are two things I do know. One is that I am here now, for whatever reasons there may be, and I have a chance to live my life with courage and a positive attitude. I do not claim that my courage and positive philosophy solve all the problems but it gives me plenty to do.
The other thing I know is that I have almost daily opportunities to ease the suffering of my family, friends and complete strangers. I shall do all I can as long as I live. It comforts me to be of comfort
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