I made a phone call the other day and the person I spoke to had really needed to talk to someone, so much so that I felt terrible for not having called earlier.
When I hung up, I was determined to do more, but I couldn’t do anything for a few days, being school holidays.
I also had a bad cold and worried about passing it on to him because he was in a pretty weak state.
I did all I could do, which was to talk to Peter and make a plan to visit on the weekend, and say a prayer that someone physically closer and more able to help could do something more.
I’m sure it’s being answered. How do I know this? From experience, mainly.
“God is just pretend,” one of my older children said to me the other day.
After a pause in which my little inner voice called out, “Don’t overreact!”, and my other little inner voice replied, “What? But she just said … the child still believes in fairies! Arrgh!”, I coolly answered her – quite well, I think: “Oh, why do you say that?”
“He’s not real, and anyway he’s mean.”
Both inner voices were silenced at that. But I carried on.
“Oh, why do you say that?”
“Because he makes everything; he’s the cause of all the bad things that happen.
“He gives people cancer, or if God doesn’t give people cancer then he made their bodies and their bodies get cancer and then they die, even children.”
“Do remember about the fall of Adam and Eve, and about our free will?” I asked her.
“Yes, but if we have free will because God lets us have it, and we choose to do the wrong thing and hurt someone, than that person is hurt for no reason and God made it happen.”
Ah, child, you’re not the first person to doubt God over this. How can a good God allow innocent suffering and evil to persist in the world?
Most of us would probably try to restrain someone if we knew they were planning an evil deed.
And we would stop the suffering of innocents if we could.
By extension, Jesus must have been simply a very good man, or a myth, but not God.
We talked about this for a little while, with me trying to talk less and listen more, because I know that, while religious education is so important, ultimately it is the experience of encounter with Jesus and life experience more generally which will help her the most with this.
I still find it hard, and hope to see how God makes everything well a long way into the future.
It’s only from the view of eternity, outside our limited lifespan on earth, in heaven where “every tear will be wiped away”, that we’ll have the question completely resolved – not only intellectually but in every way.
In the meantime we have our experience which tells us that God is loving and cares about the smallest details of our lives, that God answers our prayers, and we know from the Gospels and early accounts of the Church that Jesus suffered greatly over every sin ever committed or to be committed, and every sorrow we have to bear.
Our God is God with us. That sentence along could fill a lifetime’s ponderings.
Which is why I’m content to leave my friend in God’s hands.
I have prayed for help for him, and I know that God will be as quick to answer as I was quick to respond after hanging up the phone, even though from his end it might seem over the next few days as though I hadn’t done anything and didn’t care that much.
Love never waits, and every seemingly unanswered prayer is in fact being answered.
We just don’t know how and when, since we don’t have access to God’s personal calendar. We may suffer, but we never suffer alone.